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31 Jul, 2008 06:12

Karadzic to face war crimes judge

The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will appear before a war crimes judge in the Netherlands on Thursday. It follows his extradition to The Hague to stand trial at the UN War Crimes Tribunal.

His transfer came just hours after thousands of his supporters took to the streets of Belgrade to protest against his extradition.

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Serge Brammertz, has told reporters that Serbian authorities deserve full credit for arresting Radovan Karadzic.

“The arrest of Radovan Karadzic is immensely important for the victims who had to wait far too long for this day,” he said. “It is also important for international justice because it clearly demonstrates that there is no alternative to the arrest of war criminals and that there can be no safe haven for fugitives.”

Brammertz also outlined the important role of the Serbian authorities in the apprehension of Karadzic.

“I look forward to meeting the authorities in Belgrade in the coming weeks and hope that Serbia's co-operation will lead to the arrest of the two remaining fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hagic. Without those arrests we cannot complete our mandate,” he said.

Karadzic is accused of being the mastermind behind the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, when around 8,000 Muslims were killed.

Karadzic's lawyer says his client would take the allowed 30 days to enter a plea.

Meanwhile, Karadzic is planning to defend himself in court.

Serbs protest against former leader’s arrest

On Tuesday evening, around 15,000 Serb nationalists turned out to rally in Belgrade against the extradition of Karadzic. At first peaceful, the demonstration took a violent turn.

Some 200 demonstrators, mostly football fans, started throwing stones, bottles and firecrackers at police, who then responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Nearly 50 people were injured.

Prior to the demonstration, an independent poll found that 54% of Serbs were against Karadzic’s extradition. Many Serbs feel The Hague Tribunal has already passed sentence.

Chief Editor of the weekly magazine Pecat Independent, Milorad Vucelic, said: “I do not believe the trial for Radovan Karadzic at The Hague tribunal will be fair. In The Hague, Serbs are condemned before they appear before the court. The trial is about them defending their innocence. They’re presumed guilty.”

Georgy Engelgardt, a political analyst and an expert on the Balkans from the Moscow Institute of Slavic Studies, told RT that Radovan Karadzic is a national symbol for a huge part of the Serbian population.

Comparisons are already being made with the trial of former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic. It lasted four years and The Hague prosecutors are not keen to repeat those events. But, like Milosevic, Karadzic is likely to want to delay proceedings for as long as possible, beyond the 2010 mandate of the court.

Family gets documents back 

Bosnia's international administrator has lifted a travel ban against Radovan Karadzic's family after Serbia handed him over to the UN War Crimes Tribunal.

His wife and daughter picked up their identity cards from a post office in Pale and say they hope to get their passports on Thursday.

In January, the family was banned from leaving Bosnia because of suspicions they had helped Karadzic elude capture for 13 years.

His family had asked to visit him after his arrest in Belgrade last week, because the EU has imposed a visa ban on his wife and son.

Karadzic movie

Zoran Rankic, one of Serbia’s most famous actors, is preparing for one of the biggest roles of his life – that of Radovan Karadzic. But now, after the former Bosnian Serb leader’s extradition to The Hague, the movie’s script will have to be rewritten.

Rankic says the movie is supposed to be both a comedy and a tragedy.

“I will play Karadzic easily because his life is very similar to mine,” he said. “Like Karadzic, I feel humiliated by the catholic world – ever since 1941 when I was on the run from the Muslim and Croat fascists in Bosnia. During the dark days of World War Two, I was a little child and didn’t understand much, but my mother told me not to tell anyone I was Serb because it’s dangerous. Today I feel that history has returned.”