After 13 years on the run, indicted Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic has been arrested. While survivors and the families of his victims are rejoicing, the arrest comes at an important moment in Serbia’s political history, with expectations that it will improve the nation’s troubled relationship with the European Union. Here’s how the media is reporting the capture of one of the world’s most wanted men.

Helping a nation to heal. [Karadzic] was understood to have been brought before a hastily-convened court in Belgrade last night after he was seized by Serb forces inside the country, according to Boris Tadic, the President. The arrest is a significant breakthrough for the new pro-western government in Serbia, a country which has faced international isolation while Karadzic and fellow war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb army commander, have remained at large.

The EU has made their hand-over a condition of progressing towards membership talks. Radovan Karadzic led the self-proclaimed Serb administration of Bosnia in the early 1990s which resisted the country’s independence and suppressed other ethnic groups in some of the worst violence that followed the break-up of Yugoslavia. — Times Online

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Karadzic: “murderous megalomaniac”. Karadzic, with his thick shock of grey hair, became a familiar sight to television viewers around the world in the 1990s, when his contempt for diplomacy and cynical manipulation of United Nations’ peacemaking efforts exasperated foreign negotiators.

He was a close ally of late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, and the pair co-operated militarily and politically to confuse the Serbs’ enemies, not just on the battlefields but also in the halls of diplomacy. A psychiatrist by training, Karadzic also likes to writes children’s poetry, plays and Serb folk music in his spare time, boosting his standing among nationalistic Serbs. — Agence-France Presse

Arrested, at last. Mr Karadzic’s arrest will bring relief to Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats, who saw him as the monster who provoked the 1992-95 civil war that costs tens of thousands of lives. It will also give a boost, in Serbia, to Mr Tadic’s European Union-oriented bloc that ousted nationalists from the government in recent elections. But it will anger many conservative Serbs, in Bosnia and Serbia, who saw Mr Karadzic as a hero.

His capture will prompt new calls for efforts to seize Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs’ military commander, who now tops the list of fugitive alleged war criminals from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Both men have evaded capture since they were charged by international prosecutors at the end of the Bosnian War in 1995. — Financial Times

Celebrating the arrest. Crowds of people waving Bosnian flags and hundreds of cars honking at their horns poured onto the streets of Sarajevo as news emerged that Radovan Karadzic has been arrested in Serbia. Balkan Insight contacted one of the victims from the 1992-1995 war, Bakira Hasecic from Visegrad, who said she can not believe the news.

“If somebody asked me, I would say it will never happen, especially not in Serbia. I was sure that the next thing I will hear about him is that he is dead,” Hasecic told Baklan Insight. Nura Begic, one of the survivors of the Srebrenica genocide told Balkan Insight that she is so excited about the news that she cannot sit, walk or sleep. “I am one hundred percent sure that Mladic will come after him now,” she added.

“This happened at a moment when we lost any hope that he can be arrested. We are surprised, but pleasantly surprised. I am happy that I survived until this day to hear the news that Karadzic is arrested and that he will be taken to the Hague, alive,” Edin Ramulic, from victim’s association in Prijedor and a Omarska camp survivor told Balkan Insight. — Balkan

The arrest of a monster. Mr Karadzic’s arrest reflects a big change in Serbian politics. Many individuals of lesser importance have been persuaded to give themselves up and some have been arrested. Until now, however, it was believed that Mr Karadzic and his wartime military commander, General Ratko Mladic (who remains at large, for now), were protected by powerful networks of former or current members of the security services.

That era is now over, apparently because the new Serbian government is willing and able to act. In the previous government, power over the security services lay with the prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who, like many Serbs, loathed the war-crimes tribunal which he believed was a political instrument designed to punish Serbs. Yet the decision to go ahead with the arrest now is a sensitive one, following the recent controversial acquittals of a Kosovo Albanian and of a Bosniak who had been charged with murdering Serbs.The Economist

Now for justice. According to initial reports, Karadzic had been under surveillance for several weeks after a tip-off from an unnamed foreign intelligence agency, and had been picked up in Belgrade. Last night he was undergoing a formal identification process, including DNA testing, and was scheduled to meet investigators overnight.

Richard Holbrooke, the American diplomat who helped negotiate an end to the Bosnian war, described him as the Osama bin Laden of Europe, and “a real, true architect of mass murder”. The prosecutor’s office at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague said it expected Karadzic to be handed over “in due course”. The prosecutor, Serge Brammertz issued a statement welcoming the arrest and congratulating the Serb authorities.

“This is a very important day for the victims who have waited for this arrest for over a decade,” he said. “It is also an important day for international justice because it clearly demonstrates that nobody is beyond the reach of the law and that sooner or later all fugitives will be brought to justice.” — The Guardian

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Peter Fray
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