UN rights chief says Karadzic verdict shows 'no-one above law'

24th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

The UN rights chief hailed the genocide conviction of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Thursday as "hugely significant," saying it showed "no-one is above the law."

Karadzic was found guilty of genocide by the UN war crimes judges Thursday and was sentenced to 40 years in prison over the worst atrocities on European soil since World War II.

"Twenty-one years after Karadzic was indicted, this verdict is a forceful manifestation of the international community's implacable commitment to accountability," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

He said the verdict was "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."

The court earlier said Karadzic, the most high-profile figure convicted over the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s claiming more than 100,000 lives, bore criminal responsibility for murder and persecution in the Bosnian conflict.

"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," Zeid said.

The UN rights chief said Karadzic's conviction was "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."

He added that the verdict showed that "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 ... will not escape justice."

Zeid, who served in the UN Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia from 1994 to 1996, acknowledged that the verdict could still be appealed.

But he said the ruling nonetheless should send a clear message "that no-one is above the law."

The trial, he said, "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," Zeid said.

© 2016 AFP

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