x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Karadzic extradited to The Hague

Serbia hands over the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who spent more than a decade on the run.

Radovan Karadzic arrives at the UN detention unit in The Hague on July 30.
Radovan Karadzic arrives at the UN detention unit in The Hague on July 30.

Serbia today handed over the former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who spent more than a decade on the run, to the UN war crimes tribunal to face trial for some of Europe's worst atrocities since World War II. Mr Karadzic faces charges in The Hague of genocide and crimes against humanity for his leading role in the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre, during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, in which thousands died.

Mr Karadzic, 63, who was arrested in Belgrade on July 21, left the Serbian capital on a special flight to the Netherlands early this morning ? just after Serbian police clashed with his supporters in Belgrade. Serbia's justice ministry said it had authorised Mr Karadzic's transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) "on the basis of Serbia's law on co-operation with the tribunal".

It added in a statement that the Belgrade District Court had ruled "that all conditions have been met for the turnover of Radovan Karadzic to the ICTY". Three black jeeps with dark-tinted windows left the court where Mr Karadzic had been held since his capture, private Serbian television network Fox showed, and sped to the main international airport. The special flight arrived at Rotterdam airport where strict security was imposed. Mr Karadzic is now in custody in The Hague, the UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal confirmed.

Mr Karadzic spent more than a decade on the run disguised as a bearded, long haired alternative medicine guru who specialised in "human quantum energy". His clever disguise as Doctor Dragan Dabic stunned many. Serbian media said dozens of secret service agents had tracked Mr Karadzic for months before his detention. "I am proud how he has been hiding all these years and I am appalled how he was thrown in the jaws of the beast," said 55-year-old supporter, writer Momir Vasiljevic.

A close ally, the Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, is still on the run. The former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, another key figure in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, died while being tried by the ICTY. Mr Karadzic's transfer came only hours after Serbian riot police clashed with youths in central Belgrade at the end of an ultranationalist rally by more than 15,000 people opposed to the arrest of Mr Karadzic, who remains an iconic figure among Serbian hardliners.

At least 25 police and 19 civilians, including a Spanish and a Serbian journalist, were injured in the clashes, hospital officials said. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the apparently drunken youths into streets surrounding the Serbian capital's main Republican Square. Police set up cordons in the central district after the youths were cleared to allow the transfer to go ahead.

The violence erupted as the ultranationalist Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic addressed the crowd. He had called for calm so that protesters could stage a "peaceful march" in Belgrade. "Do not do it, children, we did not gather for that, we do not want to destroy Belgrade, but (president) Boris Tadic," Mr Nikolic said. Mr Karadzic had been fighting a legal battle against his transfer to the UN tribunal in The Hague.

His entourage claimed he had sent an appeal against his transfer at the last minute on Friday, but the Serbian war crimes court denied that it had arrived on time. According to the law, a three-judge panel of the court had three days upon receiving the appeal to decide on its merits before the justice ministry issued a final transfer order. Dusan Ignjatovic, head of the Serbian government office for co-operation with the UN tribunal, expressed doubts about the appeal, which Mr Karadzic's brother Luka has said was sent by regular mail.

The wartime Bosnian Serb leader has been indicted on playing a leading role in the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The 43-month siege of Sarajevo claimed more than 10,000 lives. Mr Karadzic vanished from public view in 1996, the year after the ICTY indicted him for genocide and crimes against humanity. A police search of Mr Karadzic's last hideout uncovered military documents of his Bosnian Serb regime, Serbia's interior minister said on Monday.

The discovery was made in Mr Karadzic's flat in the New Belgrade district after his arrest, the Tanjug state news agency cited Interior Minister Ivica Dacic as saying. The documents concerned meetings of his military chiefs from the Republika Srpska, the self-declared state Karadzic carved out during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war. *AFP