UN judges acquitted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on one count of genocide at a court in The Hague on Thursday. But he was found guilty of crimes against humanity in several districts during the war in the former Yugoslavia.
Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon said Karadzic “is not held responsible for genocide” in a campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages claimed by Serb forces during the country’s 1992-95 war.
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Kwon said that Karadzic did, however, bear responsibility for crimes including murder, extermination, and forcible transfer in the municipalities.
Karadzic also faces a second charge of genocide – the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal’s most serious crime – linked to the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Srebrenica enclave.
Kwon has not yet read the conclusion to that genocide charge as of 1410 GMT, but did say Karadzic ordered the takeover of Srebrenica before the massacre.
About 100 survivors gathered outside the UN tribunal in The Hague on Thursday as judges inside read out verdicts over some of the worst atrocities committed in Europe since World War II.
Karadzic, 70, is the highest-ranking person to face a reckoning before the UN tribunal over a war two decades ago in which 100,000 people were killed as rival armies carved up Bosnia along ethnic lines.
Dressed in a dark suit and looking calm, Karadzic faced rulings on 11 charges including two counts of genocide. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted. The final verdicts were expected to be read by 1530 GMT.
Outside the court protest banners were carried with one reading: “Srebrenica, we remember the 8,372 victims of genocide.”
Karadzic is accused of orchestrating the 1995 slaughter of an estimated 8,000 Muslims after Serb forces seized the UN’s Srebrenica “safe area” in eastern Bosnia.
“Justice is slow but it’s coming, so we hope that this time the court will have enough courage to say what really happened, because they only need courage, facts they already have,” said war survivor Sakib Ahmetovic.
Karadzic protested his innocence in a rare interview published by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Wednesday.
“I know what I wanted, what I did, even what I dreamed of, and there is no reasonable court that would convict me,” he told the website in an email interview.
To Bosnian Muslims and Croats, Karadzic – who also faces charges over the shooting of civilians in Sarajevo, capital of the former Yugoslavia – is synonymous with war, death and destruction.
Bosnian Serbs, however, view him as a national hero who created a Serb Republic – a state within a state, which survived under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement.
Such sentiments are widely shared across the border in Serbia.
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