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article imageUN judges to rule on Karadzic appeal of war crimes conviction next month

By Jan HENNOP (AFP)     Feb 22, 2019 in World

UN judges will rule next month on the appeal of convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, sentenced to 40 years in jail including genocide for his role in Bosnia's 1990s war.

The appeal ruling, before the Hague-based International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, will bring to an end the almost decade-long marathon case of the man once regarded as the top Bosnian Serb leader in the Balkans.

"The Appeals Chamber... has scheduled pronouncement of the appeals judgement in the case of Radovan Karadzic for Wednesday, 20 March," the IRMCT, simply known as the "Mechanism" said Friday.

Karadzic was sentenced, in March 2016, to 40 years in jail for his role in the bloodshed during Bosnia's civil war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million homeless, amid an ethnic conflict that erupted with the break-up of Yugoslavia.

He was found guilty of 10 charges, including genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre -- Europe's worst atrocity 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.

Karadzic, 73, was also convicted of orchestrating the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which some 10,000 people died under relentless sniping and shelling.

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

Self-represented, Karadzic went on trial at the ICTY in October 2009 in a hearing that took an exhausting 499 trial days and saw 586 witnesses called to testify.

Last year, Karadzic's appeal was heard by judges at the Hague-based Mechanism, created by the UN Security Council to take over any remaining work of the ICTY and the war crimes tribunal for Rwanda whose mandates have ended.

- 'Rivers of blood' -

During the appeals hearing, Karadzic denied that he was behind a campaign of ethnic cleansing and murders in the mid-1990s.

"We never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion," he told the Mechanism's judges, adding: "Serbs, Muslims, Croats, we are one people, we have one identity".

The former strongman lodged 50 grounds of appeal following his conviction.

But prosecutors insist Karadzic "abused his immense power to spill the blood of innocent civilians," and urged the Mechanism to impose "the highest possible sentence, a life sentence".

"Karadzic and his associates knew they would need to spill rivers of blood to carve out the ethnically homogenous territory and they sought and they embraced this bloody path," prosecutors told the judges.

The prosecution is also urging judges to reverse his acquittal on a second charge of genocide in Bosnian municipalities and find him guilty instead.

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 a year later, lasting until October 2014.

Karadzic's military alter-ego and former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic is currently appealing a life sentence before the Mechanism on similar charges.

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