THU, 15 NOV 2001 18:04:38 GMT
Karadzic Isnít Losing any Sleep
Who Is In Charge of the Arrest Operation?
AIM Sarajevo, November 5, 2001
Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic, charged by the International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague with war
crimes, have no reason for fear. Arresting them and bringing them to
justice is not a priority of the international community. The head of
the U.N. Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, general and diplomat Jacques
Paul Klein said at a panel discussion organized by Krug 99, a group of
independent intellectuals, in Sarajevo on Oct. 28, that his mission has
no order to arrest them. A day earlier, the Bijeljina-based Ekstra
Magazin newspaper carried a story in which it said, quoting an unnamed
diplomat, that the Americans (Klein) are in fact guarding Karadzic, and
that the Russians are guarding Gen. Mladic. The news media in Bosnia
immediately revived old rumor, asking whether "the West and NATO are
acting in cahoots with Karadzic" (Banjaluka-based Nezavisne Novine
paper). There is also speculation that the question of Islamic terrorism
has completely pushed aside the search for the two most wanted fugitives
Gen. Klein's two most recent public appearances -- at the Krug 99
discussion and the BBC Hardtalk show -- have shown that the arrest of
the former Bosnian Serb leaders is exclusively limited to the sphere of
rhetoric, giving credibility to speculation that deals with the great
powers, primarily the U.S., are quite possible. What are people actually
talking about? The Bijeljina paper, quoting an anonymous diplomatic
source, said that U.S. mediator Richard Holbrooke in May 1996 guaranteed
Karadzic that he would not be arrested if he handed over power
peacefully and withdrew from public life. "He kept his promise, and so
did we," Holbrooke allegedly said. Klein was also mentioned, as the
official in charge of Karadzic's security. Ekstra Magazin explains the
international community's lack of motivation to apprehend Gen. Mladic in
the following manner: "Ever since the Hague tribunal indicted Gen.
Mladic, Russian diplomats and ground agents have been making a great
effort to prevent him from reaching The Hague. I wouldn't be surprised
to learn that the Russians are guarding
Mladic in the same way the Americans are guarding Karadzic."
It is hard to determine whether this story is just another version of
the one mentioned above. Last spring, Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, a Croatian
opposition politician and former chairman of the Croatian Helsinki
Committee, after a meeting with Karadzic's wife, Ljiljana Zelen
Karadzic, in Pale, told the same version of the story. International
news services later carried Holbrooke's denial, calling the rumor
nonsense and stressing that the U.S. had no reason to make political
deals of that kind.
Six years have elapsed since their indictments were published, and the
two most wanted fugitives from international justice are still at large.
Meanwhile, diplomat and NATO generals alike have offered a host of
excuses. First they said such an operation was very risky, they claimed
a special police unit guarding Karadzic numbered about 700 people. Then
they said Karadzic was paying his bodyguards and was running out of
money, and then they claimed that his whereabouts were undetermined.
Mladic was said to have been spotted at soccer matches in Belgrade, or
beaches in Montenegro, while Milosevic was still in power. This summer
and autumn the office of ICTY Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte said
Mladic was being guarded by Republika Srpska military police. Newspapers
reported of legendary secret hideouts. When compared, these stories
placed them simultaneously at four or five locations in Republika Srpska
-- in Visegrad, Tjentiste, a monastery near Cajnice, Trebinje, and the
forests of Mt. Zelengora.
Is it possible that in a country where international forces are in
charge of all military facilities, control all roads and electronic
communications, and in which as yet another Casablanca albeit not on a
movie screen, all major intelligence agencies (American, Russian,
British, German, French, as well as a number of others) are operating
unhidered, their refuge cannot be discovered. When over 60,000 NATO
troops were deployed in Bosnia and when all roads were rife with
checkpoints, Karadzic traveled from Pale to Banjaluka, a route some 350
kilometers long. The generals replied: "Soldiers could not recognize
him"! A five million dollar reward for any information leading to the
arrest of Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic, also failed in producing
results. It is hard to believe that in the Balkans, where people are
killed for much less, no one seemed interested in getting rich by just
by picking up the receiver and dialing a phone number. It has to be that
numerous wanted posters put up at all police stations in Bosnia and
neighboring Serbia and published in numerous newspapers, weren't really
trusted. Who could have come forth with any new information anyway when
the whole world knew, for instance, where Milosevic's residences were
located -- the official one on Uziccka Street and his private home on
Tolstojeva. Leaving his post of SFOR commander, Gen. Michael Dodson made
a spectacular statement announcing that Karadzic and Mladic could be
swiftly arrested, and that investigators could pinpoint the exact
location where they were hiding at. His successor, Gen. John Silvester,
two weeks ago denied this by saying that "SFOR still has no knowledge of
that location, but as soon as it learns of it, it will launch an arrest
operation." That the location is no secret was partly confirmed by Carla
del Ponte during her two visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina in March and
September this year. Then, she told RS President Mirko Sarovic that
Karadzic was in touch with Serb Democratic Party officials who are part
of the RS government.
All this shows that the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic has never been
anywhere near the top of the international community's to-do list.
According to what Klein says, the U.N. mission (which is actually in
charge of the local police) is, unlike local police, not in charge of
such an operation. The RS police do not want to do it, and those who can
-- SFOR troops -- will arrest the suspects only if they run into them.
Thus, for instance, if Karadzic and Mladic tried to hitch a ride on an
SFOR armored vehicle, provided ID and showed no intention to endanger
the soldiers' lives, they could be arrested. Meanwhile, Republika Srpska
passed a bill on cooperation with the Hague court, but the interior
minister has no plans to take the law in his hands and venture into the
woods, looking for Karadzic. When asked where the two suspects are,
Sarovic replied with ultimate coolness: "I have no idea." RS Premier
Mladen Ivanic says he will resign if the police fail to uphold the law,
but this is no guarantee that the two warlords will indeeed be brought
to justice. At this moment, all of Republika Srpska is a collective
accomplice of Karadzic and Mladic.
Which is to say that the only force capable of arresting them is SFOR.
Pledges that the two will be arrested "if SFOR encounters the suspects"
are nonsense. In past operations in Prijedor, Bijeljina, Banjaluka,
Brcko, Foca and Pale SFOR did not happen to encounter the suspects, but
had planned the operations in advance. When they wanted to, they made
arrests. And this is where we return to the beginning of our story. A
decision on the arrest needs to be made in Washington, Paris and
Brussels (the Russians should only be notified), and a clear order
issued to the troops on the ground. But this is not happening. The host
of the BBC Hardtalk show, Tim Sebastian, asked Klein: "There is
something fishy about it, isn't there?" And Klein replied: "I agree,"
showing that rumors of political deals should not be so easily
discarded. In their hideouts Karadzic and Mladic can peacefully watch
CNN and its coverage of the war against terrorism, while writing their
memoirs. What's more, they could freely claim they were at the forefront
of the anti-terrorism coalition as early as 1992!