- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, has at last been captured after evading justice for 13 years. One of the most wanted men in Europe, Mr. Karadzic was arrested Monday while he traveled on a bus in a new part of Belgrade. The former Serbian strongman had been working in disguise as a practitioner of alternative medicine. He was apprehended by Serbian security forces based on a tip from a foreign intelligence service. Mr. Karadzic will be extradited to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Indicted in 1995, Mr. Karadzic faces 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. From 1992 to 1996, while he was president of the rump Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, he masterminded a campaign that sought to eliminate Muslims and ethnic Croats from Bosnia. Approximately 200,000 people died in the war in Bosnia and 1.8 million were displaced. Mr. Karadzic, and his chief military commander at the time, Ratko Mladic, are also deemed responsible for the 1995 execution of approximately 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica - the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II. Mr. Mladic remains at large. Mr. Karadzic spearheaded the siege of Sarajevo, from 1992 to 1995, in which an estimated 12,000 people died and 50,000 were injured. The siege was described by the previous U.N. war crimes tribunal as “scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”

It was long believed that Mr. Karadzic was being protected by fellow Serbs who regarded him as a nationalist hero. His mother stated in a 2002 interview: “Serbs are righteous people and I can see that they support him, and they adore him the way he is. They would lose their lives to protect him.” NATO launched several raids to capture him, but failed. However, Serbian public opinion has turned against the fugitives. The current pro-Western government led by President Boris Tadic is eager to comply with the demands of the European Union, which has insisted that capturing war criminals is a precondition to membership.

It is no wonder that the news of Mr. Karadzic’s arrest has been greeted by celebrations in Bosnia. For the victims and their families, there is hope that justice will at last be served. The arrest is also a watershed in the history of both Serbia and the EU: It demonstrates that there is a genuine Serbian attempt to turn the page on the dark aspects of the recent past - and also that the EU can exercise sufficient pressure to bring about reform in the region. The next major challenge will be to ensure that Mr. Karadzic’s trial is conducted expeditiously and fairly.

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