22 jul. 2008

Bosnian Serb Leader and Top War Crimes Suspect Arrested

Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in the town of Jajce, northwest of Sarajevo, in 1995.

Bosnia’s Serb wartime president, Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, has been arrested, Serbian President Boris Tadic’s office said on Monday.
Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said in a statement late Monday that Mr. Karadzic would be transferred to The Hague, but “the date will be determined in due course.”
Mr. Karadzic’s place of arrest was not announced, but Serbian government officials said Mr. Karadzic had been arrested by the Serbian secret police at a site not far from Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, nearly 13 years after he was first indicted on war crimes.

Radovan Karadzic
Radivoje Pavicic/Associated Press
Radovan Karadzic, the ultranationalist leader of the Bosnian Serbs in the 1992-1995 civil war in the former Yugoslavia, is widely regarded by diplomats as the chief architect of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia — crimes that were Europe’s worst atrocities since World War II. One of the world’s most wanted men, he was arrested on July 21, 2008.
Dr. Karadzic, a psychiatrist by profession and a published poet and writer, was twice indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges say he authorized the shooting of civilians during the siege of Sarajevo and for directing the slaughter of an estimated 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men in Srebenica, in eastern Bosnia.
Regarded as a war hero by many Serbs, he went into hiding in 1997 and escaped capture for years. Officials at the war crimes tribunal say a well-financed support network that included police officers and members of the intelligence services in Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, as well as members of the Serbian Orthodox Church, enabled Dr. Karadzic to remain on the run.

Mr. Karadzic had topped the tribunal’s most-wanted list for more than a decade and was said to have resorted to elaborate disguises to elude authorities. Hague and European Union officials have long suspected that he was hiding in Serbia, and have pressed Belgrade to hand him over.
His reported hide-outs included refurbished caves in the mountains of eastern Bosnia and Serbian orthodox monastaries. Some Serbian newspapers reported that he had eluded arrest for the past 13 years by shaving off his signature mane of wild gray hair and disguising himself in a brown cassock.
The arrest, 11 years after Mr. Karadzic went into hiding, marks the culmination of a long and protracted effort by the west to press Serbia to arrest Mr. Karadzic for what is widely considered among the most heinous crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
It comes just weeks after a new pro-western coalition government in Serbia was formed whose overriding goal is to bring Serbia into the European Union, the world’s biggest trading bloc. The EU has made delivering indicted war criminals to the Hague a precondition for Serbia’s membership.
The arrest was hailed by western diplomats as proof of Serbia’s determination to link itself to the west and put the virulent nationalism of the past behind it. It has particular resonance because the new coalition government is the result of an alliance between the Democrats of President Boris Tadic and the Socialist Party of former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, which fought a war against the west in the 1990s, but has now vowed to bring Serbia back into the western fold.
In a sign that the move would accelerate Serbia’s path to the European Union, the EU’s enlargement chief Olli Rehn said Monday that the arrest of the top Bosnian Serb warcrimes fugitive was a “milestone” that would help clear the way for the poor Balkan nation to join the bloc.
“This is certainly a milestone in Serbia’s cooperation with the international criminal tribunal on the former Yugoslavia. It proves the determination of the new government to achieve full cooperation with the tribunal,” he said. He said he and EU foreign ministers would meet with Serbia’s foreign minister Vuk Jeremic at an EU foreign affairs meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss how the EU might accelerate ties with Serbia.
A NATO spokesman described the arrest as “good news for the international community”.
Karadzic’s location has long been a subject of international speculation since he went underground in 1997. The west has long suspected Belgrade of failing to pursue Karadzic, who is believed to have been hiding within Serbia until arrest Monday.
The United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague indicted the former leader on July 24, 1995, just days after thousands of unarmed Bosnian men were executed in and around the Bosnian town of Screbrenica, a UN protected enclave which was overrun by Bosnian Serb military and police. Their forces were assisted closely by Serbian troops sent by Belgrade.
The prosecution charged him with genocide, persecution, deportation and other crimes committed against non-Serb civilians in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. He was indicted together with his chief military commander, Bosnian
Serb General Ratko Mladic, who is still on the run and believed to be in Serbia.