Karadic Arrested what now?
After more than twelve years on the run, Radovan Karadzic – who stands accused of crimes against humanity and genocide for his role in the appalling abuses in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early nineties – has been arrested.
The importance of this for international justice is immense. Karadzic has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia with responsibility for the worst crimes that Europe has seen since the Nazis. And yet until a couple of days ago (the exact time and circumstances of his arrest seem to be in dispute) he was walking free, disguised – it seems – as an alternative therapist with a very long, white beard.
He is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, extermination, murder, wilful killing, persecutions, deportation, inhumane acts, and other crimes committed against Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992-1995 conflict.
The charge of genocide includes the murder of approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. The indictment states that he also committed genocide, persecution and other crimes when forces under his command killed non-Serbs throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, detained thousands of non-Serbs and transferred them to detention facilities set up by the Bosnian Serb authorities. It alleges that forces under his command killed, tortured, mistreated, and sexually assaulted non-Serbs in these camps.
He is also charged with war crimes for the shelling and shooting of civilians in Sarajevo which resulted in the killing and wounding of thousands, including many women and children.
“We have been waiting for 13 years and we lost hope. Now we know – there is justice.” Kada Hotic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre.
“I think this brings some settlement in our hearts and brings us forward to the future. I hope that people who had to keep quiet because of Karadzic will start revealing the locations of mass graves and let us find the truth about our beloved ones.” Munira Subasic, a mother who lost two sons in the Srebrenica massacre.
So what happens now?
The most important thing is that justice is served. Karadzic must be brought before the Tribunal and tried without delay. And he must be tried and treated fairly: there have already been accusations regarding his treatment (this quote also from the Times):
“He just said that these people showed him a police badge and then he was taken to some place and kept in the room. He was blindfolded, and that is absolutely against the law what they did.” Sveta Vujacic, Dr Karadzic’s lawyer in Serbia.
While swift progress to trial is what the thousands affected by these crimes want and deserve, the Tribunal has still got to have time to do its job properly and thoroughly. There’s a worry that the UN Security Council has only given them until 2010 to complete all its cases – we’re calling for this arbitrary date to be reviewed.
There’s also a danger that the serarch for those alleged to be involved in Srebrenica and other crimes will now wind down after the most high-profile suspect has been arrested. But Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadić remain at large and others have yet to go to trial. All those indicted must be brought to justice.
There’s a hell of a long way to go, but this is a hugely symbolic step forward.
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