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Karadzic found guilty of Bosnian genocide, sentenced to 40 years in jail

AFP file photo | Radovan Karadzic during a 2013 appearance at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was found guilty of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and nine other war crimes charges, UN judges at The Hague said Thursday, sentencing him to 40 years in prison.

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Karadzic, the most senior political figure to be convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, was found guilty of 10 out of 11 charges for his role in Bosnia's brutal 1992-95 war that claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 2.2 million others.

Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon said the former Bosnian Serb leader was criminally responsible for murder, attacking civilians and terror for overseeing the deadly 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Kwon said Karadzic used a campaign of sniping and shelling targeting the city's civilians as a way of furthering his political goals.

But Karadzic was acquitted of a second count of genocide, judges having ruled that there is insufficient evidence to prove that crimes committed in Bosnian municipalities amounted to genocide.

'Hugely significant'

The 70-year-old listened stony-faced as Kwon said it was clear Karadzic bore "individual criminal responsibility" for murder, persecution as well as the hostage-taking of UN peacekeepers.

Karadzic "was at the apex of political, governmental and military structures" of the Bosnian Serb leadership and "at the forefront of developing and promoting its ideologies", Kwon said.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein hailed the verdict as "hugely significant".

Karadzic is the highest-profile politician from the Balkans conflicts to be judged, after former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison cell while on trial in 2006.

Thursday's hearing, which drew more than 200 journalists and over 100 other diplomats and observers, took place amid tight security, with one police officer saying they were on "extra alert" following Tuesday's attacks in neighbouring Belgium.

Karadzic, as president of the breakaway Republika Srpska, was accused of taking part in a joint criminal scheme to "permanently remove Muslim and Bosnian Croat inhabitants... from areas claimed as Bosnian Serb territory".

This was done through a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate killings, persecutions and terror.

Karadzic 'divided Bosnia'

A long-time fugitive from justice until his arrest on a Belgrade bus in 2008, Karadzic was found guilty for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in eastern Bosnia.

Almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and their bodies dumped in mass graves by Bosnian Serb forces who brushed aside Dutch UN peacekeepers in the supposedly "safe area".

The massacre was the worst bloodshed on European soil since World War II.

"It's a hugely significant day today for international justice," said Jasna Causevic, 58, one of the protesters outside the ICTY.

"Karadzic and his group, including Milosevic, divided Bosnia and that's still the case today," she told AFP.

In an unexpected earlier drama, the former spokeswoman for ex-chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte was detained at the tribunal by UN guards.

Florence Hartmann had been convicted of contempt and sentenced to seven days in jail for revealing confidential court details in a 2007 book.

During the trial, which opened in 2009 and ended in October 2014 after an exhausting 497 days in the courtroom, some 115,000 pages of documentary evidence were presented along with 586 witnesses.

Lavien Partawie, 25, waiting outside the court with the Society for Threatened Peoples, said: "It is important for the victims of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We are hoping to get justice."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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