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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Zeid lauds “hugely significant” conviction of Radovan Karadzic

No escape from justice

24 March 2016

GENEVA (24 March 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein welcomed the verdict against Radovan Karadzic, President of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic, which was delivered today by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, describing it as “hugely significant.”  Karadzic was found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“Twenty-one years after Karadzic was indicted, this verdict is a forceful manifestation of the international community’s implacable commitment to accountability,” Zeid said. “Karadzic master-minded the confinement, rape, torture and murder of thousands of people; the shelling of civilians; the siege of Sarajevo; and the extensive destruction and plunder of property, including Muslim and Roman Catholic places of worship.”

“His judgment is symbolically powerful – above all for the victims of the crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and across the former Yugoslavia, but also for victims across the world. No matter how powerful they are, no matter how untouchable they imagine themselves to be, no matter what continent they inhabit, the perpetrators of such crimes must know that they will not escape justice. Having witnessed first hand the effect of the horrific crimes for which Karadzic has been convicted, I welcome the findings of the Tribunal.”

Zeid, who served in the UN Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia from 1994 to 1996, noted that today’s conviction may be subject to appeal. However, he said, "This historic verdict should be a turning-point. Karadzic’s physical disguise was removed after he spent 14 years as a fugitive; today’s verdict is hugely significant as it also strips away the pretence that what he did was anything more than political manipulation, and exposes him for what he really was: the architect of destruction and murder on a massive scale. It is time now to ensure that his poisonous legacy does not continue to burden the people of the former Yugoslavia with deeply-felt grievances, secrecy and lies. The unvarnished truth about the crimes committed in this ghastly conflict - so scrupulously established by the Court - must be fully acknowledged and recorded in the textbooks all across the region, and their victims must be given appropriate remedy.”

Zeid added that the Karadzic trial “should give pause to leaders across Europe and elsewhere who seek to exploit nationalist sentiments and scapegoat minorities for broader social ills. Speech that incites hatred, discrimination and violence is an inflammable force. In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, we saw the terrible bloodshed that can result,” he said.

None of the 161 people indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia have managed to escape justice, Zeid observed. “I pay tribute to the meticulous persistence of successive prosecutors, investigators, judges and the defence, and their deep devotion to ensuring justice for the people of the former Yugoslavia. The message of this trial must be that no-one is above the law.”


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / [email protected])

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