Karadzic and the largest mass murder in Europe since WWII

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The Independent Online

The massacre of around 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in July 1995 stands out as the worst carnage of the Bosnian war and the largest mass murder in Europe since the Second World War.

The events in the Bosnian town, classed as genocide by the International Court of Justice and the UN War Crimes Tribunal, feature in the 15 counts faced by Radovan Karadzic of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities committed between 1992 and 1996.

Even now, bodies of the men and boys who were murdered at Srebrenica are being reburied after being reunited with their families following identification using DNA technology.

The shocking killings form part of the dramatic and violent changes that took place as the Yugoslav Federation, of which Bosnia-Herzegovina was a part, disintegrated during the 1990s.

Fighting had broken out in Croatia following declarations of independence by the Slovenes and Croats in 1991.

The following year, in a referendum, Bosnia-Herzegovina, with its mixed population of Bosniak Muslims (Bosnian Muslims), Serbs and Croats, opted for independence.

But by then the country's Serbian population had declared a Bosnian Serb republic which was to remain in Yugoslavia.

An EU-hosted peace conference held in September 1991 initially brokered an agreement for ethnic power-sharing, but this soon broke down.

On April 6 1992, Bosnia was recognised by the United Nations as an independent state and on May 12 Karadzic was elected president.

Between December 17, 1992 and July 19, 1996, Karadzic served as sole president of the Serb Republic in Bosnia. He was also supreme commander of the armed forces.

In April 1992 war broke out with the Bosnian Serb siege of Sarajevo.

Under the guise of protecting the Serb minority in Bosnia, leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic channelled arms and military support to them.

The war which followed was to be characterised by one of history's most macabre euphemisms: ethnic cleansing.

Once towns and villages were securely in Serbian hands, Bosniak houses were systematically ransacked or burned, with civilians rounded up.

Men and women were separated and detained. Women were raped repeatedly.

During the months of the spring of 1992 fighting raged in eastern and north-western parts as the Bosnian Serb army took over 70% of the country.

A UN protection force, which had originally been deployed in Croatia, soon had its mandate extended into Bosnia-Herzegovina, initially to protect Sarajevo airport, but its role was expanded to help protect humanitarian aid.

British forces were first sent to Bosnia in the same year when Nato forces moved in to support UN efforts, monitor sanctions and enforce a no-fly zone.

In 1994 Nato jets shot down four Serb aircraft over central Bosnia for violating the UN no-fly zone.

The following March the Bosniaks and Croats signed the Washington peace agreement, establishing the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, effectively ending the war between Croats and Bosniaks, and narrowing the warring parties down to two.

But in July, 8,000 Bosniak men were killed at Srebenica, two years after it had been designated as a UN safe area. The war continued through most of 1995.

Nato air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions in the autumn are credited with helping force the Bosnian Serbs to talk. A ceasefire began in October ahead of a final peace signing in Paris in December.

By then at least 100,000 people were dead and 1.8 million had been displaced.

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