A former Serbian leader accused of the massacre of thousands of Muslims in the mid-1990s has been apprehended, but several other accused war criminals remain at large.
Radovan Karadzic’s arrest Monday leaves Bosnian army chief Ratko Mladic and the former president of Croatia’s Krajina province, Goran Hadzic, wanted for crimes related to the Balkans’ civil wars.
Observers are saying Karadzic’s arrest will give new life to the hunt for Mladic, who is believed to have assumed a different identity and is living in Serbia, reported The Guardian.
“There have been no sightings in the past five years or more,” a Serbian official said. “But obviously there is more optimism now that Mladic will be caught. He’s a fugitive. He will not be feeling very comfortable today.”
French General Philippe Morillon, who commanded U.N. forces in Bosnia, told The Australian he expects Mladic’s arrest must come soon.
But it might not come easily.
Karadzic was seen as a comic figure in Serbia, while Mladic is considered a hero and a defender of Serbs, James Lyon of the International Crisis Group told the Irish Times.
The newspaper also noted that Hadzic is wanted for his part in a mass murder at Vukovar, Croatia, in 1991.
Both Hadzic’s and Mladic’s arrest are conditions for Serbia to enter the EU — and Karadzic wasn’t the only war criminal from the Balkans conflict to be arrested in recent weeks.
Stojan Zupljanin, a former Bosnian Serb police chief accused of war crimes during in the early 1990s, was arrested July 11 and extradited to the Hague.
Karadzic’s arrest has prompted new interest in Dragan Vasiljkovic, an Australian citizen who has also been accused of war crimes in the Balkans.
Known as “Captain Dragan,” Vasiljkovic is accused of killing Croatian civilians and ordering others to do so in the early 1990s while head of Serbian paramilitary forces.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s foreign minister, Stephen Smith, said he hopes to have Vasiljkovic extradited to The Hague soon, following due legal process.
“He’s entitled to pursue his legal defenses before a relevant jurisdiction,” Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the newspaper. “Australia is a relevant jurisdiction.”
Legal bickering is already emerging. Sveta Vujacic, Karadzic’s defense lawyer, told Pravda Online his client was arrested Friday and detained in secret for three days.
“He just said that these people showed him a police badge and than he was taken to some place and kept in the room. And that is absolutely against the law what they did,” he said. “The judge also said that he will look into this matter, who and why kept him for three days.”
According to the Irish Times, Karadzic will conduct his own defense before the international tribunal at The Hague.
The arrest may advance EU membership for Serbia, but Russia, a Serbian ally, was critical, with its foreign ministry issuing a statement that accused the U.N. war crimes tribunal bias and calling for it to be disbanded.
Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin, speaking to the Interfax news service, accused Western forces of bombing “entirely innocent people, hundreds of whom died during the ‘democratization’ of the Balkans by the west,” and said the leaders must also stand trial.
— John Hornberg/Newsdesk.org
“Karadzic arrest raises Aussie link”
Sydney Morning Herald, July 22, 2008
“World hails ‘historic’ Karadzic arrest”
The Australian, July 23, 2008
“Karadzic faces The Hague but hunt goes on for his general”
The Guardian, July 22, 2008
“Radovan Karadzic, mastermind of Europe’s worst massacre since WWII, arrested in Serbia”
Pravda, July 22, 2008
“Karadzic Arrest Hugely Improves Serbian Standing with EU”
Deutche Welle, July 22, 2008
“Still at large: Goran Hadzic”
Irish Times, July 23, 2008
“Serbian war crimes suspect extradited”
Irish Times, July 21, 2008
“Karadzic to conduct his own defence”
Irish Times, July 23, 2008
“Two war criminals still on the run”
Die Welt, July 22, 2008