Karadzic: War Criminal or Nationalist Hero?

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Indicted on charges related to war crimes, Radovan Karadzic had been living as a fugitive for more than a decade. View a timeline of events in his life that led him to go into hiding.

Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic i

Karadzic (right) confers with Ratko Mladic in August 1993. Karadzic was arrested Monday; Mladic remains a fugitive. Michael Evstafiev/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Evstafiev/AFP/Getty Images
Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic

Karadzic (right) confers with Ratko Mladic in August 1993. Karadzic was arrested Monday; Mladic remains a fugitive.

Michael Evstafiev/AFP/Getty Images

Quick Bio

Radovan Karadzic was born in June 1945 in Montenegro. He moved to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1960 to pursue his studies in psychiatry. He later spent a year studying medicine at Columbia University in New York. He also became a published poet, and came under the influence of Serbian nationalist writers.

In the 1980s, Karadzic moved to Belgrade to work in a hospital. He became one of the founders of the Serbian Democratic Party in 1989. The group sought to get ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia to support the idea of a "Greater Serbia" that would extend over all the lands inhabited by Serbs.

In 1991, he was instrumental in forming a separate Bosnian Serb Assembly, which later declared the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and made him its president. Karadzic became a fugitive in 1995 when he went into hiding after being indicted by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on war crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity.

Karadzic Indictment

View the initial indictment by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

After living more than a dozen years as a fugitive, Radovan Karadzic has been turned over to the international war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. About 15,000 Serbian ultra-nationalists demonstrated in Belgrade on the eve of the former Bosnian-Serb leader's extradition to the Netherlands. Many nationalists still regard Karadzic as a hero and a defender of ethnic Serbs in Bosnia.

It's expected that the legal process will reveal more about Karadzic's alleged role in atrocities committed during the Bosnian War, as well as his years underground.

The man arrested by Serbian security forces on July 21 looked startlingly different from the portly, shocked-haired politician who led nationalist Serbs in Bosnia during the early 1990s. Police say Karadzic, wearing a full white beard and long white hair, used a false name to work openly in Belgrade as a healer and expert in alternative medicine.

The Charges

Karadzic was wanted for crimes allegedly committed during the Bosnian War from 1992 through 1995, after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. As president of the Serb Republic established in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Karadzic was accused of ordering the so-called "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnian Muslims.

The army of the Bosnian Serb Republic, under the command of Gen. Ratko Mladic, was accused of using terror, murder and rape to drive Muslims and ethnic Croats from their homes.

In 1996, Karadzic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on two counts of genocide and five counts of crimes against humanity, as well as other crimes. More than 100,000 people, civilian and military, are believed to have been killed during the war. The Institute for War and Peace estimates that about 65 percent of the civilians killed were Bosnian Muslims.

The Srebrenica Massacre

The most notorious mass murder committed during the war was the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, in which Bosnia Serb forces and Serbian paramilitaries systematically slaughtered about 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The massacre has been ruled an act of genocide by both the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.

Despite a warrant for his arrest and a price on his head, Karadzic managed to evade capture for nearly a dozen years.

At various times, he was reported to be living in Russia, Serbia or parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina that were controlled by Serbs.

Karadzic's Beginnings

Karadzic, now 63, was born and reared in Montenegro. His father was a member of the Yugoslav monarchist paramilitary group known as the Chetniks and was in prison during much of his son's childhood.

Radovan Karadzic got a medical degree and moved to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to pursue his studies in psychiatry. He later spent a year studying medicine at Columbia University in New York. He also became a published poet, and came under the influence of Serbian nationalist writers.

In 1989, he became one of the founders of the Serbian Democratic Party, which sought to get ethnic Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia to support the idea of a "Greater Serbia" that would extend over all the lands inhabited by Serbs.

In 1991, he was instrumental in forming a separate Bosnian Serb Assembly, which later declared the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and made him its president.

The war crimes tribunal in The Hague has tried dozens of suspects, including Karadzic's one-time ally, the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 before his trial could be completed. The court is still seeking the arrest of the former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic.

Timeline: The Political Life of Radovan Karadzic

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was arrested Monday on charges related to genocide and war crimes during the Bosnian war. He had been living as a fugitive for more than a decade. Here's a timeline of key events in his life.

June 1945 — Karadzic is born in the former Yugoslav Republic, in what is now Montenegro.

July 1990 — Karadzic co-founds the Serbian Democratic Party, a Serbian nationalist party in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

January 1990 — Slovenian and Croatian delegates walk out of a Yugoslav Communist Party Congress, presaging the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation over the next few years.

October 1991 — Karadzic leads a move to create "Serb autonomous provinces" in Bosnia, which were represented by a separate Serb assembly.

February/March 1992 — Bosnian Serbs boycott a referendum in which the country's Muslims and Croats vote to declare independence from Yugoslavia.

April 1992 — The United Nations recognizes Bosnia as an independent state. Bosnian Serbs lay siege to the capital city, Sarajevo.

May 1992 — Karadzic is named first president of the Bosnian Serb Republic.

Summer/fall 1992 — The Bosnian Serb army and Serb paramilitary groups go on to occupy about 70 percent of the country. Serb forces systemically drive Muslims from the towns and villages they capture, a process they call "ethnic cleansing."

April 1993 — The U.N. declares "safe havens" in six cities in eastern Bosnia, including Srebrenica and Gorazde. People in these towns are declared to be under the protection of peacekeepers.

February 1994 — NATO becomes involved in enforcing a U.N. no-fly zone over Bosnia. NATO jets shoot down four Serb aircraft over central Bosnia.

March 1995 — Karadzic orders his army to tighten the siege on Srebrenica, already facing a humanitarian crisis because Serb forces refused to let supply convoys enter the city.

July 1995 — Serb troops occupy the U.N. "safe haven" of Srebrenica. Serb forces round up about 8,000 Muslim men and boys and slaughter them.

Summer 1995 — The Bosnian Muslim-Croat alliance launches an operation that re-captures much of western Bosnia from the Serbs.

September 1995 — NATO expands air strikes against Bosnian Serb forces and infrastructure.

November 1995 — The war ends with the Dayton Peace Agreement, reached after U.S.-backed negotiations.

1996 — Karadzic goes into hiding to avoid international warrants for his arrest.

July 2008 — Karadzic is arrested in Serbia by security forces.

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