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Balkans

Five years after arrest, Karadzic shows no remorse for Bosnia crimes

On July 21, 2008, Dragan David Dabic - an alternative medicine doctor - was arrested in Serbia. In reality, Dabic was a false identity for one of the world's most-wanted men: alleged war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

For 12 years, Karadzic managed to escape international justice. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued a warrant for his arrest in July 1996. Karadzic was accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian Civil War.

In particular, he is accused of ordering the infamous massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995. At that time, Serb soldiers murdered 8,000 men and boys, the overwhelming majority of them Muslim. Between 1992 and 1995, at least 100,000 people perished in the civil war in Bosnia Herzegovina. More than two million people were driven from their homes and many villages and cities were reduced to rubble.

Nationalist zealot

As the collapse of Yugoslavia loomed on the horizon in the early 1980s, Radovan Karadzic was already making a name for himself as a Serbian nationalist zealot. He was elected as the first chairman of the newly founded Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosnia Herzegovina.

This undated photo released by Belgrade's Healthy Life magazine Tuesday July 22, 2008, made at an undisclosed location in Belgrade, shows former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic with glasses, long white hair and a beard. The editor in chief of Belgrade's Healthy Life magazine, Goran Kojic, said he was shocked when he saw the photo of Karadzic on TV, recognizing him as a regular contributor to the publication. Karadzic grew a long, white beard to conceal his identity and even managed to openly practice alternative medicine while in hiding, officials said Tuesday in revealing details of the war crimes fugitive's capture. Karadzic, the wartime leader of Bosnian Serbs, was arrested Monday night in a Belgrade suburb. A judge has ordered his transfer to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, to face genocide charges, war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said. (AP Photo) ** SERBIA OUT - EDITORIAL USE ONLY **

Karadzic was posing as an alternative medicine doctor

Later, Karadzic became the first president of the self-declared Serb Republic in Bosnia. He was known for his aggressive and incendiary rhetoric. At the founding conference of the SDS, Karadzic referred to the Serbs as a "warrior race." And he threatened to erase Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina.   

With the support of his mentor in Belgrade, then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic organized the war in Bosnia which he had once warned against. According to the UN war crimes tribunal, Karadzic participated in ethnic cleansing of Croatians and Bosnian Muslims.

Under his political leadership, there was allegedly systematic killing and rape in the regions controlled by the Serbs. Several concentration camps were created for non-Serbs and for three-and-a-half-years the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, was bombed and besieged.

Rise and fall of Karadzic

But Bosnia-Herzegovina was not Radovan Karadzic's original homeland. Karadzic was born shortly after World War II in neighboring Montenegro. When he was 15 years old, he moved with his family to Sarajevo, where he went to school and studied medicine.

Later, Karadzic studied for a year at Columbia University in New York City on a scholarship. Afterwards, he worked as a psychiatrist in a clinic in Sarajevo. In his capacity as a psychiatrist, Karadzic even worked for a spell with soccer club FC Barcelona. He also fancied himself as a poet. Before the civil war, he published four volumes of poems.

Shortly after the peace treaty was signed that ended the Bosnian war, Karadzic was forced to step down as president of the Serb Republic under international pressure. A few months later, the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague issued a warrant for Karadzic's arrest, forcing him to go underground. People speculated that he was hiding in the monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, or perhaps in the inaccessible mountains of the region where Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia all share a common border.

Der Befehlshaber der bosnischen Serben, General Ratko Mladic (l), neben dem bosnischen Serbenführer Radovan Karadzic bei einer Pressekonferenz in der bosnischen Serbenhochburg Pale am 5.8.1993. Der bosnische Serbenführer Karadzic hat nach Angaben des bosnisch-serbischen Nachrichtendienstes Srna vom 05.08.1995 den bisherigen Befehlshaber der bosnischen Serben, General Ratko Mladic, abgelöst und persönlich das Oberkommando übernommen. Mladic sei zum Sonderberater für die Koordinierung der gemeinsamen Verteidigung der bosnischen und kroatischen Serben ernannt worden.

Karadzic blames Mladic for the Srebrenica massacre

The whole time, Serbian authorities claimed to not know where Karadzic was hiding. Then came the surprise news on July 21, 2008: Serbian police arrested Karadzic in Belgrade, where he was living under the false name Dragan David Dabic. He had changed his appearance and worked unmolested for years at an alternative medicine practice, while publishing articles for a trade journal.

Shortly after his arrest, Karadzic was extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, located in The Hague.

 No remorse during trial

In the trial at The Hague, Karadzic has represented himself. He has shown no remorse or admonition of guilt. When it came to the massacre at Srebrenica, Karadzic rejected any responsibility whatsoever. Instead, he accused General Ratko Mladic, who is also on trial at The Hague, of carrying out the atrocities. 

Yet Karadzic emphasized several times that he had viewed the war in Bosnia as "a fight against the creation of a Muslim state in the middle of Europe." He considers himself the victim of victor's justice and represents himself as a "psychiatrist, poet and man of peace." According to Karadzic, he shouldn't be punished, but instead should be commended for "all the good deeds" he did.

Yet five years after his arrest and 18 years after the massacre at Srebrenica, the indictment has been broadened. The former Serb leader now faces charges not only for Srebrenica, but also for war crimes in seven other Bosnian municipalities.

DW.DE