Karadzic Extradited to The Hague

by Renate Flottau in Belgrade

(July 30, Belgrade, Sri Lanka Guardian) Suspected war criminal Radovan Karadzic was transferred to the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague early Wednesday -- just hours after a Belgrade demonstration supporting him ended in violence. (Image: The plane which carried suspected war criminal Radovan Karadzic to The Hague on Wednesday morning sits on a remote runway at the Belgrade airport.)

Radovan Karadzic is in The Hague. Early on Wednesday morning, a white jet carrying the suspected war criminal landed at Rotterdam airport and Karadzic was immediately transferred to Scheveningen detention center, the same prison which housed former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic during his war crimes trial.

The exact timing of Karadzic's transfer to The Hague had been kept secret and reporters set up camp outside the Scheveningen jail days ago in anticipation of his arrival. The suspected war criminal was arrested last week by Serbian authorities more than a decade after he was first indicted. Karadzic had been living under an assumed identity as an alternative medicine guru (more...) and had grown a thick, white beard to disguise his appearance.

Karadzic's extradition on early Wednesday came just hours after thousands of ultra-nationalists marched in Belgrade in his support. Some 15,000 took the streets of the city center -- far fewer than the 100,000 organizers had been hoping for -- and chanted Karadzic's name at the bidding of Tomislav Nicolic, deputy head of the Serbian Radical Party. A number of those marching carried signs accusing EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana of war crimes or images of Serbian President Boris Tadic wearing an Albanian hat -- a reference to the recent secession of Kosovo from Serbia.

For the most part, though, the demonstration was far from the spirited demonstration of nationalist power Nicolic had been hoping for. By 10 p.m., most of those who turned out for the evening protest had gone home. When riot police tried to clear out those who remained, however, a pitched battle broke out, with demonstrators bombarding police with paving stones and police going after rioters with batons and tear gas. By the time the skirmish ended, 25 police and 25 demonstrators had been injured.

The Serbian government hopes that, with Karadzic now out of the country, tension with the country's nationalist minority will slowly be defused. In addition, Belgrade is hoping that, by showing its willingness to cooperate with the European Union and with the war crimes tribunal, Brussels will bestow sought-after trade benefits on Serbia.

Indeed, the new government of Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, in office since the end of June, has made improving relations with the EU a priority and President Boris Tadic, re-elected in February of this year, is likewise in favor of fully integrating Serbia into the EU. Just last week, the government in Belgrade agreed to send ambassadors back (more...) to those European Union countries that had recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence made in February.

Karadzic joins 37 other prisoners from the Balkan wars fought in the early 1990s. His lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said that Karadzic will not enter a plea at his first court appearance and that he will likely ask for a month to prepare his defense.
- Sri Lanka Guardian