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July 25, 08

NEWS / White House Hails Arrest of Radovan Karadzic


White House Hails Arrest of Radovan Karadzic

Fugitive Bosnian Serb leader was sought for alleged wartime atrocities

By David I. McKeeby
Staff Writer

Washington -- The White House congratulated Serbia following its arrest of one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives -- Radovan Karadzic, the 1990s Bosnian Serb leader during the horrors of “ethnic cleansing.”

“This operation is an important demonstration of the Serbian government’s determination to honor its commitment to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino in a July 21 statement. “There is no better tribute to the victims of the war’s atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice.”

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted Karadzic in July 1995 for six counts of genocide and two counts of crimes against humanity for acts he allegedly committed as leader of a breakaway Republika Srpska, which undertook a violent 1992-1995 military campaign to create a “Greater Serbia” by “cleansing” territory it seized in Bosnia and Herzegovina of its Muslim, ethnic Croat, and other non-Serb communities following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

“He really is the person who was behind the systematic ethnic cleansing -- murder -- of several hundred thousand Bosnians,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told National Public Radio on July 22. “It does show that justice will prevail.”

In 1992, Bosnian Serb forces under Karadzic’s command surrounded Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, following the cosmopolitan city’s refusal to be divided along ethnic and religious lines. Artillery and sniper fire killed more than 12,000 civilians during the three-year siege. Elsewhere, Karadzic’s forces deported thousands more non-Serbs into a network of concentration camps where they faced torture, sexual assault and execution.

“This is a very important day for the victims who have waited for this arrest for over a decade,” said Serge Brammertz, lead prosecutor at the ICTY. “It is also an important day for international justice because it clearly demonstrates that nobody is beyond the reach of the law and that sooner or later all fugitives will be brought to justice.”

The ICTY’s 1995 charges came days after Bosnian Serb military and police units, supported by paramilitaries from Belgrade, overran U.N. peacekeepers protecting a “safe zone” in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina and executed more than 7,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys sheltering there -- an act regarded as the worst massacre on European soil since the end of World War II.

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.

The Srebrenica massacre galvanized the international community, prompting the United States and its NATO allies to intervene with air strikes on Serbian military targets, while stepped-up diplomacy led to the November 1995 Dayton Peace Accords ending the conflict.

“This is a historic event,” Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat who helped broker the Dayton Accords, told The New York Times, calling Karadzic the “worst” of “three evil men of the Balkans.” The list, he said, includes former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while standing trial for war crimes before the ICTY, and Karadzic’s top commander, General Ratko Mladic, who remains at large.

For nearly 13 years, Karadzic lived as a fugitive, using a number of aliases and disguises as he sought refuge in Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia. Serbian security forces finally arrested him outside Belgrade July 21, where he had been living as “Dragon Dabic” and working at a local medical clinic.

“Even the people he rented a flat from were unaware of who he was,” said Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, in a July 21 press conference announcing Karadzic’s capture, showing a photo of Karadzic, a psychiatrist by training, whose trademark gray shock of hair had grown long and white and was now accompanied by a thick beard.

Serbian authorities say Karadzic will be transferred to the ICTY in The Hague, Netherlands, becoming the 44th Serbian figure to stand trial at the tribunal. Officials declined to comment on ongoing efforts to locate Mladic, who is also believed to be hiding in Serbia.

“The arrest of this butcher is good for both Bosnia and Serbia,” Srebrenica survivor Sabaheta Fejzic told Reuters. “Now there is a trace of hope that the same destiny awaits Ratko Mladic.”

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