United Nations judges have ordered former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to spend the rest of his life in prison for genocide and war crimes, increasing his original sentence of 40 years.
Karadzic, 73, was convicted in 2016 for the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces. He was also found guilty of leading a campaign of ethnic cleansing that drove Croats and Muslims out of Serb-claimed areas of Bosnia.
A panel of appeals judges in The Hague “imposes a sentence of life imprisonment” after rejecting Karadzic’s appeal against his original 2016 conviction, head judge Vagn Joensen said on Wednesday.
Judges at the original trial “underestimated the extreme gravity of Karadzic’s responsibility for the gravest crimes committed during the period of conflict, noted for their sheer scale and systematic cruelty”, Vagn Joensen said.
The ruling brings to a close one of the highest-profile trials stemming from the series of wars in the 1990s that saw the bloody collapse of the former Yugoslavia and death of at least 100,000 Bosnians.
Al Jazeera’s Sonia Gallego, reporting from The Hague, said that this was the “end of the road” for Karadzic, who cannot appeal the decision.
“It draws a line to what was one of the most important cases, it was a monumental case when looking at the crimes that have taken place,” Gallego said.
A psychiatrist by vocation, Karadzic emerged as the Bosnian Serb political leader shortly before Yugoslavia began disintegrating in a series of wars in 1991.
In hiding for nearly a decade, Karadzic was arrested and handed over to the court in July 2008.
Wednesday’s decision was welcomed by families of the victims, who had long called for a life sentence.
For the relatives, this has been years of “untold suffering”, Gallego said.
“What families of the victims were most worried about was that he would not be getting the life imprisonment as they had seen with some other cases before,” she said.
Before the verdict, Munira Subasic, of the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ association, told reporters: “If he (Karadzic) is not given a life sentence, the tribunal will have committed genocide against justice.”
There were 8,372 victims in Srebrenica. Karadzic had long been accused of orchestrating the 1995 slaughter after Serb forces seized the UN’s Srebrenica “safe area” in eastern Bosnia.