Karadžic trial must bring justice to victims from Bosnia war

The beginning of the Hague trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic on Monday, is an important step towards justice for the tens of thousands of victims of the Bosnian war, Amnesty International said.

Karadžic, the former President of the Bosnian Serb Republic, was arrested in July 2008, more than 12 years after he was charged genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the conflict during the 1990s.

“This trial underscores the vital principle that where there is sufficient evidence, those accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity must be prosecuted in fair trials, whether it is by international or national courts.” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Karadžic’s trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, was adjourned on Monday after he failed to appear at the initial hearing.

“The ICTY should be given enough time and resources to complete its important work, including the prosecutions of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic who remain at large” Nicola Duckworth added.

“The completion of the ICTY’s mandate is vital for victims of these crimes.”

Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadžic are both accused as in their command capacity they allowed for war crimes, genocide and other charges relating to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. 

The trial proceeds following an important ruling by the Trial Chamber that individuals accused of such crimes cannot rely on immunities, even if, as Radovan Karadžic asserts, he had been promised immunity from prosecution during the peace negotiations.

Radovan Karadžic is charged with:

two counts of genocide – in relation to the persecution of Bosnian Mulims and Bosnian Croats in Bosnia Herzegovina during 1992 and genocide committed against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995;
five counts of crimes against humanity including persecution, extermination, murder, deportation;
four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war, including taking of hostages and spreading terror among a civilian population.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the work of the ICTY to be complemented by national efforts to investigate and prosecute the tens thousands of other crimes involving middle and lower ranking suspects that the ICTY does not have the capacity to deal with.

The organization said that while the trial of Radovan Karadžic is likely to be completed before the Tribunal closes, trials at the ICTY are not enough for the victims of the Balkans conflict.

“The international community has a duty to make sure their rights to justice, truth and reparations are realized, said Nicola Duckworth. “If not, the dispensation of justice across the former Yugoslavia may remain an unfinished task and it is the thousands of victims of the crimes who will pay the price.”