A UN court heard the appeal of former Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appears in a courtroom before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague, Netherlands, April 24, 2018.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appears in a courtroom before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague, Netherlands, April 24, 2018. (Reuters)

A United Nations prosecution lawyer has urged appeals judges to convict former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on a second genocide count and increase his 40-year sentence for overseeing Serb atrocities during the Bosnian war to a life sentence.

Prosecutor Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge appellate panel at the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals that Karadzic "abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims. Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence – a life sentence." 

Karadzic's lawyers said on Tuesday that not only should he not be convicted of a second genocide count, but the genocide conviction imposed by trial judges in 2016 for Karadzic's role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre should be overturned on appeal.

The prosecution's case against him was "upside down, the wrong way up," Karadzic insisted, on the second and final day of his appeal in The Hague.

"Nothing in these proceedings that was alleged is true," he said in an animated personal address to the judges, waving his hands for emphasis, as he starkly warned "and that is a guarantee that the conflict between us will persist."

Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail for his role in the bloodshed during the Bosnian war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million others homeless, as ethnic conflict tore the former Yugoslavia apart.

He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre – Europe's worst bloodshed since World War II, when some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were separated from their families, shot and killed, their bodies dumped in mass graves.

'Nothing against Muslims'

Karadzic was also convicted of the war crime of orchestrating the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died under relentless sniping and shelling.

But Karadzic, 72, insisted Bosnian Serbs were merely defending themselves.

"We never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion," he said, adding: "Serbs, Muslims, Croats, we are one people, we have one identity."

"Our main wish was for the Muslims to remain with us in Yugoslavia," he said.

It was the Bosnian Muslims who wanted to secede and who attacked the Bosnian Serbs, he claimed, leaving the Serbs with no choice but to defend themselves.

Ruling 'in due course'

Karadzic "threatened non-Serbs with extinction and annihilation, with dire warnings of a looming genocidal threat, and incited inter-ethnic fear and hatred," said prosecutor Katrina Gustafson.

"He set the stage for a criminal campaign of a genocidal nature, aimed at destroying the targeted community," she added.

"And once that was underway, Karadzic oversaw it from the apex of power," she added.

The prosecution has also appealed, calling for judges to reverse the Bosnian Serb leader's acquittal on a second charge of genocide in Bosnian municipalities and find him guilty instead.

Presiding judge Theodor Meron closed the hearing saying he and the four other judges would hand down their ruling "in due course."

After years on the run, Karadzic was caught in 2008 on a Belgrade bus, disguised as a faith healer. He was handed over to The Hague and his trial opened in October 2009, lasting until October 2014.

He is the highest-ranked person to be convicted and sentenced at the The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), after Serbian ex-president Slobodan Milosevic died in 2006 while on trial.

Source: AFP