September 26, 2014 / 6:04 PM / 3 years ago

Hague prosecutors demand life for Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Prosecutors at a U.N. court in The Hague have called for former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to be sentenced to life in prison for his alleged crimes, including the massacre of over 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica and the shelling of Sarajevo.

Karadzic was leader of Republika Srpska, an ethnically Serb breakaway state carved out of multi-ethnic Bosnia, and prosecutors accuse him of having directed a campaign to drive ethnic Croats and Bosnian Muslims out of the country during the three-year Bosnian war, which cost up to 100,000 lives.

“Under his command and oversight, Karadzic’s subordinates and those cooperating with them expelled, killed, tortured and otherwise mistreated hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats,” prosecutors wrote in a brief published on Friday.

“Should the Chamber find Karadzic responsible for a substantial portion of the crimes ... life imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence,” they added in the brief, filed to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Prosecutors will start their closing statements to the court on Monday. Karadzic, who is defending himself, will respond on Wednesday. Thereafter, judges will retire to decide on a verdict and a sentence.

Karadzic faces charges of genocide in connection with the killings at Srebrenica, Europe’s worst massacre since World War Two, when ethnic Serb forces led the men and boys of Srebrenica out of their town and shot them in the surrounding forests.

Prosecutors also accuse him of being responsible for the shelling of Sarajevo during a siege that lasted almost four years and killed more than 5,000 civilians.

Charges were brought against him in 1995, shortly before the war’s end. He was finally arrested in 2008 after years on the run in the Serbian capital Belgrade, where he had been living in disguise and working as a new-age healer.

The Bosnian war was part of a larger conflagration in which an estimated 140,000 people died as multi-ethnic Yugoslavia broke up during the 1990s into six successor states. Kosovo, formerly a Serbian province, also later declared independence.

Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs’ military leader is also currently on trial at the ICTY, where he faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic also stood trial at the court but died in 2006 before his trial could be concluded.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones

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