Judges at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Thursday dropped one charge out of the two counts of genocide charges faced by former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Nonetheless, the tribunal upheld 10 other war crimes counts related to atrocities committed during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
Karadzic was originally charged with 11 counts of war crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and severe breaches of the Geneva Conventions during the three-year-long war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The charges Karadzic faced included two counts of genocide related to the 1995 killing of some 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the eastern town of Srebrenica, and the killings by Bosnian Serb forces in towns and villages of Bosnia from March to December 1992.
The presiding ICTY judge Oh-Gon Kwon, however, ruled Thursday that the prosecution had to provide enough evidence "capable of supporting a conviction of genocide" in connection with mass killings, expulsions and persecution by Serb forces of Muslims and Croats from Bosnian towns and villages early in the 1992-95 war.
"The chamber partially grants the motion and acquits the accused on count one of the indictment and denies the remainder of his request," the judge said in his ruling.
Upholding the remaining 10 charges pressed against Karadzic, the judge ruled that the "genocidal intent" of the accused "may be inferred" from all the evidence presented by the prosecution in connection with the Srebrenica massacre.
Earlier this month, Karadzic had sought to get all the 11 charges against him dismissed after the prosecution finished presenting its evidence against the defendant in May. He insisted that prosecutors had failed to prove any of the charges against him, and argued that he did not know what was taking place on the ground during the conflict. Incidentally, the tribunal's UN court's rules allow suspects to seek acquittal after prosecutors wrap up their case.
With Thursday's ruling, the Karadzic's trial on the remaining ten charges will resume later this year. 67-year-old Karadzic, who has been defending himself, is due to begin presenting evidence in his defense on October 16. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of the charges.
Karadzic was arrested in July 2008 in Belgrade, ending a 13-year-long run from the law after the International Criminal Court indicted him on war crime charges in 1996. The case against him is based on evidences and statements provided by survivors of the 1992-95 conflict.
Former Bosnian Serb Army chief Ratko Mladic is also facing trial at the Hague-based ICTY. He stands accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian conflict, including the Srebrenica massacre as well as the 44-month-long siege of Sarajevo in 1992 in which more than 10,000 people were killed
Mladic was arrested in Serbia in May 2011, and was subsequently extradited to the Netherlands to stand trial at the ICTY. Two months after Mladic's arrest, Goran Hadzic, former leader of Croatia's ethnic Serbs, was arrested in northern Serbia after evading capture for seven years. He is also facing trial at the ICTY.
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had died of a heart attack in 2006 before his trial concluded at the tribunal. Prior to their capture, Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic were in the most-wanted list of the ICTY for their involvement in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Balkan wars.
Serbia had been under tremendous pressure from the European Union earlier over its failure to arrest and extradite the trio. The EU had set their arrests as a pre-condition for Serbia's entry into the EU bloc.
by RTT Staff Writer
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