The hunt for Radovan Karadžić, ruthless warlord turned ‘spiritual healer’
As the Hague war crimes tribunal prepares Radovan Karadžić judgment, Julian Borger describes how the trail led to the door of a bearded therapist in Belgrade.
The amnesia about the continent’s capacity for slaughter will be broken in The Hague on Thursday, where judgment will be passed on Radovan Karadžić for charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will be a historic moment in the 24-year history of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), often called the Hague war crimes tribunal.
A guilty verdict is expected by almost everyone involved in the case. Karadžić had, after all, put himself at the head of a breakaway Serb statelet, an entity dedicated to “ethnic cleansing”, the Orwellian term for the systematic use of terror against Bosnian Muslims and Croats. The remaining doubts concern the details and, in particular, whether the highly emotive, politically resonant charge of genocide will be made to stick, and on how many counts.
Thursday’s verdict will be a reminder of the scale of the killings – some 100,000 people died in Bosnia alone, with other victims in Croatia and Kosovo – and of the glacial pace at which justice has arrived. The long wait is due in part to the nature of the court, which has strived to be meticulously even-handed, allowing defence lawyers considerable latitude in drawing out the trial. The trial lasted five years, and the bench has taken an additional 18 months to arrive at its verdict.
However, the greatest delay was the 13 years it took to arrest Karadžić and bring him to The Hague for trial. The lessons learned in the manhunt for Karadžić and his fellow warlords were carried forward to Afghanistan, Iraq and the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, for the most part without the UN resolutions that provided legal underpinning for arrest operations in the Balkans.
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"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan