Genocide charges rejected on early Serb war deaths
MASS killings, detention and expulsions of Muslims and Croats by Bosnian Serbs early in the Bosnia conflict were not acts of genocide, United Nations judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague have controversially ruled.
The judgment was made yesterday in a ruling that acquitted Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, of one of the two counts of genocide he is currently on trial for, though judges dismissed his appeal for total acquittal.
According to human rights campaigners and court sources, the ruling means that Gen Ratko Mladic, Karadzic's military commander, will also be acquitted on one of his charges of genocide, in a major setback for war crimes prosecutors.
Victims of Bosnian war crimes are angry at the UN judgment that the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing, terrorism and violence in north-western Bosnia from March to December 1992 is not seen as sufficiently serious to warrant genocide charges, although other war crimes indictments will stand.
"We are shocked and disappointed," said Edin Ramulic, who heads an association of victims in Bosnia's Prijedor region.
In the acquittal appeal lodged by Karadzic, O-Gon Kwon, the presiding UN judge, said: "The nature, scale, and context of these culpable acts do not reach the level from which a reasonable trier of fact could infer that they were committed with genocidal intent."
But he upheld the main genocide charge relating to the Srebrenica massacre.
Karadzic faces nine other charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his leading role in the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict.
Param-Preet Singh, the senior counsel for the international justice programme of Human Rights Watch, said that the Karadzic acquittal was of wider significance for Yugoslav war crimes trials, including the Mladic case.
Karadzic was arrested in 2008 on a bus in Belgrade after 13 years on the run.
Peter Robinson, Karadzic's lawyer, welcomed the rejection of the genocide charge.
"But I do expect that the prosecution will want to appeal this decision."
Karadzic's trial will continue later this year on the remaining charges and he is due to open his defence on October 16. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)