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Arrest of Radovan Karadzic: Why Now and Who's Next?


The lawyer for former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic say he will conduct his own defense before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where he faces charges of genocide and war crimes committed in Bosnia in the 1990s. Karadzic was arrested near Belgrade on Monday and could be extradited to The Hague within days, but the fact that he's been on the run for nearly 13 years and working and living in Belgrade in disguise raises questions over who knew, why he was arrested now and whether his one time military commander, Ratko Mladic, might soon face the same fate. Sonja Pace has this report from London.

The man with the long white hair, thick beard and spectacles went by the name of Dragan Dabic and had seemingly no trouble peddling his skills as a traditional healer. The disguise worked well enough to allow him to live and work in Belgrade and even his neighbors insisted that they had no idea that behind this façade was Radovan Karadzic, one time leader of the Bosnian Serbs and war crimes suspect.

But Radovan Karadzic's time ran out.

Serbian officials announced that Karadzic had been arrested, questioned, had his identity established and was then handed the indictment from the International Criminal Court.

Western leaders welcomed the arrest and many quickly noted it was proof the newly-elected government of President Boris Tadic was committed to cooperating with the international tribunal and to getting Serbia into the European Union.

Speaking with VOA from Belgrade, James Lyon, the senior Balkan analyst for the International Crisis Group, the Brussels-based risk assessment organization, said there is no doubt that President Tadic and his party are committed to Europe, but he says there are doubts they could have engineered the arrest.

"The difficulty is that they hadn't yet been in power long enough to establish control of any sort over the police or over the secret police. Let's keep in mind they just appointed a director of the secret police four days before this happened, that was certainly not enough time to go in and get the ball rolling," said Lyon.

The question remains, who decided it was time to give Karadzic up. Balkan analyst Svetozar Rajak at the London School of Economics says while the government may not have had time to organize the operation, some individuals could have.

"We know that the outgoing head of the intelligence services, Mr. Bilatovic was praised in the past even by Carla del Ponte [former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] as cooperating with western intelligence services in pursuing and trying to apprehend both Karadzic and [Ratko] Mladic," said Rajak.

Rajak says it is also quite certain that a number of people in the intelligence apparatus must have known Karadzic was hiding in their midst.

"For him to evade so long as one of the most wanted fugitives in the world, you require a very complex and expert intelligence operation and it's very costly and requires a good organization and so forth," added Rajak.

Questions about who knew, for how long and who gave him up, will linger. But, says James Lyon, the Serbian government should still be congratulated.

"I think what's important to say is that Serbia got him. That's the first and most important thing," he said. "How they did, why they did it is not important."

The Serbian government has said it is preparing to extradite Karadzic to The Hague. He faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his part in the Bosnian war of the 1990s. He and his one-time military commander, Ratko Mladic are specifically linked to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed and to the nearly four-year-long siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which it is estimated that more than 10,000 people were killed.

Mladic remains at large and James Lyon says there must be continued pressure for his arrest.


"Over the years Serbia has always said, there are no war crime indictees in Serbia and yet they keep coughing them up in fits and starts, depending on political expediency," said Lyon. " So, it's very clear - Ratko Mladic is in Serbia, he can be arrested by the Serbian authorities, provided there's the political will. We need to say, let's get it over with. There are only two more left."

The second and last fugitive wanted by the international tribunal is Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic.

The EU has set the handover of all war crimes suspects as a key condition for any future Serbian membership in the European Union.

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