- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2008



Europe’s most notorious war-crimes fugitive has finally been captured. Radovan Karadzic, the former leader of Bosnia’s Serbs, is in a Belgrade jail. He will be extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague to face trial for crimes against humanity.

His arrest on Monday by Serbian security services was akin to a scene from a Robert Ludlum spy thriller. Mr. Karadzic was on the run for more than 10 years. He hid in plain sight in Belgrade by sporting a long, flowing white beard and thick glasses. He posed as a doctor practicing alternative medicine.

Serbia’s pro-Western government has demonstrated it is serious about capturing indicted war criminals - including those still at large, such as Gen. Ratko Mladic, the ex-military commander of the Bosnian Serbs. Serbia is now closer to closing a dark, bloody chapter in its history - a chapter marked by a policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

During the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic - along with his political proxies, Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic - attempted to achieve a “Great Serbia.” They wanted an ethnically pure Serbian empire that would stretch from the Danube to the Adriatic.

Backed by Belgrade, Serbian paramilitary forces waged wars of aggression against Croatia and Bosnia, annexing large swaths of territory. Their aim was to murder and expel non-Serbs from the conquered lands and attach the lands to Serbia and Montenegro, thereby forging a single “Great Serb” state.

Mr. Karadzic was the butcher of Bosnia. From 1992 to 1995, Serbian forces committed numerous massacres against Bosnian Muslims and Croatians. He ordered the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, in which Serbian gunners targeted civilians and imposed a blockade to starve the city into submission. As a result, nearly 12,000 residents inside and near the capital died. Entire villages were razed; civilians were killed or driven out at gunpoint. Kozarac, a town of 20,000 mostly Muslim inhabitants, was literally wiped from the map.

Mr. Karadzic was a radical nationalist, who championed race, blood and soil. He sought to carve out a rump, homogeneous Serbian entity within Bosnia - at whatever cost. His odious Bosnian Serb Republic was the Balkan successor to the Nazi regime. He imposed a system of concentration camps to institutionalize ethnic cleansing. Torture camps were created at Omarska, Keraterm and Brcko. United Nations reports say survivors from Omarska testified that “on many occasions” between “20-40 prisoners were killed at night by ‘knife, hammer and burning.’ ” Witnesses reported that Serbian guards poured gasoline on prisoners, set them on fire and smashed their heads with hammers. In Srebrenica, Serbian paramilitaries committed the worst massacre in Europe since the end of World War II: More than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were executed.

Mr. Karadzic’s evil ideology had disastrous consequences: More than 250,000 were killed, nearly 2 million became refugees, hundreds of mosques and Catholic churches were destroyed, and a nation was shattered. His racist policies resulted in the delegitimization of Serbian nationalism - the very opposite of his goals.

Although Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic (and to a lesser extent Milosevic) are regarded as heroes by many Serbs, he irreparably damaged the Serbian cause. Instead of demanding that the minority rights of Serbs in Bosnia be protected, Mr. Karadzic chose the path of revanchism and irredentism. Having wanted all - and risked all - he lost all.

Serbian nationalists alienated the international community and galvanized ferocious regional opposition. Belgrade failed to achieve any of its strategic aims. In fact, its hard-line policies brought defeat and decline. Croatia recovered all of its territories; the Bosnian Serbs were brought to heel; and Montenegro and Kosovo also won independence from Serbia’s stifling grip. Rather than expanding Belgrade’s reach and influence, Mr. Karadzic’s marauders ensured the downfall of Serbian imperialism.

But will Mr. Karadzic’s capture at last bring true justice for his victims and their families? The International Criminal Tribunal botched the prosecution of Milosevic, who died of a heart attack in 2006 before the war-crimes court rendered a final judgment. Milosevic was allowed to showboat, play to the cameras and taunt his victims. He portrayed himself as a martyr for the Serbian nation. Mr. Karadzic has announced he will follow in Milosevic’s footsteps and defend himself at The Hague. He will likely replicate the dictator’s antics.

Just like Milosevic, Mr. Karadzic is not a martyr, but a mass murderer and war criminal. Instead of facing trial at a cozy supranational tribunal, he should be made to confront his victims in a Sarajevo courtroom. Then he would see with his own coldblooded eyes his legacy of death, destruction and despair.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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