A UN tribunal sentenced Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to life in prison, Judge Vagn Joensen confirmed on Wednesday, increasing his 40-year first-instance sentence for genocide and war crimes committed during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The court in the Hague, which is a successor of the now-closed International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), convened on Wednesday to rule on appeals to Karadzic's original 2016 verdict.
Both defence and prosecution had filed appeals to the original sentence for the wartime leader of Bosnian Serbs. Karadzic's defence team said that the trial was unfair and asked for a re-trial, which was rejected. On the other hand, prosecutors asked the court to increase his sentence to life imprisonment.
A professional psychiatrist before the war, Karadzic rose to become the most prominent leader of Bosnian Serbs in the early 1990s. He was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1995, during the closing stages of the war.
After 13 years on the run he was apprehended in Belgrade in 2008, where he had lived under an assumed identity as a new age healer. His trial lasted from 2009 to 2016.
Following a marathon trial which lasted six and a half years at the ICTY in the Hague, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison in March 2016 for several counts of crimes against humanity, including the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Croats in areas under his control, the Serb forces' siege of Bosnia's capital Sarajevo, the genocide of Muslim Bosniaks in Srebrenica, as well as taking UN peacekeepers hostage at one point during the war.
Members of associations of war victims and survivors were present in the courtroom on Wednesday. After Judge Vagn Joensen read out the court's decision, a round of applause and cheers was heard from the gallery.
"I'm here to represent parents of 1,600 children who had been killed in the war, and for us it is important to see that the court confirmed Karadzic was the one who issued orders to terrorise and shell civilians," head of the association which gathers families of children killed during the siege of Sarajevo, Fikret Grabovica, told the Croatian state agency Hina.
For many, the verdict will bring some sense of closure to one of the bloodiest chapters of Europe's modern history.
"The time has come to definitely resign Karadzic to the dustbin of history," Grabovica added.