The Bosnian war of 1992-1995

Many Muslim families lost relatives during the Bosnian war. Credit: Reuters

Former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after a UN court convicted him of multiple counts of war crimes - including genocide - relating to the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

Here is a brief guide to the conflict which claimed an estimated 100,000 lives.

The start of the conflict

  • In 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a former republic of Yugoslavia, with a multi-ethnic population of Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats, was recognised as an independent state after a referendum.

  • However, Bosnian Serbs, who had opposed the move for independence and boycotted the referendum, rebelled with the support of the Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbia.

  • Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic created the independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina (renamed Republika Srpska) with its capital in Pale. He also installed himself as head of state.

Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic (r) and his general Ratko Mladic in Mountain Vlasic in April 1995 Credit: Reuters
  • War broke out in April 1992 with a systematic campaign of persecution of non-Serbs by Bosnian Serb troops.

  • The troops attacked the city of Sarajevo killing thousands.

Srebrenica Massacre

Thousands of bags containing the remains of Srebrenica victims at an identification centre Credit: Reuters
  • Thousands of Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995 in the single worst atrocity of the war.

  • The UN-declared "safe haven" had come under attack by forces led by the Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić.

  • Some of the Serb forces disguised themselves as UN peacekeepers and gave false promises of security to encourage the men of the town to surrender.

  • The town’s women and children and elderly were also forced from their homes. Some women were also victims of rape committed by the Bosnian Serb forces.

A group of Bosnian Muslims seeks refuge after fleeing Srebrenica Credit: Reuters


  • The war ran until November 1995 when a peace deal was agreed.

  • The remains of many of the victims of the Srebrenica have been recovered from mass graves and reburied.

A woman cries at the grave of her son in the Memorial Center in Potocari, near Srebrenica. Credit: Reuters

Arrests and trial

  • Bosnian Serb leader and war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in 2008.

  • He has been posing as a doctor of alternative medicine using a false name.

At the time of his arrest Radovan Karadzic (left and right) sported long hair, a beard and glasses Credit: Reuters
  • Karadzic's war crime trial at The Hague opened in 2009 and a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf as he refused to address the court.

  • Karadzic's general Ratko Mladic was arrested in Serbia in 2011 after 16 years on the run and is also on trial at The Hague.