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Luka Karadzic. Photo: EPA/ALEKSANDAR PLAVEVSKI
The US District Court in Washington DC has ruled against Luka Karadzic’s to get sanctions lifted that were imposed on him in 2003 by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, while his brother, wartime Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, was on the run.
The court said in its decision, which was made on Friday, that “several years ago, Luka [Karadzic] asked OFAC to remove those sanctions because, he said, the reasons it sanctioned him no longer applied. OFAC refused.”
Luka Karadzic went to court, arguing that he saw no reason for maintaining the sanctions after his brother’s arrest and conviction.
But the District Court rejected this, saying that Luka Karadzic has “recently made statements in support of his brother that justify continued sanctions”.
In March 2019, the UN tribunal in The Hague sentenced Radovan Karadzic to life in prison for the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising the population in Sarajevo during the siege of the city and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
Lawyer Peter Robinson, who defended Radovan Karadzic at the Hague Tribunal and is now representing his brother Luka in the US case, told BIRN that he was put on the sanctions list in 2003, when the international community was putting pressure on the family of Radovan Karadzic, who was in hiding at the time, in an attempt to detain him and bring him to justice.
Luka Karadzic asked in 2018 to be removed from the sanctions list, claimed that he “had nothing to do with the crimes for which his brother was convicted and has never been charged with any crimes arising from the war in the former Yugoslavia”, the court said.
He also claimed he didn’t support his brother while he was in hiding from the Hague judiciary, nor did he offer him financial support.
But the US Finance Ministry rejected the request, citing Luka Karadzic’s public statements criticising the Hague Tribunal and expressions of support for his brother during the trial and appeals process. The case then went to the District Court for a ruling.
Robinson said he was disappointed by the decision.
“In my opinion, the decision went against democratic principles, including freedom of speech, which the US says it promotes all over the world. It is unlikely that we will complain, because court practice gives the judge a full discretional right to comply with decisions of executive authorities in the area of foreign affairs,” he said.
Robinson explained that the sanctions make it more difficult for Luka Karadzic to maintain his bank accounts, even in Serbia, “because banks have to deal with the American banking system and fear the consequences should they allow a person on the sanctions list to have an account in their bank”.