Karadzic protests '19th century' jail conditions, demands release

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, sentenced last month to 40 years in jail for war crimes including the genocide of more than 8,000 Muslims, asked on Wednesday to be released pending his appeal, saying detention was ruining his health.

Ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sits in the court of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, the Netherlands March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Robin van Lonkhuijsen/Pool

The head of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia turned down his request but ordered that health conditions at the U.N. detention unit in the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen be looked at.

Karadzic, 70, who had requested the tribunal hearing because he said the health and detention issues were pressing, focused in a 10-minute address on his conviction which he said was unjust and had been refuted in court.

Pressed by tribunal head Theodor Meron to address his health concerns directly, Karadzic said his health had declined during the eight years he had spent in custody, something he blamed on a “malignancy” in the detention unit which he said had already claimed the lives of other detainees.

Conditions there were “19th century, like some Communist or Turkish prison,” he said.

“It did not occur to anyone to investigate the high instance of malignancy,” said Karadzic, a psychiatrist who was living in disguise working as a spiritual healer in Belgrade when he was caught in 2008.

Meron declined his appeal to be freed, but said Karadzic’s complaints about health conditions in the unit would be investigated.

Karadzic led the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 conflict in which rival Serb, Croat and Bosniac forces fought to carve multi-ethnic Bosnia into ethnically pure statelets, a war that cost 100,000 lives.

He was sentenced in March to 40 years in prison for war crimes including the massacre of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

Karadzic on Wednesday also asked for a more modern laptop on which to prepare his appeal, saying the old IBM computer he was using was slow, prone to frequent crashing and had no internet access.

“In some prisons in Europe people have access to the internet, controlled of course. They are able to keep up with scientific developments,” he said.

The detention unit at Scheveningen is run by Dutch authorities on behalf of the ICTY and the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague.

With gyms, tennis courts, libraries and kitchens in which detainees can cook home food, it is regarded as one of the world’s most comfortable prisons.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Richard Balmforth