Karadzic arrest — a chance to move on
The capture of Radovan Karadzic
after 11 years on the run is likely
to improve Serbia’s chances of joining
the European Union and enhance the
new government’s credentials with EU
leaders. It also gives ordinary Serbs hope
of a better life, 17 years after the start of
the wars that preceded the break-up of
Karadzic wanted Serb areas of Bosnia to be linked to a greater
Serbia at a time when Slobodan Milosevic was fanning nationalism in
Serbia. When I first met him in November 1990, he was already
warning of civil war because of what he saw as a conspiracy against
Serbs in multi-ethnic Bosnia.
He still has some die-hard supporters in Serbia but
otherwise there is little sympathy for the man facing genocide
charges over the deaths of about 100,000 people in the siege of
Sarajevo and 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of
Srebrenica during the war.
The U.S.-brokered Dayton peace agreement ended the war
without a clear winner, dividing the country into two
ethnic-based halves — the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb
Republic, which have co-existed in an uneasy alliance since.
Karadzic’s arrest sets the stage for a major trial at the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,
created 15 years ago to prosecute war crimes committed during
the 1992-95 Bosnia war. Milosevic, his former ally, went on
trial at the ICTY on genocide charges but died in 2003 before
the end of the trial.
Avril McDonald, an associate lecturer at Groningen
University and a specialist on the tribunal’s proceedings, says
the Office of the Prosecutor will need to deliver a speedy and
efficient trial as the tribunal faces a deadline to wrap up
proceedings within the next couple of years. “The trial
doesn’t need to last more than a year,” McDonald said.
“They will try to get a conviction quickly.”
During Milosevic’s four-year trial, prosecutors called
nearly 300 witnesses and the annual budget at times ran to more
than $270 million. Milosevic chose to defend himself and used
the tribunal as a platform to advance his political views and
Critics fear Karadzic could do the same. Costs will be high.
But the arrest and trial offers many individuals a chance of
some closure on a bloody chapter in their personal lives. It
also represents an opportunity for Serbia to finally move on
after a violent period of recent history.
“They can now begin to put the past behind them and move
forward towards Europe,” said Paddy Ashdown, who for almost four
years was peace overseer in Bosnia.