Karadzic conviction sparks protests in Belgrade
It was certainly convenient for Serbian ultra-rightist Vojislav Seselj that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chose to convict his buddy Radovan Karadzic of genocide on March 24—the same day that Operation Allied Force, the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia, began in 1999. Seselj—leader of the Serbian Radical Party and a former paramilitary warlord, himself facing charges before The Hague-based tribunal—had already planned a rally in downtown Belgrade that day to commemorate the anniversary. Of course it became a rally in support of Karadzic, wartime leader of the Bosnian Serb Republic. "The criminal Hague, the false court of the Western powers, has condemned Karadzic to 40 years," Seselj railed to hundreds of gathered supporters. "They convicted him when he was innocent, only because he led the Serb people in Bosnia during a crucial moment." In another case of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism, he compared the European prisons holding Karadzic and other accused Serb war criminals to "Hitler's camps." To make it even better, many of his supporters bore the flag and regalia of the Chetniks—the World War II-era Serbian nationalist movement that collaborated with the Nazis after the German occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941. (The Independent, Radio B92)
Seselj, who is on "provisional release" from the tribunal while a judgment in his case is pending, told Belgrade's Radio B92 that he expects a verdict this week, and that he will be sentenced to 25 years. If he is right, expect a showdown between his followers and Serbian authorities over his extradition to The Hague.
Karadzic was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and sentenced by the ICTY to 40 years. The judgment said he had been proved "guilty of unlawful attacks on civilians, murder and terror." The trial lasted eight years, during which the court heard from 434 witnesses. The genocide charge concerned the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed. He was acquitted of a second genocide charge, over the campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages seized by Serb forces. Srebrenica survivors lamented that the judgment was for so long delayed. Meanwhile, Milorad Dodik, current president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, condemned the verdict, saying: "The West has apportioned blame to the Serbian people and that guilty cliche was imposed on all the decision-makers." (Jurist, BBC News, Japan Times, VOA)
The Bosnian Serb Republic has issued a formal apology for the Srebrenica massacre—while stopping short of calling it an act of "genocide."