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Bosnia Victims Hope to Contest "No Genocide" Ruling

Decision to restrict genocide charge to Srebrenica made in error, lawyers for victims say.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Radovan Karadzic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
    Radovan Karadzic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

Bosnian victims of wartime atrocities have asked to file a submission that will argue it was wrong to acquit former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic of one count of genocide.

On June 28, tribunal judges dismissed a count of genocide in seven named municipalities between March and December 1992. Karadzic still faces a count of genocide relating to the 1995 massacre in the eastern town of Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Bosniak boys and men were killed.

In their ruling, judges concluded that “there is no evidence, even taken at its highest, which could be capable of supporting a conviction of genocide in the [seven] municipalities”. (See Karadzic Acquitted of One Genocide Count.)

The prosecution is appealing against the acquittal decision.

As well as the genocide count, Karadzic’s indictment includes counts of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, terror, unlawful attacks and the taking of United Nations peacekeepers as hostages.

His defence case is slated to begin in October.

On August 31, lawyers for two named victims – Satko Mujagic and Fikret Alic – and the Association of Witnesses and Survivors of Genocide in Sarajevo requested permission to submit a lengthy document to the appeals chamber, arguing that tribunal judges were wrong to drop the genocide count for the seven municipalities.

It is not yet clear whether the appeals chamber will allow the victims to submit the brief for consideration. The tribunal rules say a national state, organisation or individual can be granted the right to make a submission if that is deemed appropriate.

The victims’ lawyers argue that the chamber “erroneously determined” that the evidence “failed to rise to some unwritten standard of systematic and organised carnage, and [was] therefore not worthy of being characterised as genocide”.

They also contend that the judges disregarded “multiple chilling threats and declarations personally broadcast by the accused” in the lead-up to the Bosnian war. The lawyers refer specifically to prewar statements that have been entered into evidence, in which Karadzic is quoted as saying that Muslims in Bosnia would “disappear from the face of the earth” and “be exterminated”, if they insisted on declaring independence from Yugoslavia.

The lawyers argue that these statements were “intended to commence the eradication of the Bosnian Muslim and/or Bosnian Croat populations from territory claimed by the Serbs”, and that they therefore proved genocidal intent.

Lawyers urged judges to consider the views of victims, who have a “special right and interest in seeing that the history they experienced, which is now being written by the tribunal, faithfully reflect the truth about what was done to them, why it was done, and who was responsible for it”.

Rachel Irwin is IWPR Senior Reporter in The Hague.