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Serbia: My neighbor Radovan Karadzic

by Jasmina Tešanović

Wednesday 23 July 2008

(Published at:, 22 July 2008)

Radovan Karadzic, the poet of Serbian war crimes, one of the two most wanted criminals in the Balkans, the guy with fluffy locks, was captured last night in Belgrade, Serbia.

According to the first rumors, he was found in my own neighborhood, where he supposedly frequented in a popular right-wing restaurant where people from NGOs were unwelcome.

Karadzic is currently held in the special court for war crimes in Belgrade, and is about to be extradited to the international war crime tribunal in The Hague. Slobodan Milosevic preceeded him in this same course some years ago.

To judge by the chatter on my B92 blog and the phone messages I get from my friends: as I long suspected, “Europe’s Osama bin Laden” and I have been neighbors. We shared the same food, saw the same beggars in downtown Belgrade where he had been hiding all these years, a genocidal butcher disguised as a New Age quack.

A journalist who lives close to me sent me an sms: Karadzic must have been drinking beer with our gypsy neighbor in the street. As we all suspected, or as some of us surely knew: Karadzic was hiding from justice behind our names and our daily lives, using the Serbian population as his living shields.

The new Pro-European government in Serbia had to split with that covert policy. Thus do the democrats reward the long-suffering voters who gave them the lead against their nationalist rivals. Even the ex-Milosevic Socialist party seems to be in on the deal.

Radovan Karadzic, poet, psychiatrist and planetary war criminal number one, effectively vanished in 1996. His General, Ratko Mladic, is still on the run. Karadzic and Mladic were the architect and the builder of the genocide in Srebrenica, where 8 000 men and boys were killed in three days.

Last night the long-missing fugitive was formally interrogated in the special tribunal for war crimes in Belgrade. This is the same court where, two years ago, I followed the trial of the paramilitary group the Scorpions, participants in the genocide in Srebrenica. Karadzic’ s name was often mentioned by the Scorpions with hushed reverence.

A couple of months before the Scorpions were arrested in 2005, police burst in the house of the Karadzic family, briefly arresting his son. On this occasion his wife publicly asked her husband to give himself up for justice. The myth around his dark character was that he would never give himself alive, but die a suicidal martyr for the sake of his family and the cause of the Bosnian Serbs.

Karadzic never lacked for supporters. Shouting groups of right-winged hooligans spent the night outside the war crimes court, chanting his name and demanding that Boris Tadic, the President, commit suicide and therefore save Serbia. The militants were supervised by a heavy police presence and the crowd soon broke up.

International politicians such as Richard Holbrooke are congratulating the Serbian government for this important action, delayed and obstructed all these years. Men resembling Karadzic have often reported in various parts of Serbia and Bosnia, and various allegedly accomplices were brought to court for aiding and abetting both Karadzic and Mladic. It was obvious that they were both protected by powerful local allies, and it is presumed that Karadzic was arrested yesterday thanks to the betrayal of some insider. There is still an outstanding American bounty of 5 million dollars for the arrest of either Karadzic or Mladic ; for twelve years the tempting hoard of cash was never claimed by anyone.

Karadzic is defending himself with silence — but not a complete silence. He has claimed that his arrest was a “farce,” and that he was detained three days ago by masked men, and kept prisoner in a small cell.

In a morning press conference more details were revealed by Rasim Ljajic, a Serbian government official responsible for cooperation with The Hague. According to Ljajic, Radovan Karadzic, who is officially a Bosnian, has been living in Belgrade as a Serbian citizen, under false identity, and with a new name — “Dragan Dabic.” “Dr. Dabic” has been working as a doctor of “alternative medicine” in a private clinic.

Thin, bespectacled, balding and heavily bearded, Dr Dabic was moving freely in Belgrade. Workers at the clinic deny they knew his real identity. He seems to have been shadowed and arrested while trying to change apartments.

The world is in deadly earnest about Radovan’s “farce,” as congratulations pour in for President Tadic, the police and the Serbian justice system. The Hague will never be popular in Serbia, especially when Bosnian alleged war criminal Naser Oric was released despite attacks on Serbs. In the shattered ruins of Yugoslavia there will never be a neat equalizing of the blame, but this event is a giant step toward a living role for a peaceful, democratic Serbia within a modern Europe.

Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.