Srebrenica survivors find 40-year jail sentence of Karadzic not enough

Families of Srebrenica massacre victims find 40-year imprisonment for Bosnian War criminal Radovan Karadzic not adequate

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Bosnian woman Raza Graljevic, 69, from Srebrenica searches for remains of her brothers while looking at the human remains at the mass grave in the village of Kozluk, near eastern town Zvornik, 200 kms east of Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015.

The 40-year jail term handed down on Thursday to Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, for genocide and many counts of war crimes on humanity is not tough enough and came a late 20 years later, survivors of the Srebrenica massacre said.

"I am so disappointed," said Bida Smajlovic, 64, who watched a live broadcast of the verdict with her two sisters-in-law in Potocari, a Srebrenica suburb where the three women saw their husbands for the last time 21 years ago.

"We have been in shock ever since the first gunshot and this is yet another one," she added.

All three of the husbands along with more than 8000 other people were massacred when Bosnian Serb forces, commanded by General Ratko Mladic, entered the UN “protected” area of Srebrenica on July 1, 1995.

They widowed thousands of women by slaughtering about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the following days in Europe's worst single atrocity since World War Two.

Mejra Djogaz shows all she has to remind her of her husband Mustafa and three sons Zuhdija, Munib, Omer in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, July 4, 2015.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Karadzic guilty on 10 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the customs of war, including the genocide in Srebrenica. It acquitted him of charges for genocide in seven other municipalities.

"I wish there was capital punishment," added Vasva Smajlovic, 73. "My husband is dead for 20 years and Karadzic is still alive. At least I expected a lifetime (in) prison."

The streets were empty in what is now a ghost town and there were only rare passers-by willing to comment on the verdict on the president of the self-styled Bosnian Serb Republic and the supreme commander of its armed forces during the 1992-95 war.

Bida Smajlovic's husband tried to escape through the woods but was killed along with his two brothers. Their bodies were found in two separate mass graves in the eastern Bosnia, where bones of the Srebrenica victims are still being dug out 20 years later.

"This came too late," sighed Bida Smajlovic, who lives alone in her home overlooking 7,000 white tombstones where the victims were buried. Another 1,000 are still unaccounted for.

"We were handed down a verdict in 1995," she said. "There is no sentence that could compensate for the horrors we went through or for the tears of only one mother, let alone thousands."

Some Serbs controversially defended Karadzic and alleged that Serbs have been unjustly targeted by The Hague tribunal.

"The 40-year imprisonment is unfair and will contribute neither to truth nor to trust in our region," said Mladen Bosic, the head of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) that Karadzic founded in 1990.

Survivor of the genocide, Nedzad Avdic, covers his face as he tries to collect his thoughts during a visit to the elementary school in Petkovci where Serb soldiers had brought him for execution 20 years ago, June 27, 2015.


TRTWorld and agencies