Better late than never: the Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadžić was captured yesterday. Karadžić was indicted for genocide, complicity in genocide, extermination, murder, willful killing, persecutions, deportation, inhumane acts, unlawfully inflicting terror upon civilians and taking of hostages by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and there had been an outstanding arrest warrant for almost a decade. The first indictment was issued by the ICTY in 1995 (more information on the case at the ICTY, here).
The ICTY itself was, of course, very pleased with the arrest and issued the following statement:
The Tribunal confirms that it has been advised today of the arrest by Serb authorities of the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic. The Tribunal welcomes the arrest and looks forward to Karadzic’s prompt transfer to the Tribunal in The Hague in order to stand trial.
Aware of the serious charges brought against him by the prosecution, the Tribunal is mindful that Karadzic enjoys the presumption of innocence and is committed to do all within its competences to ensure a fair and public trial in accordance with the highest standards of international law.
This arrest may be considered another milestone in the development of international law and further fulfillment of the Tribunal’s mandate to bring to justice the most senior persons alleged to be most responsible for war crimes in the Yugoslav conflicts.
This arrest is of course also a positive sign towards a possible membership of Serbia in the European Union. The EU has on several occasions underlined the importance of the cooperation of the Serbian authorities in capturing the war crimes suspects Karadžić and Ratko Mladić as a prerequisite to enable Serbia to become a full member of the EU. The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (France holds the EU’s presidency at the moment) said a major obstacle to Serbian membership had been lifted.
It now remains to be seen if also the second high ranking war crimes suspect of that region, Ratko Mladić, can be brought before the ICTY before the Tribunal will have to complete all trials by the end of 2009 and all appeals by 2010.