Karadzic Arrest Is First Step In Legal Process

While living as an alternative medicine expert, Radovan Karadzic allegedly wrote for a new age Web site. The site is in Croatian, but shows some of the devices that Karadzic used in his practice of alternative medicine.

Former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic's arrest in Serbia is the first step in a process that will send him to a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He stands accused of mass killings of Muslims during the Bosnian war.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. We're learning more today about the capture of Radovan Karadzic and how he remained hidden for more than 10 years. The Bosnian Serb leader was one of the world's most wanted war criminals. After the war in Yugoslavia, he was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.

SIEGEL: Karadzic was arrested last night. Now he sits in a Belgrade jail waiting to be extradited to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli has the latest from Belgrade.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Rasim Ljajic, the Serb minister responsible for relations with the War Crimes Tribunal, today showed the world what Radovan Karadzic looks like after 10 years on the run.

In the photograph, the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs is much thinner, wears glasses, shoulder-length white hair, and sports a white beard. Gone is the leonine mop and the pompous self-assurance well-known to reporters who covered the Bosnian War. He looked more gnome than butcher of the Balkans.

Through an interpreter, Rasim Ljajic.

Mr. RASIM LJAJIC (Serb Minister): (Through translator) Karadzic used a false identity and false documents, used the name Dragan Dabic. We can tell you that he's been freely walking in the city, even people he rented his flat from didn't know his identity.

POGGIOLI: Karadzic's disguise was so effective he could practice alternative medicine at a private clinic in Belgrade and even wrote articles for the magazine Healthy Life under an assumed name. Ljajic was very vague in revealing details about the arrest, saying Karadzic's movements are being analyzed and will be kept secret until Racom Laditch(ph), the other major wanted war criminal, is also caught.

Mr. LJAJIC: (Through translator) There was preliminary questioning last night. He decided to remain silent and defend himself like that.

POGGIOLI: The Serbian judge has ordered Karadzic's extradition to The Hague. He has three days to appeal the ruling. It has long been suspected that the Bosnian Serb leader could remain a fugitive for so long only thanks to a strong support network of hard-line nationalists and help from the Serb Orthodox Church and protection from high Serbian authorities.

His arrest came just after a new government was installed that is keen to end Serbia's international isolation, and that depends on handing over the remaining war crimes suspects. Police have been put on high alert in Belgrade, fearing violent demonstrations, but there were only a few dozen hard-line nationalist protestors on the streets Monday evening. Today, one man, Haji Andre Milec(ph), expressed the outrage and anger of many Karadzic loyalists.

Mr. HAJI ANDRE MILEC: (Through translator) Nobody can take him to Hague. Without a civil war something like this couldn't happen.

POGGIOLI: Nearby, Karadzic's brother Luca(ph) was sitting in a car. He had just spent some time with the jailed Radovan, whom he described in a good mood and in good health. Luca said that like the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic will act as his own lawyer. Perhaps hinting at the future defense strategy, he said Radovan Karadzic may try to implicate Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. negotiator of the Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War in 1995.

Mr. LUCA KARADZIC (Brother): (Through translator) He understood that his deal with Holbrooke was not respected.

POGGIOLI: Luca Karadzic claimed the deal involved his brother stepping down as president of both the Bosnian Serb entity and the Serbian political party in exchange for immunity from The Hague tribunal.

His words echoed what Radovan Karadzic said in an interview with the BBC after the Dayton agreement was signed.

Mr. RADOVAN KARADZIC: Why they should arrest me? The Dayton Agreement says it legalized and legitimized our fight for freedom and for our own fate.

POGGIOLI: But in The Hague, Karadzic will face a very large number of serious charges: genocide, extermination, murder and ethnic cleansing. He's accused of ordering the 43-month-long siege of Sarajevo, during which Bosnian Serb troops starved, sniped and bombarded the city center and in which thousands of civilians lost their lives.

He's also charged with the massacre of Srebrenica, the worst war crimes in Europe after World War II, in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered.

The Hague tribunal has described Radovan Karadzic as the suspected mastermind of scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Belgrade.

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Karadzic: War Criminal or Nationalist Hero?

Timeline
 

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 i

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

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.

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