Karadzic Taken To The Hague

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been flown from Serbia to The Hague where he faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is to make his first appearance before the international war crimes tribunal Thursday.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Radovan Karadzic is spending his first day in a prison cell in the Netherlands. Tomorrow, the former leader of the Bosnian Serbs is scheduled to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. And that appearance will mark the end of a 13-year effort by that tribunal to capture one of its most wanted suspects.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from The Hague.

ROB GIFFORD: Radovan Karadzic, arrested in Belgrade last week, was flown out of Serbia overnight amid tight security. Shortly after dawn, he arrived at Rotterdam Airport in the Netherlands and was whisked away to a detention center near The Hague where he will stand trial.

Mr. SERGE BRAMMERTZ (Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunal): He's indicted for the most serious crimes under international law - genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

GIFFORD: The prosecutor of the international war crimes tribunal, Serge Brammertz, laid out the charges at a news conference.

Mr. BRAMMERTZ: He's charged with the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs from large areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He's charged with the genocide committed in Srebrenica in July '95 when close to 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men and boys were killed.

GIFFORD: Brammertz said Karadzic was also being charged with orchestrating the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo and of taking U.N. peacekeepers and military observers hostage. The former High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Carl Bildt, gave his reaction to Karadzic's arrival in The Hague.

Mr. CARL BILDT (Former High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina): I think it's the moment of huge significance, although the key thing would of course be when the trial really starts and conducted in a thorough and good manner and we get a verdict at some point in time. Even more important, I would say, would be when General Mladic is also joining that particular trial.

GIFFORD: General Ratko Mladic was the Bosnian Serb wartime commander in the 1990s, also accused of responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. He remains at large. Events in Belgrade last night just before Karadzic was taken out of the country showed something of the split within Serbian society.

(Soundbite of protesters)

GIFFORD: More than 10,000 Serbs rallied in the Serbian capital, chanting Karadzic's name. Neboisha Stefanovic of the Serbian Radical Party expressed the feeling many Serbs still have about the events of recent days.

Mr. NEBOISHA STEFANOVIC (Member, Serbian Radical Party): We don't support the Hague tribunal. We believe that this court is not legal, it was not founded legal, and that it just serves as a political tribunal for Serbs. We always said that this is opportunity that we can prove that we serious country, that we can try anyone. If you have any reason to believe or any proof that he committed war crimes, that he could and should be tried in Serbia.

GIFFORD: Nationalists in Serbia have strong criticism for the country's new president, Boris Tadic, who's been in power for just one month. The arrest and delivery of Karadzic to the international tribunal is being seen as a reflection of Tadic's Western leanings, as Serbia struggles to reconcile its strong nationalist sentiments with its need to satisfy the conditions laid down for its possible membership of the European Union.

Radovan Karadzic's lawyer says that Karadzic will represent himself at The Hague, raising the specter of the long drawn-out trial of the only other high-ranking official to be brought before the tribunal, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in custody just before the verdict was passed upon him. Olga Kavran is spokeswoman for the chief prosecutor's office.

Ms. OLGA KAVRAN (Spokeswoman, Chief Prosecutor's Office): Mr. Milosevic was self-represented and that, in combination with his health issues, contributed to the trial only being held three half days a week with many breaks to accommodate the accused to allow for his rest. And this made the trial last quite long. We certainly hope that this wouldn't happen in the case of Mr. Karadzic.

GIFFORD: Radovan Karadzic is due to appear in court tomorrow to enter a plea to the charges against him. The trial itself is not expected to begin for several months.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, The Hague.

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