24/7/8 -- THE EUROPEAN Union hailed the arrest of ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic after more than a decade on the run, calling it a key step towards lasting reconciliation in the Balkans and for Serbia's hopes of joining the EU.
Karadzic was born in Montenegro in 1945, and moved to Croatia only in 1960 to study medicine, working as a psychologist. He also published several volumes of poetry,
inspired by the Serb nationalist writer Dobrica Cosic. As Yugoslavia began to disintegrate -- with no little help from the EU -- he joined the Green Party, but, reacting to the alarming growth of non-Serbian nationalist movements around him, helped found the Serbian Democratic Party in 1990, dedicated to the goal of uniting Serbs.
Less than two years later, when Bosnia-Hercegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, he and other Serbs moved to set up the independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina with its capital in Sarajevo. War raged for three years, with atrocities committed on both sides. However, his side and that of the Serbs in general was not the one favoured by the Cold War victors, and he was jointly indicted in 1995 along with his military leader, Ratko Mladic, for alleged war crimes. He went into hiding, reportedly donning priest's robes, moving from monastery to monastery in the mountains to avoid capture. "He enjoyed protection from the local population, wherever he was hiding. Legend has it he disguised himself as a priest to take part in his mother's funeral," says CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci. In 2004 he published Miraculous Chronicles of the Night, set in 1980s Yugoslavia, which tells the story of a man jailed by mistake after the death of former Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito.
The Serbian war crimes prosecutor said a judge had ordered Karadzic's transfer to the UN war crimes court in The Hague, with three days to appeal. In a BBC interview in 1995, Karadzic denied he was guilty of war crimes. "If The Hague was a real juridical body I would be ready to go there to testify or do so on television, but it is a political body that has been created to blame the Serbs," he told the Times in 1996.
Karadzic's lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said he would appeal. Serbian nationalists predicted that Karadzic's arrest would cause a backlash. "Karadzic is a Serbian hero," said Aleksandar Vucic of the Radicals, a leading Serbian political party. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Serbia should decide for itself whether Karadzic is to face a UN tribunal. It should be recalled that the trial of former Yugoslav president and fellow Serb Slobodan Milosevic on similar charges was a fiasco and did more to exonerate him, especially after he died in jail awaiting a verdict.
But for the present, the mood in Sarajevo and Brussels is euphoric. "Good news! We have waited for this for 13 years. Finally. Finally," chortled French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner at an EU foreign ministers' meeting this week. Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who brokered the Dayton Peace Accord for Bosnia in 1995, called Karadzic the "Osama bin Laden of Europe". Whether or not Karadzic is guilty of the charges against him, what Kouchner failed to add was that it was the EU, by conspiring to destroy the Yugoslav union, that created the conditions for civil war and turned otherwise normal citizens into "butchers". Holbrooke might care to remember that it was the US itself that created Bin Laden.