The wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted men who stands indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, has been arrested after nearly 13 years on the run.
Karadzic, 63, was “located and arrested” by Serbian security forces on Monday night, a statement from the office of Serbian President Boris Tadic said.
He was immediately brought before the investigative judge of the War Crimes Court in Belgrade — considered a first step toward eventual extradition and trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands.
Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic told reporters yesterday that the judge had issued the order for the suspect’s handover to the court.
His lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said he would appeal the ruling. He has three days.
A war crimes official said Karadzic appeared “depressive” and offered “no resistance” when arrested on Serb territory.
Karadzic was a close ally of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in custody in The Hague in 2006, before the ICTY delivered a verdict in his case.
Along with his former army chief, Ratko Mladic, Karadzic had evaded the ICTY since 1995 when they were charged with war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity during Bosnia’s 1992 to 1995 war.
Their capture was a major pre-condition for Serbian accession to the EU and Karadzic’s arrest came two weeks after the formation of a new pro-EU membership government dominated by Tadic’s pro-Western Democratic Party.
Officials said Karadzic had been posing as a doctor of alternative medicine, sporting long hair, a beard and glasses to hide his face.
A picture displayed to reporters showed an unrecognisable Karadzic, markedly thin, with a long white beard and flowing hair. Serbian officials said he was walking freely around town and earned money practicing medicine.
Karadzic’s arrest was promptly welcomed by the US, the EU and the UN war crimes court, as well as an association of mothers of those killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed it as “a historic moment for the victims who have waited 13 years for Mr Karadzic to be brought to justice.”
He praised the Serbian authorities for taking a “decisive step” toward ending impunity for those indicted for war crimes.
UN war crimes chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who cancelled a planned trip to Belgrade yesterday after the arrest, also commended the Serbian government, while a White House statement noted the poignant timing of Karadzic’s capture.
“The timing of the arrest, only days after the commemoration of the massacre of over 7,000 Bosnians committed in Srebrenica, is particularly appropriate, as there is no better tribute to the victims of the war’s atrocities than bringing their perpetrators to justice,” the statement said.
Bosnian Croats and Muslims, against whom Karadzic waged a barbaric campaign of ethnic cleansing in the early 1990s, see him as a murderous megalomaniac with a twisted view of history and warped sense of his own destiny as a leader of the Bosnian Serbs.
But for some Serbs he remains a hero — a man who stood up to age-old enemies and great powers and carved out a separate Serb homeland.
Some 50 ultra-nationalists gathered early yesterday to protest his arrest in front of Belgrade’s war crimes court, amid high security.