Karazdic caught, attention turns to Mladic
Ratko Mladic, pictured in 1994
Radovan Karadzic FLASH GRAPHIC
BELGRADE (AFP) — With war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic finally in custody, Serbia came under increased pressure Thursday to capture his fugitive wartime military chief Ratko Mladic, also wanted for genocide.
“The Serbs are making a step forward in closing an ugly chapter in their past, and I just hope that Mladic is next,” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Singapore during an Asian tour.
Karadzic, disguised under flowing white locks of hair and thick beard, was arrested while riding a suburban bus in Belgrade on Monday night.
He is set to be moved to the UN war crimes court in the next few days despite mounting a legal challenge against the transfer from his prison cell in the Serbian capital.
The wartime Bosnian Serb leader intends to defend himself in the trial, raising concerns of a chaotic, marathon case like that of his former ally, Slobodan Milosevic, who died in detention at The Hague-based tribunal in 2006.
Karadzic, 63, had gone into hiding the year after he was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1995 together with Mladic, 65.
Both face charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, extermination, murder, willful killing, persecutions, deportation and inhumane acts against Muslims, Croats and other non-Serb civilians during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war.
As more details emerged about the fake life Karadzic led as a guru healer to avoid being caught during more than a decade on the run, Rice said his arrest was a major “step forward for Serbia.”
“It showed tremendous will on the part of this new Serbian government, and I just hope there will be accelerated efforts” to help Belgrade in its bid for integration into the European Union, Rice said on a tour of Asia.
Full cooperation with the ICTY is the European Union’s main pre-condition for Serbia’s EU accession bid, and several bloc members oppose any advancement of its integration until the two remaining fugitives are caught.
The think-tank International Crisis Group on Thursday warned Brussels against rewarding Belgrade for Karadzic’s arrest until Mladic and Croatian Serb war crimes fugitive Goran Hadzic are sent to The Hague.
“The government should take advantage of the momentum and arrest the last two remaining indictees, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, by the end of this year,” the analyst James Lyon said in a commentary on the ICG website.
“Until it does so, the European Union should hold off on offering concessions or incentives.”
Meanwhile, Serbian police launched an investigation into the network that helped Karadzic remain at large for so long, thanks to his new identity as a long-haired alternative medicine practitioner.
Karadzic had assumed the identity of Dragan Dabic, an individual who was still alive in northern Serbian town Ruma, said Serbian Minister in charge of cooperation with the ICTY Rasim Ljajic.
Personal data on the identity cards of both men were the “same,” Ljajic told Beta news agency.
“The photos were the only difference between the two identity cards,” Ljajic said.
And Dabic himself told Tanjug news agency that the only similarities between him and Karadzic were that both had been born in 1942, were married and have two children.
“These are my only similarities with Karadzic, we do not even look alike,” said retired worker Dabic.
Karadzic’s lawyer Svetozar Vujacic insisted again that his client had been arrested on Friday in a local bus, confronting official statement that had put the arrest on Monday.
“Three witnesses in the bus are ready to testify,” Vujacic said, adding that he had, in the name of his client, filed a charge against unknown persons for “kidnapping Radovan Karadzic.”
For the third consecutive day, about 1,000 ultra-nationalists gathered in central Belgrade for a protest against Karadzic’s arrest.
Under heavy police scrutiny, they marched along central Belgrade avenues, chanting Karadzic’s name and shouting insults towards Serbian pro-European authorities and journalists covering the protest.
Vujacic said he would file an appeal against his client’s transfer to the ICTY at the last minute, to drag out the process.