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UN Appeal Judges Urged To Hand Life Sentence To Karadzic

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in court in The Hague on April 24,
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in court in The Hague on April 24,

United Nations prosecutors have urged appeals judges to convict former Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic on a second genocide count and increase his 40-year prison term to a life sentence.

Prosecutor Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge panel at the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague on April 24 that Karadzic "abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims” during the Bosnian war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

“Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence -- a life sentence," Gustafson added.

In March 2016, Karadzic was found guilty of 10 charges related to atrocities committed during Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1992-95 war, and sentenced to 40 years behind bars.

He was convicted of genocide for his role in the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys near Srebrenica, which is considered the worst mass killing on European soil since World War II.

The Bosnian war ended with more than 100,000 people dead and some 2.2 million others forced to leave their homes.

In its appeal, the UN prosecution said the MICT should reverse the Bosnian Serb wartime leader's acquittal on a second charge of genocide related to attacks for pursuing the destruction of Muslim and Croat populations in other parts of Bosnia, and find him guilty instead.

The 72-year-old Karadzic and his legal team have also appealed, calling on judges to throw out his conviction for genocide and other crimes, and either acquit him or order a new trial.

They argue that prosecutors and trial judges committed a number of legal and procedural errors during his seven-year trial.

A verdict is expected by the end of the year.

On the second and final day of his appeal, Karadzic on April 24 accused Bosnian Muslims of "declaring war" on ethnic Serbs.

"We never had anything against Muslims, we considered them Serbs with a Muslim religion," he said, adding, "Our main wish was for the Muslims to remain with us in Yugoslavia."

Karadzic was sentenced in 2016 by the judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which officially closed in December.

The MICT is handling outstanding UN war crimes cases for the Balkans and Rwanda.

With reporting by AP and AFP