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Karadzic and Mladic Still Hiding Ten Years After Being Indicted

  • Roger Wilkison

The world's two most wanted war crimes fugitives, Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, are still evading justice ten years to the day after being indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The court's frustrated prosecutors are continuing to demand that the two men be arrested for genocide and other crimes.

Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are considered the masterminds behind countless war crimes, most notably the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica ten years ago this month. On July 25, 1995, they were both indicted by the United Nations-sponsored war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

U.S. diplomats in Belgrade and Sarajevo, who monitor the hunt for suspected war criminals, say the two men rely on disguises, multiple hiding places and a shadowy network of supporters to remain free.

Dr. Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb political leader, is believed to be hiding in the Serb-controlled enclave of Bosnia, but is said to frequently cross into Serbia itself or Montenegro. The diplomats say they have heard that he has shaved off his bushy hair, grown a long beard and dresses in black robes akin to those of a Serbian Orthodox priest. The diplomats say he often moves from one hideout to another.

General Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, lived openly in Belgrade until about three years ago, showing up at football stadiums and dining in restaurants. But he dropped out of sight after pro-western Serbian officials warned that they might have to hand him over to the war crimes tribunal. Western diplomats and war crimes prosecutors say he has been protected by the Serbian military. But officials in Belgrade deny knowing his whereabouts.

Despite a U.S. offer of $5 million reward for any information leading to their capture, European Union officials say the two men have remained at large because they are still popular among Serb nationalists, who are willing to help them evade capture. But Jim Landale, the spokesman for the tribunal in The Hague says their situation is becoming more vulnerable.

"I think it can only really now be a dwindling minority of either deluded individuals who are protecting them, or people with a vested interest in protecting them and trying to ensure that they are not brought to justice and that the truth is not brought out," he said.

The Serbian government is under strong western pressure to arrest General Mladic. But diplomats say it is reluctant to act because it fears a backlash from an electorate that considers the tribunal anti-Serb and sees the general and Dr. Karadzic as national heroes.

War crimes prosecutors blame NATO and EU forces in Bosnia for not doing enough to capture Dr. Karadzic. They vow that their work will not be done until the two men are arrested and brought to trial. They insist the tribunal, which is scheduled to wrap up its work by 2010, will not close its doors until the two fugitives are behind bars.

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