The rally was organized by the Serbian Radical Party, which is headed by Vojislav Seselj – who served as deputy prime minister of Serbia between 1998 and 2000.
The protest marked the 17th anniversary of the start of NATO’s bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, which began on March 24, 1999. The demonstrators held banners saying “NATO dropped more bombs on Serbia than all the terrorists in the world.”
“Those who were bombing us in 1999, who were killing our children, those criminals from NATO, have now got the right voted in by parliament to walk freely across Serbia,” Seselj said in his address to the crowds, as cited by the website Balkan Insight.
The protesters also criticized Thursday’s verdict delivered by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which sentenced Karadzic to 40 years in prison. The former Bosnian Serb president was found guilty on 10 charges out of 11.
Some of the protesters were carrying portraits of Karadzic.
Karadzic “was convicted [even though] he was innocent… and because he is Serb who found himself at a decisive and historic moment at the head of [the administrative entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina] Republika Srpska,” Seselj said.
“The verdict on Radovan Karadzic is a verdict on the entire Serbian people, history and nation,” Seselj added.
Karadzic was indicted on two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, and four counts of violations of the laws of war in his capacity as president of Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb republic) from 1992 to 1996.
The one charge that was dropped related to the allegations that Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide in seven municipalities of Bosnia. However, the 44-month siege of Sarajevo also amounts to a war crime, the judge ruled.
Though Karadzic was indicted by the tribunal in 1995, he was captured 13 years later in Belgrade, where he lived disguised as a faith healer. The Serbian authorities handed him over to international investigators for the trial, which began in 2009.