UPDATE: On July 30, 2008, Radovan Karadzic was transferred to The Hague. His initial appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), during which the judges will read him his indictment (which includes genocide and crimes against humanity) will take place on Thursday July 31st. Karadzic is the highest-level politician from the former Yugoslavia to appear before the tribunal since Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president, who died in 2006 during his trial for genocide. Although Milosevic died before a verdict was rendered, his trial offers a number of important lessons for the court trying Karadzic, including with regards to the right to self representation and efficient management of complex criminal cases. These recommendations are outlined in Human Rights Watch’s report, Weighing the Evidence: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic.
The arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the former president of Republika Srpska, marks a major blow against impunity for the egregious crimes committed in the Balkans, Human Rights Watch said today. Karadzic is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, including the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.
Despite the gravity of the alleged crimes, Karadzic was at liberty for 13 years after his initial indictment.
“Radovan Karadzic personified impunity for more than a decade, but his efforts to run the clock on justice have failed,” said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program. “This arrest offers hope to the victims of the horrific crimes that occurred there. We welcome this long-overdue arrest and look forward to his fair trial in The Hague.”
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has twice indicted Karadzic on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. One indictment is for crimes committed in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serb troops detained and executed thousands of men and boys. Eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch at the time described horror as the victims were lined up in front of mass graves and shot.
“Today’s arrest is a step toward redress for Bosnian victims and families who have suffered horribly,” said Dicker.
Karadzic’s arrest comes as European Union (EU) countries are preparing to ratify an association agreement with Belgrade. The EU has stressed that Belgrade must cooperate fully with the ICTY before the agreement can be ratified and that full cooperation includes arresting and surrendering the remaining fugitives to the tribunal.
Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander, remains at large. Mladic has also been indicted twice, along with Karadzic, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. He is currently in hiding. The previous Serbian government had claimed that it had no information about Mladic’s presence in Serbia; however, ICTY prosecutors and independent Serbian media have alleged that Mladic was in Serbia under the protection of elements of the army outside the effective control of the civilian authorities. In addition, authorities in Belgrade acknowledged that Mladic received a Yugoslav army pension until 2002, and they have detained several people accused of helping hide Mladic.
Karadzic and Mladic were first indicted by the ICTY in July 1995 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes alleged to have occurred in several cities across Bosnia. In a separate indictment in November 1995, the ICTY charged both Karadzic and Mladic with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes based on the mass execution of civilians after the fall of Srebrenica.
“That Ratko Mladic is still at liberty is a major obstacle to full accountability for the genocide at Srebrenica,” said Dicker. “The EU must insist that Serbia surrender him.”
The ICTY delivered its first and only genocide conviction against General Radislav Krstic in August 2001, sentencing him to 46 years in prison. Krstic was second in command to Mladic of the Bosnian Serb troops at Srebrenica. Karadzic, as president of Republika Srpska, was Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. In April 2004, the ICTY Appeals Chamber, while reducing Krstic’s sentence to 35 years, confirmed that genocide occurred in Srebrenica, upholding Kristic’s conviction for aiding and abetting genocide.