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Karadzic Requests Separate Sentencing

Defendant asks tribunal not to decide possible jail term at same time as verdict.
  • Radovan Karadzic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
    Radovan Karadzic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

Wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic has asked judges to issue a separate sentencing decision if he is convicted, rather than including the prison term in the judgement itself.

“The reason for this request is based on the extraordinarily broad scope of the indictment in Dr Karadzic’s case,” his May 5 submission states. “The trial chamber will have to deliberate on 340 possible verdicts: 263 separate crimes contained in the schedules to the indictment and 77 separate decisions on the mode of liability.”

Karadzic, who was president of Bosnia’s self-declared Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, is accused of planning and overseeing the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, as well as the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead.

The indictment – which lists 11 counts in total – alleges that he was responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory”.

Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 after 13 years on the run. His trial officially began in October 2009 and was completed as of May 1, with the close of his defence case.

Closing arguments are scheduled to commence on September 29 of this year, but a verdict is not expected until October 2015.

In his request, Karadzic argued that if, for example, he were to be acquitted of the two genocide counts in his indictment, his “sentence ought to be different than if he was convicted on all crimes”.

Similarly, if he is “found liable only as a superior for failure to punish or prevent some crimes, his sentence ought to be different than if he was found to have planned or ordered the crimes”.

“If the parties’ sentencing submissions are to be meaningful in this case, they should be made after having knowledge of what Dr Karadzic has been convicted of. This is not only a matter of fairness to the parties, but the trial chamber itself would be greatly assisted by such focused submissions,” he argued in his submission to judges.

Karadzic noted that while it has been practice at the tribunal to hand down a sentence at the same time as the verdict, other courts – like the International Criminal Court and the Special Court for Sierra Leone – issue a separate sentencing judgement.

“This reflects the emerging view that such a procedure is fairer and of more assistance to the court in the complex cases increasingly heard before international tribunals than the unified judgment procedure,” the submission continued. “Dr Karadzic’s case is certainly one of the more complex cases to be heard by such tribunals.”

Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.