War crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic was taken into custody by the UN war crimes tribunal on Wednesday to face trial at The Hague on charges of genocide for his actions in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.
The former Bosnian Serb leader, arrested in Serbia last week, was taken to the Scheveningen detention centre near The Hague shortly after landing at dawn at Rotterdam airport. “Radovan Karadzic was today transferred into the Tribunal’s custody, after having been at large for more than 13 years,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said in a statement. The only higher ranking official to be brought before the tribunal for crimes during the Balkan wars was Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 at the detention centre months before a verdict was due at his trial.
Karadzic, 63, will appear before the court in coming days, at which time he can enter a plea. His lawyer in Belgrade has said Karadzic believes he will be cleared of genocide and will defend himself. He faces two charges of genocide for the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two. He will have received a medical examination and met legal officials at the detention centre -- standard practice for new detainees -- and been assigned an en suite cell, identical to that occupied by Milosevic.
DIED IN DETENTION
Milosevic spent his last five years at the centre and was found dead in his 15 square meter cell due to heart failure. Karadzic, arrested last week after 11 years on the run, was most recently living under an assumed name, had grown a flowing beard and long-hair, and was working as an alternative healer.
Earlier, he was escorted to Belgrade airport by masked officials from the Serbian secret service. Security was also tight at the tribunal’s detention facility, with armed guards patrolling the inner walls. On Tuesday, some 10,000 hardline Serb nationalists, many brought by bus from rural nationalist strongholds, showed their support for Karadzic in downtown Belgrade, chanting his name and holding up giant banners with his picture. Clashes broke out when several dozen youths linked to hooligan groups threw flares, stones and garbage cans at riot police. Some 45 people, most of them policemen, were wounded.
Karadzic’s delivery to The Hague was key to Serbia securing closer ties with the European Union and his arrest was seen as a pro-Western signal by the new government sworn in this month. His arrival at the UN war crimes tribunal is expected by the government to defuse tension and stop further protests, but also to unlock EU trade benefits. Karadzic’s legal team had tried to delay his extradition but acknowledged they could only postpone, not stop, his transfer.
Relatives have said Karadzic is in good spirits and preparing his defense. He has had two suits delivered for his court appearance, one light, one dark. There are 37 detainees at The Hague indicted for their roles in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Released inmates say the ethnic rivalries that drove them to fratricide have faded within the prison’s walls, and most socialize and cook together, and engage in board games. (Reuters)