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After nearly 13 years of eluding capture, Radovan Karadzic—called the chief architect of the Bosnian war—was finally captured inside a bus in Belgrade on July 18, 2008. He had been under close watch for weeks on a tip from foreign intelligence. Accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity, he will be brought to The Hague to face trial.
Richard Holbrooke, a U.S. diplomat who brokered the “Dayton Accords” to end the Bosnia war, said, “This is a historic day. One of the worst men in the world, the Osama Bin Laden of Europe, has finally been captured. It is significant that NATO continued to fail and the Serbs captured him... a major, major thug has been removed from the public scene” (BBC).
While the arrest made Muslim Bosnians and Croats jubilant, many Serbs hailed Radovan Karadzic as a patriot.
Mr. Karadzic—who is accused of atrocities described as “scenes from hell” and the “darkest page of UN history”—is alleged to have been responsible for numerous bloody crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian War:
The 1995 massacre of 6,000 Muslim Bosnians in Srebrenica, the worst human slaughter since World War II
The 44-month shelling of Sarajevo, killing more than 10,000 people
Holding hostage more than 200 UN peacekeepers and military observers May and June 1995
Rezak Hukanovic, a survivor, described the suffering of victims in his book The Tenth Circle of Hell: “Thirst, hunger, gang rapes, exhaustion, skulls shattered, sexual organs torn out, stomachs ripped open by the soldier assassins of Radovan Karadzic.”
Radovan Karadzic was born in 1945 in Montenegro. He studied medicine, practiced psychiatry and later wrote poetry. The influence of Dobrica Cosic—a Serbian writer and the first president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-93)—led him to enter politics. Mr. Karadzic helped form the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) to stop the rise of Croats in Bosnian politics. When Bosnia wanted to secede from Yugoslavia, he objected strongly. Dreaming of uniting Bosnia and Serbia to form Greater Serbia, he expelled the Croats and Muslims killing hundreds of thousands. When the Dayton Accord was finalized, he was removed from office in 1995. In 1996, he stepped down as SDS leader and went into hiding. By this time, it is estimated more than 250,000 fell victim to his distorted view of nationalism.
With Radovan Karadzic in custody, only three top Bosnian war fugitives remain at large: Ratko Mladic (considered a ruthless military commander during the war), Goran Hadzic and Radovan Stankovic, who was convicted in 1996, but escaped in 2007. Stojan Zupljani, a former Bosnian war police chief, was arrested a week prior to Mr. Karadzic’s capture.
While Mr. Karadzic masterfully used disguises during his time in hiding, he also received protection from the army and loyal Serbs to help him evade authorities for years.
Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said the arrests of war crimes suspects was a priority for the new Serbian government. The latest capture came as a major concession to Serbia’s entry into the European Union. Under the leadership of President Boris Tadic’s pro-Western government, it is expected that Ratko Mladic will soon be put behind bars.