Karadžić sentenced to 40 years behind bars

Radovan Karadžić's legal advisers plan to appeal his convictions. The international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sentenced the ex-Bosnian Serb leader to 40 years in prison for crimes against humanity. Commentators take different views of the court's decision.

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NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Even the worst criminals are subject to the law

The rule of law has won in the Karadžić trial, the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad applauds and sees it as a model for dealing with other cases of human rights violations:

“The world does have legal mechanisms for punishing crimes against humanity. This knowledge is something we can hold on to in these times of fear and terrorist threats. So drone attacks are not the only possible response to threats like the IS terrorist leaders. And declaring a state of emergency as in France and searching houses without court order can only be seen as a panic reaction. Those who want to preserve the rule of law must defend it, and thus strengthen it, every time a war crime or attack is carried out - particularly when the going gets rough. In such moments everyone must be reminded of what the constitution says - and above all why it says it: when it comes to the crunch, the law takes precedence over power.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Tribunal applying double standards

The ruling by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was far from unbiased, philosopher and writer Daniel Salvatore Schiffer writes in his blog with online paper Mediapart:

“What neutral observers will find surprising is to see how Bosnian-Muslim, Croatian and Kosovar leaders have systematically been acquitted of the same crimes: neither the former president of the Bosnian Muslims Alija Izetbegović, who penned a highly fundamentalist 'Islamic Declaration' and whose fanaticism easily matches that of al-Qaeda and the IS, nor the former Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, a notorious anti-Semite and skilled revisionist, were ever put on trial by this tribunal. … On the contrary, they were heaped with honours, died good deaths and were buried as heroes and even as martyrs!”

Blog euinside (BG) /

Court won't bring reconciliation

Radovan Karadžić's conviction for genocide will hardly produce the desired normalisation in relations among the countries of the former Yugoslavia, blogger Adelina Marini comments:

“Croatia has already announced that it will block the EU's membership talks with Serbia in the chapter 'Judiciary and Fundamental Rights' because of the [nationalist Serb politician] Vojislav Šešelj. … Serbia reacted harshly, accusing Zagreb of not having right-wing extremism under control in its own country. … This shows that rather than bringing satisfaction and reconciliation, the verdicts of the International Court of Justice will only deepen the rifts and perhaps leave the countries of the former Yugoslavia back where they started.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Karadžić pushed his plan through to the end

Karadžić's conviction cannot hide the fact that he carried his plan through to the end, writes Bosnian-born Croatian author Miljenko Jergović in the liberal daily Jutarnji list:

“The Bosnians have a problem with Karadžić's conviction because they live in a country that is still dominated by his spirit, or because they were driven out of their country by his spirit. ... It was clear from the start that no one would be happy with the ruling no matter what the result. But not because there is no punishment that could atone for all his crimes. The simple fact is that we have not been able to create a world in which the full extent of his guilt can be grasped. ... He was convicted without it being clearly stated that everything he brought about was bad. He was convicted, yet everything in Bosnia today is just as he wanted it. And not only in Bosnia: in Europe, Brussels, Ankara, Istanbul and Paris, everything looks just like Karadžić wanted it to be back in 1992.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Peace in Bosnia still under threat

Peace in Bosnia continues to be extremely fragile, the liberal daily Kaleva writes in view of the conviction of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić:

“The sentence handed down by the court can be viewed as one of the most important European war crimes judgements since the Nuremberg trials in the 1940s. It is very important that those who are responsible for the crimes should face trial - even if it is years after the fact. ... Since the peace agreement of 1995 there has been no more fighting on what now makes up the Bosnian territory, but the peace there is still extremely fragile. ... Even today many politicians manage to rally supporters by fuelling bitterness and prejudice and voicing threats. Elections and civil commitment are key factors for ensuring that Bosnia never again descends into violence. At the same time it is important that Europe should lend its support to responsible-minded forces.”