Karadzic’s arrest is seen as long overdue
July 24, 2008
From his Sarajevo flat, Hasan Nuhanovic could easily hear the cheers and the blaring car horns of his fellow Bosnian Muslims celebrating the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the so-called "Butcher of the Balkans."
Nuhanovic lost his mother, father and brother in the 1995 genocidal slaughter of Bosnian Muslims in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica. And Karadzic, a psychiatrist by trade, had been on the lam ever since the U.N. war crimes tribunal indicted him for being the chief architect of the Srebrenica massacre.
So if anyone had reason to revel in Tuesday’s news, it would be Nuhanovic, given his family was all but eradicated. But Nuhanovic felt no great urge to join in the festivities. That’s because so many low-level war criminals, including those who murdered his family, remain at large.
"I didn’t feel that way at all," Nuhanovic said in a phone interview Wednesday, referring to the public celebrations. "I don’t think there is any place for euphoria."
For many of today’s servicemembers, Karadzic’s arrest probably holds little if any meaning, especially considering all that they have had to endure in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But in the mid-1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the place to be for any aspiring member of the U.S. military. And Karadzic, who was also responsible for turning Sarajevo into a shooting gallery, was one of the principal war criminals U.S. forces kept an eye out for.
"It’s great news to hear that Radovan Karadzic was finally arrested," said retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who was a brigade commander in Bosnia for the initial NATO-led peacekeeping force. "His arrest was long overdue."
Batiste, who was a colonel at the time, was in charge of a sector stretching south-southeast from Tuzla down toward Sarajevo. In the vicinity was the town of Pale, the Bosnian-Serb stronghold where Karadzic and his ilk took refuge.
The retired two-star general said in a phone interview Tuesday night that his unit, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was always on alert for high-profile criminals, such as Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian-Serb military chief. But, he added, nothing ever materialized.
Batiste said the arrest of Karadzic could help Bosnia heal from its long civil war.
"Accountability is fundamental. It is part of the process," said Batiste, who now runs a steel company in New York. "No question in my mind that there needs to be a full accounting of what happened."
Nuhanovic wants that, too. However, he worries his countrymen and the rest of the world will lose interest in bringing others to justice once the last two high-value suspects — Mladic and Goran Hadzi, an ethnic Serb from eastern Croatia — are caught.
He says there are thousands of cases already lingering in state court. Additionally, the mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, at least in terms of taking on new cases, is to expire later this decade. "My primary concern is the small fish," said Nuhanovic, who is in the midst of a lawsuit relating to the Srebrenica massacre. "The problem is we are not done. Many criminals live with impunity in Bosnia, mostly in the Serb areas."
Matthew Rhodes, a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany, said he is especially interested in finding out about how Karadzic managed to elude authorities for so long.
Some critics accused NATO and international organizations of turning a blind eye to those who were shielding Karadzic. Other observers suspect the former Bosnian-Serb leader had help from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
"Now we will have the chance to find out what was really going on," Rhodes said.
Karadzic’s arrest was the topic of discussion Tuesday in a course Rhodes teaches on security in southeastern Europe. The course includes a Serb officer as well as students from Bosnia, Kosovo and Montenegro, all which were part of the former Yugoslavia.
News of the arrest, Rhodes said, was greeted in the classroom with "a kind of muted satisfaction."