Karadzic extradited after Belgrade clashes

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War criminal Radovan Karadzic was extradited early today (30 July) to the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, following violent clashes between Belgrade police and hard-line nationalists only hours before.

Karadzic’s swift extradition took his supporters by surprise. Tens of thousands of nationalists rallied in central Belgrade yesterday night (29 July), waiving posters of Karadzic from the period of the Bosnian war and booing the government for his treason against a “real Serb”. 

The main organiser of the meeting was the Radical Party of Voislav Seselj, another war criminal already facing trial in The Hague. But the event also received wide support from other nationalist forces such as the Democratic Party of Serbia of former Prime Minister Voislav Kostunica. 

The meeting was peaceful until a group of young ultranationalists engaged in clashes with the police, leaving some 40 wounded in both camps. 

The nationalists had promised they would not allow the extradition of Karadzic but the authorities apparently took them by surprise. The former president’s extradition was indeed not expected to happen so soon because of a legal battle launched by his lawyers against his transfer to The Hague. But the government explained that the appeal was invalid because it was sent by regular mail. 

Karadzic was taken out of his Belgrade prison at 3.45 am. TV stations showed a convoy of three black SUVs, but later it became known that these were a decoy, the real transfer being made in a less visible sedan. Pictures of the Presidential jet on the tarmac of Rotterdam airport were then aired, with the logo “Republic of Serbia” clearly visible on the plane. Karadzic was not seen leaving the plane, because the doors were opened only when the plane was taken to a hangar. 

EU trade benefits to remain frozen 

In a separate development, EU Ambassadors yesterday (29 July) failed to unfreeze trade benefits to Serbia over objections by the Netherlands that this should only happen after the ICTY chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, confirms that Serbia is fully cooperating with the tribunal. 

According to EURACTIV sources, Italy and Spain, spoke out in favour of speeding up the process of unlocking trade benefits to Serbia. The French Presidency reportedly downplayed the failure to reach a decision, saying that this could happen anytime and that a special ministerial EU meeting was not needed for this purpose. 

The trade accord is part of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), which the EU signed with Belgrade end of April (EURACTIV 30/04/08), days ahead of the Serbian elections. The SAA is seen as milestone on the way towards EU membership, but requires the ratification in all 27 member states and Serbia to enter into force. 

Meanwhile, the war crimes court in Sarajevo convicted seven Bosnian Serbs of genocide over the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srbrenica in 1995 and sentenced them to jail. After a two-year trial, the court ruled that the men had helped in the systematic murder of more than 1,000 Bosniaks in one day. 

Radovan Karadzic, former president of the self-declared Bosnian Serb Republic during Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1992-95 war, lived as a fugitive during the last 13 years under a false identity, until he was arrested on 21 July by the Serbian authorities near Belgrade. 

In July 1995, Karadzic was indicted for war crimes and genocide together with Serb general Ratko Mladic who is still at large. The crimes included the shelling of civilian targets in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where 10,000 were killed, and the creation of brutal prison camps in which an estimated 20,000 women were raped and other prisoners were tortured and starved. 

Four months later, they were also indicted for orchestrating the massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys after the capture of the UN's supposed "safe area" of Srebrenica. Surrendering the indicted war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) later became a precondition for opening the doors towards Serbia's EU accession. 

Karadzic’s arrest - the second in just 40 days - highlights the will of the new pro-European leadership in Serbia to break with previous attitudes considered ambiguous by the international community. On 12 June, war criminal Stojan Zupljanin was apprehended (EURACTIV 13/06/08). Today, of the 46 indictees of the ICTY from Serbia, only two remain at large – Ratko Mladic, the main perpetrator of the massacre at Srebrenica, and Goran Jelisic, accused of crimes against Croats in the city of Vukovar. 

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