Radovan Karadžić supporters clash with police

Supporters of Bosnian-Serb war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadži?, have been involved in clashes with police on the streets of the Serbian capital. He was captured near Belgrade after a manhunt which lasted thirteen years and now faces genocide charges at t

Far-right activists tried to stage a rally in the city centre, shouting slogans saying their government had betrayed Serbia. As police intervened, the demonstrators resisted and began throwing stones at the officers, and damaging nearby buildings.

Karadžić’s supporters say he is being held illegally.

The 63-year-old’s lawyer said he will appeal against the Serbian court's decision to detain his client.

Karadzic had been one of the International Tribunal's most-wanted men, following a massacre in Srebrenica in 1995, when 8,000 Muslims were killed.

It’s reported he was arrested late on Monday before being taken to a detention centre in Belgrade. However, Karadžić’s lawyer insists the 63-year-old was taken prisoner on Friday.

Bojan Brkis, a journalist from Serbian public television, said the details of Radovan Karadžić’s arrest were revealed during a news conference.

It was said that Karadžić’s last known address was in a modern part of Belgrade, where he, a psychiatrist by profession, practiced alternative medicine in a private clinic. He used fake ID and fake name.

“Agents of the security service followed him for several days and then, when he was leaving work and going to another suburb of Belgrade, they boarded a bus together with him and at an appropriate moment, when there was no risk for other passengers they apprehended him,” Bojan Brkis said.

He said journalists were shown a photograph of the former warlord, “showing a man with a long grey beard and hair, which doesn’t look like Radovan Karadžić, who we know from the 1990s”.

This was not an arrest many had expected, according to Rasim Ljalic, the Chairman of National Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal.

“Some recent information helped bring about the arrest. He had fake papers in the name of Dragon Dabich. He was very good at hiding his identity,” he said.

According to the Balkan Insight website, the suspect also gave lectures on spirituality. The publication says that a Belgrade magazine “Healthy Life” ran a series of stories signed by Dragan David Dabic, a doctor from Belgrade. The employees of the magazine told Balkan Insight that the man shown in the photograph displayed by the Serbian prosecutor looks exactly like the contributor.

Was Karadžić arrest legal?

Serbian agents detained Karadžić late on Monday and handed him over to judicial authorities, according to a statement by the National Security Council headed by Serbian President Boris Tadic.

The statement went on to say Karadžić was handed over to the investigative judge of the Belgrade-based Special War Crimes Court. No further details were offered.

However Karadzic's lawyer in Serbia, Sveta Vujacic, gives another version of the arrest.

“Radovan Karadžić was arrested on July 18 at 9:30 am. According to the law they should have immediately taken him to the detention facility, but they didn’t”, Vujacic said.

“He just said that these people showed him a police badge and then he was taken to some place and kept in the room. And that is absolutely against the law, what they did.”

Vujacic said Karadžić told him how he was treated after his arrest. According to him, he has been kept in an unknown place since Friday.  He also said he was bandaged soon after the arrest and that they took off the bandage only when he was transported to Belgrade.    

Under Serbian law, the authorities must first confirm Karadžić's identity beyond doubt before taking steps to hand him over to The Hague. This could take up to a week if he lodges an appeal.

Residents celebrate in the streets of Sarajevo   
             after hearing the news of Karadzic's arrest   
             in Belgrade. AFP Photo/Elvis Barukcic
Residents celebrate in the streets of Sarajevo after hearing the news of Karadzic's arrest in Belgrade. AFP Photo/Elvis Barukcic
Mixed reaction

While Bosnia is celebrating Karadžić’s arrest, a number of his supporters have gathered near a courthouse in Belgrade, where it’s believed he’s being held.

Dr. Haris Silajdzic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina said: “Hundreds of thousands of people around the world who are Bosnians were expelled from their homes” under threat of death. So, for justice to be complete, we must erase the consequences of this genocide in Bosnia."

The Hague Tribunal’s Chief Prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, is set to arrive in Belgrade on Wednesday. It will be the first visit of an official from the court since the new government was formed under pro-European Premier Mirko Cvetkovic. He replaced nationalist Vojislav Kostunica, who had been blamed by the West for doing very little to bring top war crimes fugitives to justice.

Moscow’s objections

Meanwhile, Moscow has criticised outside intervention in Serb affairs.  The Foreign Ministry says the former Yugoslav republics do not need foreign help in solving war crimes cases.

Spokesman Andrey Nesterenko says steps should be taken to wind down the international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  He says Balkan republics are “ripe enough and capable of resolving and handing out verdicts in war crimes cases without outside help”.
“We regard the arrest as an internal affair of Serbia and the administration of that country. They need to make an independent decision on the fate of Karadžić, including his extradition to the Hague tribunal,” he said.

Karadžić’s transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia is expected to go ahead shortly.  

Serbia’s bid to join the EU has long been linked to the handover of war crimes suspects.

Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Belgrade was “very serious about our future in the European Union.”

“We are truly committed to peace and the rule of international law, be it when it comes to our cooperation with the Hague tribunal or be it the defence of our sovereignty over Kosovo,” Serb Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Serbian authorities and police are preparing for possible hostile reaction by hard-line nationalists and the underground network that sheltered Karadžić for 13 years.

Hero or war criminal?

Karadžić has been indicted by the UN for war crimes in Bosnia and has been on the run for 13 years.

He was accused of genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal in 1995 and has been one of the world's most wanted men ever since.

Meanwhile, the EU has welcomed the arrest, saying it boosts Serbia's chances of joining the European Union.

The U.S. has also congratulated the Serbian authorities for capturing Karadžić. The Hague Tribunal has also welcomed the arrest saying Karadžić will face a fair and public trial in accordance with the highest standards of international law.

Radovan Karadžić became involved in politics in the late 1980s when he co-founded the Serbian Democratic Party (Srpska Demokratska Stranka).

In the early 1990s, as Bosnia and Herzegovina gained independence from Yugoslavia he declared the creation of the independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina – Republika Srpska.

Karadžić declared himself head of state and Sarajevo was named the capital.
Karadžić gained notoriety during the Bosnian war of 1992-1995 for the Srebrenica massacre, where 8,000 Muslims were killed. He is also accused of organising the shelling of Sarajevo. The siege lasted for more than 40 months and claimed thousands of lives.

Political commentator Slavenko Terdzic says the International tribunal in The Hague accuses only the Serbs.

“There is no direct proof of Karadžić’s actual involvement in any crimes. Let them present the proof, and if he's guilty, he'll stand before the court,” Terdzic said.

After the end of the Bosnian war in 1995, Karadžić went on the run. He was jointly indicted along with his associate, Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić, for alleged war crimes.

The U.S. announced a reward of $US 5 million for information leading to their arrest.

The international community has pressed Serbia to extradite Karadžić along with Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić.

Anatoly Pomortsev from the Russian business newspaper, RBK, says the arrest shows that the new government in Belgrade is trying to show it’s ready to cooperate with the European Union.

“As we know, arrests of the rest of Bosnian Serbs were among the conditions for tighter cooperation between Serbia and the EU. What we see is the newly formed Serbian power that is totally pro-European,” Pomortsev said.