These have been a rough couple of weeks for suspected war criminals. First, Sudanese President Omar el Bashir finds the International Criminal Court’s sights set on him. Now, one of the world’s most wanted men is arrested by Serbian authorities. Halleluja!

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Radovan Karadzic, indicted war criminal, was arrested yesterday outside Belgrade. He is awaiting extradition to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague.

Karadzic was the political mastermind behind the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s. He is also alleged to have orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed in a few short hours after Dutch UN peacekeepers were over run by the Bosnian-Serb militia. Karadzic’s partner in crime, General Radko Mladic directed the Srebrenica killings. He remains at large.

Karadzic has been on the run for thirteen years–and it was always suspected that Serbian authorities were protecting him. So why was he nabbed yesterday? It seems that a combination of international pressure and internal politics made the arrest possible. In June the coalition backing the moderate and pro-west Serbian President Boris Tadic won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections over hard line nationalist elements. Tadic quickly moved against the hardliners, purging them from positions of influence in the government. The move against Karadzic can be seen as a kneecapping of Tadic’s political opposition and shows just how politically marginalized the hardliners really are.

Second, the international community–chiefly the European Union and the United States–have made Serbian cooperation with the ICTY the sin qua non of relations with Serbia. The pull of the European Union–and the recognition that unless Serbia cooperate with the ICTY it will never enjoy benefits of membership–was the larger force reason behind Karadzic’s arrest. With yesterday’s arrest, Boris Tadic showed the international community he can deliver. (To be sure, Mladic still remains at large. But with the veil of government protection now firmly cast off, one wonders for how long.) The international community should respond in kind — and I suspect they will.


Rich Byrne
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