Bosnia is still divided ahead of Radovan Karadzic verdict
Former Bosnian Serb leader faces UN tribunal ruling on war crimes and genocide
Radovan Karadzic (right) and his general Ratko Mladic pictured in April 1995. The United Nations war crimes tribunal will hand down its verdict today in Karadzic’s trial for genocide during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Photograph: Ranko Cukovic/Reuters
Radovan Karadzic finally faces a legal reckoning for his actions as Bosnian Serb leader more than 20 years ago, but today’s court verdict will find Bosnia still dysfunctional and deeply divided over the grim legacy of its 1990s war.
A poet and psychiatrist before entering politics, Karadzic (70) was Europe’s most wanted man during 13 years spent on the run, which ended with his arrest on a Belgrade bus in 2008 while living under a false name as a new-age healer.
He was transferred to the United Nations tribunal at The Hague, to answer 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Among other charges, Karadzic is accused of responsibility for the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, a supposed UN “safe haven” where Bosnian Serb troops slaughtered some 8,000 Muslim men and boys and dumped them in mass graves.
He is also charged over his alleged role in the siege of Sarajevo, a 43-month campaign of murder and terror during which Bosnian Serb artillery shelled the city and snipers cut down people in its streets, killing more than 10,000 civilians.
Karadzic would be the most senior European official to be found guilty of genocide since leading Nazis were convicted after the second World War.
Karadzic’s former military chief, Ratko Mladic, is also being tried at The Hague on similar charges relating to Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, which killed 100,000 people and drove more than two million from their homes.
Important verdictSerge Brammertz
For much of the world and particularly Bosnia’s Muslims, or Bosniaks – the main target of murderous Bosnian Serb “ethnic cleansing” – Karadzic and his allies are monsters.
“Our wounds still bleed, despite all these years, and I hope he will be given a deserved punishment that will bring us some peace,” said Fikret Grabovica.
Her 11-year-old daughter Irma was killed by a Serb shell in 1993 as she played outside their Sarajevo home.
“Karadzic is the most responsible for everything that happened in Bosnia,” she added.
“He needs to be remembered as one of the greatest criminals of the recent history and not, as some would wish, as a national hero.”
Ethnic splitDayton agreement
Among them are whether Karadzic and allies are indeed war criminals or maligned defenders of their people.
A student hostel named in Karadzic’s honour was opened last Sunday in the town of Pale, his wartime stronghold in Republika Srpska, the Serb-run area that has strained ties with Bosnia’s other region, the Muslim-Croat Federation.
“We dedicated this dormitory to a man who is without doubt one of the founders of Republika Srpska, to Mr Radovan Karadzic,” declared Milorad Dodik, ultra-nationalist president of the region
Dodik hailed Karadzic “as a man with strength and character.”
Dodik has dominated post- war politics in Republika Srpska, and regularly threatens to push for its independence rather than accept western-backed efforts to integrate Bosnia’s regions more deeply and strengthen state powers in Sarajevo.
Calling Karadzic’s trial “humiliating” for Republika Srpska, Dodik denounced what he claimed was the UN court’s “selective justice . . . directed against one people and its representatives”.
“They judge only one side, not the others that equally contributed to everything that happened during the break up of Yugoslavia,” Mr Dodik said.
Political analysts expect Dodik to ramp up nationalist rhetoric in the wake of the Karadzic verdict and ahead of local elections due later this year, as he continues to deny persistent allegations of corruption.
As prosecutor Brammertz said in The Hague last week: “As long as you have in Bosnia three different history books used by the Serbian, Croatian and Bosniak communities, with a totally different assessment about not only the war but the last 200 years . . .
“How do you want to move forward?”