Karadzic's Arrest Brings Mixed Feelings In Sarajevo Radovan Karadzic's arrest on war crimes charges was met with a burst of celebration in the streets of Sarajevo, which suffered a brutal siege at the hands of Bosnian Serb militias loyal to Karadzic during the Bosnian war. But many citizens of Sarajevo are bitter that he was able to live on the lam for 13 years.
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Karadzic's Arrest Brings Mixed Feelings In Sarajevo

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Karadzic's Arrest Brings Mixed Feelings In Sarajevo

Karadzic's Arrest Brings Mixed Feelings In Sarajevo

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Radovan Karadzic is expected to be transferred to The Hague next week. The former Bosnian Serb leader will be tried for war crimes, including genocide, for his role in the war in Yugoslavia.

When his arrest was announced on Monday, there was a burst of celebration in the streets of Sarajevo. The city suffered a brutal siege by militias loyal to Karadzic.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli traveled to Sarajevo and sent this report on reaction there.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Three women welcome us into their office. The walls are covered with snapshots of men and young boys, as well as many photographs of skulls and bones scattered on the ground. This is the headquarters of the group known as the Mothers of Srebrenica. They created it to track down and identify the remains of their loved ones slaughtered in July 1995 by Bosnian-Serb forces under the orders of Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic.

They say that of an estimated 8,000 killed, forensic experts have so far identified the remains of only 3,500. Fifty-two-year-old Sabahta Fejzic has still not found the remains of her husband and son. Karadzic's capture has not lessened her pain.

Ms. SABAHTA FEJZIC: (Through translator) Concerning the arrest itself, I'm more indifferent than happy, I would say. It has been such a long time since all of the atrocities have been committed and such a long time since he has been free. And it's been 13 years, and in this period he was able to enjoy all of the benefits of - this world can offer. And they should have arrested him at least 10 years ago.

POGGIOLI: Zumra Shehomerovic was barely more fortunate. Her husband's remains were identified only a few months ago. It was difficult, she says, because Karadzic's men threw the bodies into mass graves, then dug them up and scattered the bones in different places in an effort to cover up the massacre.

Ms. ZUMRA SHEHOMEROVIC: (Through translator) While they were alive, they have been mistreated in unimaginable ways. Their hands were bound with wire, they were blindfolded, they were sexually abused, they were beaten. And after all of these inhuman acts have been carried out on them, and when they were finally killed, they were still not left alone. They were still harassed by their murderers.

Mr. MIRZA HAJRIC (Presidential Advisor): We all know it's too late, and we hope it won't be too little.

Mirza Hajric is the former advisor to the late Bosnian president, Alija Izetbegovic. He worries that once on trial in The Hague, Radovan Karadzic will use it as a platform for Serbian nationalism, emulating his onetime mentor Slobodan Milosevic, who died in detention without being convicted.

Mr. HAJRIC: And it'll be more of a mockery of justice.

POGGIOLI: Hajric says that in order to regain the confidence of a skeptical public opinion, the war crimes tribunal must set tight restrictions on defendants acting as their own lawyers and perhaps focus on only some of the charges in the indictment in order to speed up the proceedings, as was done in the case of Saddam Hussein. Three days after the arrest, most young people in Sarajevo seem more concerned with the problems of their daily lives. The jobless rate is 40 percent, and polls show 65 percent of young people want to leave the country.

Thirty-year-old Suad Slipicevic is luckier and wants to stay. He works as a tax consultant and occasionally as an interpreter. He hopes Karadzic's arrest will open up young Serbs' eyes.

Mr. SUAD SLIPICEVIC (Tax Consultant, Interpreter): Had he not been arrested, I think that he most definitely would remain a hero forever and would become this mythical figure for the Serbian youth.

POGGIOLI: Jakup Finci is also hopeful. He's a Sarajevo institution. During the war, as a leader of the Jewish community, his humanitarian organization assisted all of Bosnia's ethnic groups without distinction. And he has played key roles in post-war Bosnia. Finci hopes that Karadzic's arrest and trial will finally revive his proposal for a truth and reconciliation commission so far rejected by Bosnian politicians.

Mr. JAKUP FINCI (Humanitarian Worker): This mistrust between the political leadership stopped the whole process, because the name truth and reconciliation means that each truth will lead us toward reconciliation. Sometimes, truth is very painful, and - but without truth, even justice cannot be made.

POGGIOLI: Today's Bosnia is the creation of international mediators. Its anthem still has no lyrics - no one can agree on them. Finci says that it's only through truth and reconciliation that this ethnically divided country can be finally reunited.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Sarajevo.

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