Bosnian genocide survivors cheer as Radovan Karadzic learns he'll die in prison

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is likely to die behind bars. Credit: AP

A war criminal jailed for masterminding atrocities in Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War Two has had his sentence increased to life.

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity after his 40-year sentence was raised.

Karadzic showed almost no reaction as United Nations appeal judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgement that means the 73-year-old former Bosnian strongman is likely to die in prison.

Senior International Correspondent John Irvine previously spoke to those who suffered most during his genocidal reign, following his 2016 convictions.

Karadzic went on to appeal his convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country’s devastating 1992-95 war.

The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by The Hague war crimes court.

His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the conflict, which left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.

Judge Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose just a 40-year sentence, given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of Karadzic’s crimes.

Applause broke out in the public gallery as Judge Joensen passed the new sentence.

Families of victims who travelled to The Hague welcomed today's verdict.

Mothers of victims, some elderly, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.

Karadzic supporters seen during clashes with Serbian riot policemen in Belgrade in 2008. Credit: AP

Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic was also awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence.

Both men were convicted of genocide for their roles in the slaughter by Serb forces of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia’s eastern Srebrenica region in July 1995.

Prosecutors had appealed against Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of genocide, which saw Serb forces drive out Muslims and Croats from Serb-controlled villages in a 1992 campaign.

Judges rejected that appeal.

A woman walks through the cemetery of the Potocari memorial centre for victims of the Srebrenica genocide in Potocari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Credit: AP

At an appeals hearing last year, prosecution lawyer Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge panel that Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims. Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence – a life sentence”.

Karadzic has always argued that the Bosnian Serb campaigns during the war, which included the bloody siege of the capital Sarajevo, were aimed at defending Serbs.

After his indictment by the tribunal in The Hague, Karadzic remained at large for years before he was arrested in Serbia in 2008 disguised as a new-age therapist.