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Karadzic: Poet Obsessed with Violence

By Barry Wood
21 July 2008

The arrest Monday of Radovan Karadzic, one of the most wanted fugitives from war crimes justice, ended a 13-year manhunt for a man who played a key role in the worst European atrocity since the Second World War. VOA's Barry Wood has this a profile of Karadzic.

Karadzic was the leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992 to 95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was indicted in 1995 by the Hague war crimes tribunal for his role in the killing of civilians during the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. He was also charged with genocide for masterminding the slaughter of some eight thousand Muslim men and boys at what had been the United Nations safe area of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia. Karadzic went underground in 1997 and had been on the run ever since.

Political analyst Ivan Vejvoda heads the Balkans Trust for Democracy in Belgrade. He says the arrest of Karadzic is good news for the Balkans and for the world and offers solace to the victims of the ex-Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. "It also shows very importantly that the new government in Belgrade has demonstrated in practice what it said rhetorically, that it has the political will to move forward and make the arrests of the remaining (war crimes) indictees a priority of its government," he said.

Karadzic is 63 years old. He was born of Serbian parents in the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. Trained as a psychiatrist, he at one time was a physician for a soccer team. He also published a book of poetry before becoming active in politics.

In 1989 he cofounded the Serbian Democratic Party in Bosnia-Hertzegovina. He was adamantly opposed to Bosnia becoming an independent state and warned that the territory's Muslim majority would be unable to defend itself in the event of civil war. In 1992 he declared the Serbian part of Bosnia independent and designated himself as president.

Karadzic's principal collaborator in the Bosnian war was General Ratko Mladic, who is also accused of genocide for his role in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo. Mladic also has been on the run and it has been rumored for years that both men had found sanctuary in Serbia.

Vejvoda says it will not be long before Mladic is arrested as well. "It was an expectation that when this new pro-western, pro-European government came in (earlier this month, in Belgrade) that in fact it might probably be Mladic who would be the first to be arrested. So this is a surprise for everyone (that it was Karadzic first), of course, because there was a lot of talk that Karadzic may be hiding in Bosnia or between Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro."

European Union officials call the arrest of Karadzic a milestone. The chief prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal says the date of Karadzic's transfer to the Hague will be determined in due course. Ivan Vejvoda in Belgrade expects Karadzic will be sent to the Hague within days.

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