Update on failure of the International Community to arrest Karadzic and Mladic
September, 30 2006
“It is absolutely scandalous that they [Karadzic and Mlaidc] have not been caught. Serbia is fully capable of arresting them, but has refused.”
Carla Del Ponte
As the 11th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre passes Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the two Serbian wartime leaders responsible for orchestrating the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, still remain at large.
Radovan Karadzic and his head of military operations, Ratko Mladic, were indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague for the 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian-Muslim men, women, and children in the Eastern European enclave of Srebrenica. The pair was also indicted for the 43-month siege of Sarajevo where another 10,000 people were killed, more than a thousand of which were children.
Though the two men were indicted for war crimes more than a decade ago, they have eluded justice by moving between Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro, concealed by an elaborate support network comprised of former military loyalists and government officials. General Mladic was living relatively openly in Belgrade until 2002 when Slobodan Milosovic was extradited to The Hague for his involvement in the wars of the 1990’s that plagued the Balkans. Karadzic on the other hand has proven to be more elusive, going into hiding in 1996 after pressure was put on Republika Srpska by the international community. Karadzic was reportedly sighted as recently as April 2005 in the southeast of Bosnia, only months before the 10th anniversary of Srebrenica. During that same time, Serb officials had promised the capture of both Mladic and Karadzic, stating that talks were underway with Mladic for his surrender and that the arrest of both men could now be measured in days. “He has made a strategic decision to never surrender to The Hague Tribunal, if he surrenders he would betray his people and God, which has protected him from enemies for so long,” replied the brother of Karadzic.
Over the past year, international pressure has begun to increase on both the Serbian government and those thought to be hiding war criminals in Bosnia and Serbia. In January Lord Paddy Ashdown, former High Representative to Bosnia, froze more than 100,000 Euros collected by the Serb Democratic Party (SDP), the party founded by Karadzic in an effort to cut off his support network. The following month, Momcilo Mandic, former wartime deputy interior minister and justice minister in Karadzic’s government, was also charged for corruption and aiding his former boss. The greatest blow to the Serbian government came in May, when the European Union froze talks on Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia due to it’s failure to capture Ratko Mladic. This has led the Serbian government to introduce its most comprehensive “action plan” to arrest Mladic. The three-page action plan includes a media campaign highlighting the Mladic case, security and legal elements, ways to improve cooperation with the ICTY, and evoke the need to amend some specific laws. Even with the new, more aggressive action plan set forth by the Serbian government, many in the international community remain to be convinced of the Serbian government’s sincerity on the matter. “We will see, they have said it so often…each time they say in a week or in 14 days they will catch Mladic. I’m still waiting,” said Ben Bot, Dutch Foreign Minister.
These sentiments have also been echoed by former U.N. High Representative Lord Paddy Ashdown, who in a personal interview stated, “I’m pretty sure that the Serbian/Montenegro government understands and knows where Mladic is, approximately, if not precisely. I’m sure it’s within their power to ensure he is transferred to The Hague and the must do that.”
This skepticism and disappointment is well placed in light of recent information coming from Serbia. In August, Serbia’s war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic finally admitted that Mladic was in hiding in Serbia, but only admitted so after a story printed in the daily Politika reported the addresses and names of “five or more flats in New Belgrade…” where Mladic had been hiding until January of this year. This news comes only months after another news story broke when records were found showing that Mladic had been receiving his military pension until November 2005. During opening statements made at the trial of the seven Bosnian Serb military officers, considered to be the most responsible for the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, Carla Del Ponte commented on the absence of Mladic and Karadzic saying, “It is absolutely scandalous that they have not been caught. Serbia is fully capable of arresting them, but has refused.”
It seems apparent that the Serbian government is only willing to work in a reactive entity rather than becoming proactive and using it’s resources in conjunction with international forces to finally bring these war criminals to justice. As Bosnia begins to move into a transitional period where the Office of the High Representative assumes new limited powers and the European Union Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina (EUFOR) begins scaling back it’s presence in the country, the time for justice must be now. These factors, combined with the ICTY and Carla Del Ponte’s mandate expiring by the end of the decade, make it imperative that the international community continue to apply pressure on Serbia so that Mladic and Karadzic are extradited to The Hague, and not turn it’s back on the people of Bosnia and the victims of Srebrenica once again.