x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Karadzic to appeal extradition to UN court

Radovan Karadzic's lawyer has vowed to appeal plans to extradite the former Bosnian Serb chief to a UN war crimes court.

Pro-Karadzic demonstrators clash with Serbian riot police in Belgrade yesterday.
Pro-Karadzic demonstrators clash with Serbian riot police in Belgrade yesterday.

BELGRADE, Serbia // Radovan Karadzic's lawyer has vowed to appeal Serbia's plan to extradite the former Bosnian Serb chief to a UN war crimes court, as Serb nationalists skirmished with riot police in the capital to protest his capture. Riot police deployed in downtown Belgrade yesterday had to keep about 200 members of the extremist Obraz group under control, but the demonstrators threw stones and clay pots at the officers, chanted "Treason!" and tried to break through police cordons. Five demonstrators and a policeman were injured, doctors at Belgrade emergency clinic said. "This is a hard day for Serbia," Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party said. "(Karadzic was) a legend of the Serbian people." Mr Nikolic vowed his party will do "all in its power" to topple the pro-Western government. From the village of Petnjica where Mr Karadzic was born, a disgusted relative, Vukosav Karadzic, said he was "sorry he did not kill himself but allowed himself to be captured." Serb officials say they arrested the former wartime leader on Monday evening near Belgrade after more than a decade on the run. Mr Karadzic had grown a long, white beard to conceal his identity and had lived freely for months in the capital before being arrested. "His false identity was very convincing," said Vladimir Vukcevic, Serbia's war crimes prosecutor who co-ordinated the security forces arrest. "He had moved freely in public places." Mr Karadzic is sought on 11 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his actions during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war. The psychiatrist-turned Serbian nationalist is accused of masterminding the deadly wartime siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 executions of up to 8,000 Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica. While on the run in Serbia, the world's top fugitive worked at a private clinic and wrote for a Belgrade magazine, according to Serbian officials. Mr Karadzic also lectured about meditation at a May festival in Belgrade. To do all this, Mr Karadzic used a false name: Dragan Dabic, government minister Rasim Ljajic said at a press conference yesterday. Mr Ljajic also displayed a recent photo of an unrecognisable Karadzic with long white beard and grey hair. Mr Ljajic refused to reveal more details about Mr Karadzic's arrest, saying Mr Karadzic's movements were being analysed to help track down another war crimes suspect still at large, the Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic. Serbian security services found Mr Karadzic, 63, while looking for Gen Mladic, he said. Mr Karadzic was questioned early yesterday by a Serbian judge who later ruled that he can be handed over to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Mr Vukcevic said. Mr Karadzic has three days to appeal the ruling. His lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said he will fight extradition on the last day, Friday, to thwart authorities' wishes for Mr Karadzic's immediate transfer. Mr Karadzic appeared to be arrested because of a change in political will. The Serbian President Boris Tadic's pro-Western government came to power only two weeks ago and appointed a new security chief, replacing an aide to the former nationalist prime minister Vojislav Kostunica. Liberal politician Nenad Canak said Mr Kostunica and his nationalists had protected Mr Karadzic and Mr Mladic for years and cherished their nationalist ideas. That assessment matched comments from the former US ambassador to Bosnia, Richard Holbrooke. "(Karadzic) was protected by people who knew who he was," Mr Holbrooke told CNN on yesterday. "Nato did not make an all-out effort to capture him at the beginning, in 1996, which was a terrible mistake. They knew exactly where he was. "And then he slipped away and he was sheltered by people." There was no immediate comment from Mr Kostunica on Mr Karadzic's arrest. European Union foreign ministers said the arrest helped Serbia's bid for EU membership, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the arrest a "historic moment." "The victims need to know: Massive human rights violations do not go unpunished," she said in Berlin. Mr Karadzic's whereabouts had been a mystery since he went on the run in 1998, with his early hideouts reportedly including monasteries and mountain caves in remote eastern Bosnia. Mr Karadzic's family in Bosnia, banned from leaving the country over suspicions that they helped him elude capture, asked to have the restrictions lifted, his daughter told reporters. Sonja Karadzic said family members want to spend at least a few hours with Mr Karadzic before his transfer to UN custody. "For years we have not seen our father, husband and grandfather; my mother's health is not very good, and we do not have the financial means necessary to travel to Netherlands," she said. Once he is extradited to The Hague court, Mr Karadzic will become the second most high profile defendant ever at the tribunal custody. Mr Karadzic's former Serbian mentor, Slobodan Milosevic, also was tried for genocide but died of a heart attack in 2006. Mr Karadzic is accused of orchestrating the worst massacre of Bosnia's war, when Serb troops overran the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica and slaughtered thousands of Bosnian Muslim men. Mr Karadzic is also linked to the 3 1/2-year siege of Sarajevo, when Bosnian Serb troops starved, sniped and bombarded the city from hills high above it. Residents were kept alive by a thin lifeline of food and supplies provided by UN donors and peacekeepers. The siege lasted from 1992 to February 1996. An estimated 10,000 people died. By the time the Bosnian war ended in late 1995, an estimated 250,000 people were dead and another 1.8 million driven from their homes. *AP