Radovan Karadzic faces charges of two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of violations of the laws or customs of war, and one count of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Radovan Karadzic. [File]
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was apprehended Monday (July 21st) in Serbia, was one of the most wanted war criminals in the world. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted him in connection with the 1992-1995 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), which resulted in an estimated 200,000 deaths and two million refugees.
Karadzic was originally indicted, along with former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, in July 1995. A second indictment against the two was confirmed in November that year. An amended indictment was eventually issued against Karadzic in May 2000, but was kept confidential until October 11th 2002. It charges the former Bosnian Serb leader with two counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, three counts of violations of the laws or customs of war, and one count of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.
Karadzic was born on June 19th 1945 in the municipality of Savnik in Montenegro. At 15, he moved to Sarajevo, where he graduated in medicine in 1971 and became a physician and psychiatrist.
In 1990, Karadzic became a founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and its first president. After Slovenia and Croatia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, the SDS leader rejected calls that BiH follow suit. Instead, the so-called Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, later renamed Republika Srpska, was proclaimed.
On March 27th 1992, Karadzic became president of the National Security Council of Republika Srpska and, on May 12th of that year, a member of the entity presidency. That same day he was elected president of the presidency. On December 17th 1992, Karadzic became the sole president of Republika Srpska (RS) and three days later supreme commander of its armed forces. He remained in those key posts, including as SDS leader, until July 19th 1996, when he announced his resignation from politics.
Several days after Karadzic headed the National Security Council, the Bosnian Serb Army laid siege to the city of Sarajevo. Until the end of May 1995, Bosnian Serb troops and artillery positioned in the surrounding hills shelled the city's streets and marketplaces while snipers deliberately targeted civilians. About 10,500 civilians, including 1,800 children, were killed and some 50,000 others were injured during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo.
Referring to atrocities committed between July 1st 1991 and November 30th 1995, the amended indictment alleges that Karadzic "planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted the planning, preparation or execution of the destruction, in whole or in part, of the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat national, ethnical, racial or religious groups", in a number of municipalities. Among them were Bijeljina, Bratunac, Bosanski Samac, Brcko, Doboj, Foca, Ilijas, Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Novi Grad, Prijedor, Rogatica, Sanski Most, Srebrenica, Visegrad, Vlasenica, Zavidovici and Zvornik.
The SDS and government authorities established a number of camps and detention facilities in various municipalities. The conditions of life in them, according to the ICTY, sought the physical destruction, in whole or in part, of the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats as ethnical, racial or religious groups.
"These camps and detention facilities were staffed and operated by military and police personnel, under the ultimate direction and control of senior Bosnian Serb leadership, including Radovan Karadzic, Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic," the indictment alleges.
As a result of the campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted by Bosnian Serb forces through 1995 the Bosnian Muslim population in Srebrenica and other areas swelled dramatically.
Karadzic, who exercised both formal and de facto power and control over the Bosnian Serb forces and all SDS and government authorities, was also indicted in connection with the July 1995 killings of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, captured in several different locations in and around the UN designated "safe area" of Srebrenica. The massacre is considered the single worst atrocity in European history since World War II.
Karadzic is considered responsible also for the detention in late May 1995 of more than 200 UN peacekeepers and military observers, who were held hostage for about a week at locations of strategic or military significance across BiH, in order to render these locations immune from NATO airstrikes. "Some of the hostages were assaulted and otherwise maltreated during their captivity. Some of these hostages were forced to warn their UN commanders that they would be killed if NATO continued to bomb," according to the indictment.
After announcing his resignation from politics on July 19th 1996, Karadzic went into hiding, managing to evade justice for years on end, despite numerous attempts by NATO peacekeepers at his capture. The US government offered a reward of up to $5m for information leading to his arrest or conviction. According to the international community, a well-organised network of supporters was helping Karadzic escape arrest.