THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal acquitted former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic of one charge of genocide Thursday but upheld 10 other war crimes counts related to atrocities in Bosnia's bloody war.
While the decision was a setback for prosecutors and angered survivors in Bosnia, the 10 pending charges against Karadzic include another genocide count covering his alleged involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
The charge that was dismissed Thursday covered the mass killings, expulsions and persecution by Serb forces of Muslims and Croats from Bosnian towns early in the country's 1992-95 war, which left 100,000 dead. Presiding Judge Oh-Gon Kwon said prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to "be capable of supporting a conviction of genocide in the (Bosnian) municipalities."
At the halfway stage of Karazdic's long-running trial, judges said there was enough evidence to uphold charges including murder and persecution in the early stages of the war, but the killings did not rise to the level of genocide, which requires prosecutors to prove intent to wipe out a specific group in whole or part.
Prosecutors finished presenting their evidence in May and earlier this month Karadzic had asked judges to dismiss all 11 counts, saying prosecutors had failed to prove their case.
Karadzic's lawyer, Peter Robinson, welcomed Thursday's rejection of the genocide charge.
"Dr. Karadzic and myself both thought it was a courageous decision of the trial chamber to say at this stage of the case that there was no genocide in the municipalities in Bosnia in 1992," Robinson told The Associated Press outside the court. "But I do expect that the prosecution will want to appeal this decision."
Prosecutors had no immediate reaction.
But survivors of the Bosnian war said the decision could set back any reconciliation.
"We are shocked and disappointed," said Edin Ramulic, who heads an association of victims in Bosnia's Prijedor region. "We have no reason to hope now that the Serbs will go through catharsis and acknowledge that the non-Serbs in Prijedor had been killed, tortured, exterminated, raped."
Prof. Lara J. Nettelfield, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Exeter in Britain who has written a book about the tribunal, called the ruling by the court disappointing but not surprising.
"Judges (at the tribunal) have consistently refused to support the prosecution's charge of genocide anywhere but in Srebrenica," Nettelfield said.
The court has repeatedly ruled that the massacre in Srebrenica was genocide, but has never convicted any suspect of genocide for the campaign of killings in the Bosnia towns and villages at the outset of the war.
"The decision also represents a huge disappointment for survivors in those municipalities and anyone who held out hope that the court – with the imperfect mechanism of individual criminal accountability – would leave behind a body of decisions that corresponded to lived experience there," she added.
Residents of Karadzic's wartime stronghold of Pale, near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, were delighted to hear that one charge was removed from the indictment of the man they consider a wartime hero.
"His arrest was stupid to begin with," said Rosa Hadjibesarovic, a Pale resident. "I was surprised when he was arrested. I hope he will be acquitted on all charges."
Karadzic was arrested in 2008, 13 years after he was first indicted on charges of masterminding Serb atrocities during Bosnia's war. His trial started in 2009 and prosecutors rested their case in May. The trial will continue later this year on the 10 remaining counts and he will begin his defense on Oct. 16.
He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
Karadzic's former military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, also is on trial on almost identical charges. The first witness in that trial is to begin testifying early next month.
Associated Press writer Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo contributed to this report.
<em>This Tuesday Dec. 11, 2001 file photo shows Slobodan Milosevic, center, as he enters the courtroom to appear before the court of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. (AP Photo/Paul Vreeker, Pool, File)</em><br><br> The trial of the former Yugoslav President on charges of masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the wars that tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s dragged on for four years and was eventually aborted without verdicts when he died of a heart attack in his jail cell in 2006. The trial was repeatedly delayed by Milosevic's ill health and propensity for grandstanding in court.
<em>In this Aug. 11, 2003 file photo, Liberian ex-President Charles Taylor, carrying his staff, leaves with wife Jewel Howard-Taylor after officially handing over the power of the presidency to his Vice President Moses Blah, at the Executive Mansion in the Liberian capital Monrovia. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)</em><br><br> The former Liberian President fired his legal team and boycotted the start of a trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in June 2007, claiming he did not have the resources to properly defend himself. The trial got under way again in January 2008 when the first witness testified. Taylor was convicted last month of aiding and abetting murderous rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war. He will be sentenced May 30.
<em>A file photo taken on August 29, 2008 shows Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. (VALERIE KUYPERS/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> The former Bosnian Serb leader also boycotted the opening of his war crimes trial in October 2009 claiming he did not have enough time to prepare his defense. Judges later ruled that Karadzic had "substantially and persistently obstructed the proper and expeditious conduct of his trial." The first witness finally testified on April 13, 2010. Prosecutors recently finished calling witnesses and Karadzic will begin presenting his defense in October.
<em>A picture shows ripped pre-election posters of Vojislav Seselj, currently on trial in The Hague for war crimes, leader of the hard-line nationalist Serbian Radical Party, and his deputy Tomislav Nikolic and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica (C) in Belgrade on May 11, 2008. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images) </em><br><br> The Serb ultranationalist has repeatedly delayed his case. His trial began in November 2006 in his absence because he was on hunger strike. The court then called for a fresh start after allowing Seselj to represent himself. The trial started again in November 2007 but was halted again in February 2009 amid allegations of witness intimidation by Seselj. The trial finally resumed in January 2010 and judges are still considering their verdicts - more than nine years after Seselj surrendered to the court.
<em>Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, center, awaits his verdict in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, March 14, 2012. Judges have convicted a Congolese warlord of snatching children from the street and turning them into killers. (AP Photo/Evert-Jan Daniels, Pool)</em><br><br> The Congolese warlord was the first suspect to go on trial at the International Criminal Court. His case on charges of recruiting and using child soldiers was twice halted due to prosecutors not disclosing parts of their evidence against him. He was convicted in March, some six years after he was sent to the court and will be sentenced later this year.