UK Denies Keeping Radovan Karadzic in Poor Prison Conditions

10. November 2022.10:58
The British embassy in Sarajevo rejected allegations made by public figures in Serbia and Republika Srpska that genocide convict Radovan Karadzic is being held in unacceptable conditions in a UK prison.

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Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in court in The Hague in 2018. Photo: EPA-EFE/Yves Herman/Pool.

The British embassy in Sarajevo told BIRN that Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic is being held in normal conditions in jail in Britain, contrary to claims made in an open letter by public figures in Serbia and Republika Srpska.

The embassy said that Karadzic’s access to media is only being controlled because of the potential harm he could cause to war victims.

“[Karadzic] has no special or different treatment. His access to media is subject to scrutiny because such contact may cause serious additional harm to his victims,” the embassy said in a written response to BIRN.

“These controls are in line with the law and the policies of the Prison Service of the United Kingdom, which apply to all prisoners in the UK,” it added.

Over 120 Serb public figures reportedly signed an open letter to UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres last month, criticising the British government and the UN court for allegedly keeping the 77-year-old former Bosnian Serb president in substandard conditions.

But two organisations representing victims and survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacres, the Association of Genocide Victims and Witnesses of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves, claimed that the Serbs were trying to help Karadzic “avoid serving his life sentence” for the Srebrenica genocide and other wartime crimes.

“Please don’t buy into the provocations from Serbia – we, the victims, are deeply convinced that Radovan Karadzic enjoys the highest level of rights allowed as a convicted international criminal in accordance with the laws of Great Britain,” the two organisations said in a joint statement.

According to Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti, the Serb public figures urged Guterres to transfer Karadzic from the British jail to another prison because his rights are being “grossly violated”, his health could suffer and “his life will be endangered”.

They also claimed that Karadzic isn’t able to meet with his family or legal team or access a computer, and is being kept in “complete isolation” and “exposed to psychological mistreatment“. These allegations could not be independently verified.

The UN court in The Hague sentenced Karadzic to life in prison in March 2019 for the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats across the country during the war, terrorising the population of Sarajevo during the siege of the city, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Karadzic contested the decision by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague to send him to Britain to serve his sentence, claiming he could become the target for a potentially deadly attack by “Muslim extremists”, and that to keep him safe from attack, he would have to be kept in conditions similar to solitary confinement.

However, the UN court dismissed Karadzic’s objections and he was transferred to a prison on Britain’s Isle of Wight in May 2021.

Jasmin Begić

This post is also available in: Bosnian