(AFP) – Jul 23, 2008
THE HAGUE (AFP) — World leaders united in hailing Serbia for the arrest of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who practised alternative medicine under a false name in the Serbian capital during his years on the run, with only Russia sounding a contrary note over whether he would receive a fair trial.
In Brussels, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, sounded hopeful Tuesday that the arrest would unblock Serbia's EU accession talks, which had been made conditional on Belgrade's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
"We have to talk to the prosecutor of the international tribunal but I am almost certain he is going to say there is 'full cooperation'," Solana said.
That reaction was echoed across European capitals, the United Nations and the White House, but with a dissident note coming from Russia's envoy to NATO, who called for Western leaders to join Karadzic in the dock.
"If the Karadzic case merits being considered in the Hague, then next to him in the dock should be those who took the decision to bomb entirely innocent people, hundreds of whom died during the 'democratisation' of the Balkans by the West," Dmitry Rogozin said in Brussels, cited by Interfax news agency.
The Russian foreign ministry meanwhile stressed that any trial should be "impartial," accusing the UN war crimes tribunal of "an often biased approach" and said it should be disbanded.
"We also reiterate the need to speed up moves to wrap up the activities of the ICTY and to hand over all unsolved cases to the investigative and judicial bodies of countries of the former Yugoslavia," the ministry said in a statement.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who served as a mediator in the Balkans conflict, hailed the capture of Karadzic as "late, late, late, but good, good, good," in comments to Swedish Radio.
The EU's current French presidency said it marked "an important step on the way to Serbia's drawing nearer to the European Union."
"At last. We've been waiting for 13 years for this," crowed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. "This is certainly a good thing for rapprochement between Serbia and the European Union."
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the arrest "very important for Serbia's European aspirations," while German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed an "historic moment."
Spain's Defence Minister Carme Chacon congratulated Serbian President Boris Tadic over the operation, which showed there is "zero impunity for genocide" and that "no human rights violations in any part of the world will remain unpunished."
The US congratulated the government of Serbia on the capturing Karadzic, calling his arrest a "tribute" to the victims of atrocities there.
"The timing of the arrest, only days after the commemoration of the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnians committed in Srebrenica, is particularly appropriate," a White House statement read.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the arrest as an "historic moment for the victims."
London-based human rights group Amnesty International said the capture was "a major victory" but called for the 2010 cut-off point for the tribunal that will consider his fate to be reconsidered by the UN Security Council.
Former commander of UN forces in Bosnia, French general Philippe Morillon, said he expected former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, one of two remaining fugitives of the UN war crimes court, would also be arrested.
"I think that the arrest of Mladic must follow," he said.
But Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said Karadzic's arrest was an "unseemly step" and resulted from "every form of crude political, economic and media pressure put on Belgrade by the West."
In Sarajevo itself the victims support group for those bereaved in the massacre, the Association of Srebrenica Mothers, said that "justice has finally been done."
Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader who remained at large for more than 10 years despite an international manhunt, was arrested by Serbian security forces on Monday night near Belgrade, where he had been working.
Despite his status as one of the most wanted men on the planet, Karadzic, 63, had been working in a medical clinic with only a false name and a thick beard and white hair to conceal his identity.
"He was working and performing alternative medicine, making money that way," said Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian minister in charge of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
"He was very convincing in hiding his identity," said Ljajic.
Karadzic had last been seen in public in the eastern Bosnian town of Han Pijesak in July 1996, and was previously thought to have hidden in Serb-controlled parts of Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia, or even Russia.
Following his capture, he was questioned by a magistrate who concluded "all conditions have been met for his transfer" to The Hague for trial, said Serbia's war crimes prosecutor.
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