Former Serbian president Radovan Karadzic, wanted for "genocide and crimes" during the Bosnian war, has been arrested after 11 years on the run.
The Bosnian Serb was in disguise and working as a doctor near Belgrade, and was arrested on Monday, Serbian officials said yesterday. They showed reporters a photograph of an unrecognizable Karadzic, thin and with a white beard and long flowing hair.
His arrest was one of the main conditions of Serbia's entry into the European Union (EU). And it could move Belgrade closer to the EU and possibly get it the status of a membership candidate state this year.
Karadzic had been working for a private doctor (in New Belgrade), posing as a specialist in alternative medicine, said Rasim Ljajic, Serbia's point man for cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.
"He walked around the city freely," Serbia's war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said. "Even the people he rented a flat from were unaware of his identity."
He had been under surveillance for several weeks after a tip-off from a foreign intelligence service, officials said.
Serbian President Boris Tadic said in a statement that Karadzic had been detained.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the arrest showed Belgrade was cooperating fully with the UN war crimes tribunal.
But Karadzic is still seen by many as a national savior following the collapse of Yugoslavia.
"This is payback to the EU for bringing this new government to power," said Aleksandar Vucic of the Radicals, one of Serbia's strongest parties. "Karadzic is a Serbian hero. There will be a strong backlash," he warned.
Karadzic was indicted along with his army commander, General Ratko Mladic, for "genocide" in Srebrenica, where some 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and children were reportedly "killed" in July 1995.
The former Serbian president went underground for more than a year after the 1995 Dayton accords that ended the war in Bosnia and following the deployment of a huge number of NATO peacekeepers in early 1996.
EU members who say Serbia must hand over all war crimes suspects may see Karadzic's arrest as proof that Mladic could be arrested too if Belgrade exercises its political will.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Serbian authorities for taking a "decisive step toward ending impunity" of those indicted for crimes in the Balkan conflicts.
Serbian officials said Karadzic had been served with the indictment notice and had three days to reply, after which he is likely to be transferred to the Hague tribunal.
1. What is Radovan Karadizic accused of?
2. How did Karadizic go unnoticed for 11 years?
3. Why is his arrest important to Serbia with regards to the European Union?
1. The “genocide” at Srebrenica where some 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and children were reportedly “killed” in July 1995.
2. He grew a beard, wore glasses and posed as a specialist of alternative medicine.
3. Karadizic’s arrest was one of the main conditions of Serbia’s entry into the EU.
(英语点津 Helen 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Bernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.