Tuesday, July 22, 2008

War Criminal Arrested

Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic was arrested yesterday

Europe's most wanted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, also known as the butcher of Bosnia, was arrested last night in Belgrade after 13 years on the run. The former leader of the Bosnian Serb state he was responsible for a campaign of mass murder against Bosnia's Muslim population between 1992 and 1995. His objective was to join the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia together with Belgrade to form a greater Serbia. In his quest to reverse the succession of Bosnia and Croatia and create a greater, purer, Christian Serbia he orchestrated a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnia's Muslims most notably the brutal two and a half year siege of Sarajevo in which tens of thousands of civilians were murdered. Watch below as the citizens of Sarejevo celebrate his capture.

Karadzic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY in 1995 and has been in hiding ever since. The most infamous crime he is accused of is the massacre in July 1995 of 8000 Muslim men in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica which he is thought to have ordered. It was clearly an effort to change the ethnic demographic of the region in favor of the Serbs. This has led Karadzic to being accused of ethnic cleansing and genocide. As the head of the Bosnian Serbs at the time he is the man most wanted for this crime. Another man equally associated with this and other atrocities is General Ratko Mladic who was commander of Bosnian Serb forces at the time and is thought to have personally overseen the Srebrenica massacre. He is still at large.

General Ratko Mladic continues to evade capture after 13 years

What does this mean for Serbia ? Since the election of the pro western government in Serbia earlier this year Belgrade has been making efforts to appear more favourable for EU membership. All countries seeking membership must achieve a democratic and economic benchmark in order to be considered. However for Serbia (and Croatia) there is a different element, its war criminals. For ten years now Serbia's reluctance to aggressively pursue its war criminals has been seen as a hindrance to EU membership. Now with the arrest of Karadzic by the Serbian authorities things may be beginning to change. They will however have to hand over Mladic as well. This is all proving difficult for the Serbs many of whom are intensely nationalist and whose anger reached boiling point last year when Kosovo gained independence. These people regard Mladic and Karadzic as heroes and may protest violently over the next few days. But when is the transition from dictatorship to democracy ever easy. Yesterdays development is great news for the Balkans and I for one hope that Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia are all one step closer to joining the EU.

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