(AFP) – Jul 21, 2008
BELGRADE (AFP) — Serbia said Monday its security forces had captured Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader accused of genocide, after nearly 13 years on the run from a UN war crimes court.
"Radovan Karadzic was located and arrested tonight," said a statement from the office of Serbian President Boris Tadic.
"Karadzic was brought to the investigative judge of the War Crimes Court in Belgrade, in accordance with the law on cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)," it added.
The Serbian presidency and war crimes prosecution refused to elaborate on the brief statement, which did not disclose any further information about the time and place of Karadzic's arrest.
However, a war crimes official who requested anonymity said the 63-year-old had offered "no resistance" when he was arrested on Serbian territory, and appeared to have been in a "depressive mood."
His capture comes two weeks after Serbia got a new pro-European Union membership government dominated by Tadic's pro-Western Democratic Party, with the support of the reformed Socialists of late president Slobodan Milosevic.
Along with his former army chief Ratko Mladic, Karadzic had evaded the ICTY since 1995 when they were charged with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
Mladic, 65, is now one of only two other remaining fugitives of The Hague-based court. The other is Goran Hadzic, 49, a former Serb politician wanted for "ethnic cleansing," but in Croatia.
Karadzic's arrest was promptly welcomed by UN war crimes chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, the French presidency of the European Union, and the United States, as well as an association of mothers of those killed in 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Brammertz praised Serbia for the arrest, which came a day before he visits Belgrade, whose cooperation with the UN court is the main obstacle to the Balkan country's EU integration.
"I was informed by our colleagues in Belgrade about the successful operation which resulted in the arrest of Radovan Karadzic," the prosecutor said in a statement in The Hague, the seat of the UN tribunal.
"I would like to congratulate the Serbian authorities... on achieving this milestone on cooperation," said Brammertz.
A White House statement also congratulated the Serbian government and noted the poignant timing of its achievement.
"The timing of the arrest, only days after the commemoration of the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnians committed in Srebrenica, is particularly appropriate, as there is no better tribute to the victims of the war's atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice."
Kada Hotic, who lost her son and husband as Serb troops overran the wartime Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica before summarily killing some thousands of Muslim men and boys, expressed relief at Karadzic's arrest.
"Justice has finally been done. Tonight's event showed that a war criminal cannot hide forever," Hotic said.
One of the top war crimes suspects in the Balkans, Karadzic, is seen widely as a murderous megalomaniac with a twisted view of history and his supposed destiny as a leader of the Bosnian Serbs.
Former US envoy to the Balkans Richard Holbrooke described him in an interview with the BBC as the "Osama Bin Laden of Europe" and said "a major thug has been removed from the scene."
Bosnian Croats and Muslims, against whom Karadzic waged a barbaric campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in the early 1990s, have no doubt that he is one of the monsters of the 20th century.
But for some Serbs he remains a hero of the 1992-1995 war which followed Bosnia's independence from the Yugoslav federation, a man who stood up to age-old enemies and great powers and carved out a separate Serb homeland.
The worst crimes on his indictment are the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in which some 10,000 civilians were killed, and the massacre in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.
In the bitter war against Bosnia's Muslim-led government, he is said to have authorised "ethnic cleansing" in which more than a million non-Serbs were driven from their homes in villages where they had lived for generations.
The expulsions were accompanied, according to international observers, by widespread killings and up to 20,000 rapes in a calculated programme of terror that left the international community both shocked and impotent to respond.
Karadzic, with his thick shock of grey hair, became a familiar sight to television viewers around the world in the 1990s, when his contempt for diplomacy and cynical manipulation of United Nations' peacemaking efforts exasperated foreign negotiators.
He was a close ally of Milosevic, and the pair cooperated militarily and politically to confuse the Serbs' enemies, not just on the battlefields but also in the halls of diplomacy.
"This is a very important day for the victims who have waited for this arrest for over a decade," said Brammertz.
"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 EU's French presidency described Karadzic's arrest as an "important step" by Serbia on the way to EU membership. Serbia's new government hopes to become an EU candidate by the end of this year and win full membership by 2012.
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