Apathy shields Balkan 'war criminals'

Saddam Hussein may be behind bars but two of the world's most notorious war crimes suspects are enjoying life at large because of a lack of political will to arrest them, analysts say.

    At large: Karadzic is wanted for war crimes and genocide

    Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have evaded international justice for more than eight years.

    Bosnian Serb wartime leader Karadzic and his military chief Mladic have been charged with war crimes and genocide by the UN court at The Hague over their alleged role in Bosnia's 1992-1995 war, notably the Srebrenica massacre of more than 7000 Muslims and the siege of Sarajevo.

    Analysts are divided over how the two have eluded capture for so long while Saddam was caught near his hometown of Tikrit earlier this month, less than a year after his brutal regime fell to US-led troops.

    Some say that the Balkans duo still remain at large because there is no political will to track them down, while others argue that it is simply a matter of resources.
     
    "Saddam's capture presents yet another indication that the main problem with the arrest of Karadzic is not a technical issue, but obviously the lack of political will," said Senad Slatina of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think-tank.
     
    'Propaganda' stunts

    Some 12,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, deployed in Bosnia since the end of the conflict, are tasked with the arrest of war crimes suspects, especially Karadzic who is said to be hiding in the mountainous republic.

    The chief UN prosecutor has been
    accused of incompetence

    They have conducted several high-profile operations and raids as part of the search but repeatedly come up empty-handed, leading the UN's chief war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to dismiss their efforts as "propaganda" stunts.
     
    "In Iraq there are more than 200,000 soldiers within a coalition led by the United States and their principal mission was to detain Saddam Hussein," said a Western diplomat who requested anonymity.

    Dictator or hero

    Saddam, he said, was a dictator hated by many Iraqis who were ready to betray him, while Karadzic and Mladic were seen as heroes by the majority of people in the Bosnian Serb entity and neighbouring Serbia-Montenegero.
     
    "It is useless to search for Mladic in Serbia," said Dusan Janjic, a Belgrade-based analyst, referring to Del Ponte's repeated claims that the former commander is hiding in the country with Belgrade's knowledge.

    "The fact that he has not been found until now proves the incompetence of the (peacekeepers) in Bosnia. They are not capable of gathering information which could lead to Mladic's arrest"

    Dusan Janjic,
    Belgrade-based analyst

    "The fact that he has not been found until now proves the incompetence of the (peacekeepers) in Bosnia. They are not capable of gathering information which could lead to Mladic's arrest.

    "One can also raise questions over the competence of the UN war crimes tribunal chief prosecutor (Del Ponte), who is too often guided by rumours."

    Del Ponte regularly claims to know "precisely" where Karadzic and Mladic are hiding but her complaints to Belgrade and the Bosnian Serb authorities in Banja Luka fall on deaf ears.

    "After all the stories about Mladic, I can hardly imagine that he is in Serbia," said former Yugoslav president and Serbian opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica this week.

    Sham raid

    In September, during an operation presented as the first attempt by Bosnian Serb police to arrest Karadzic, a handful of policemen raided the house of an Orthodox bishop in the northwestern town of Bijeljina.

    "It was a sham," a European diplomat said.

    A Western diplomat familiar with the search for Karadzic said it was complicated by the fact that the Bosnian Serb was wanted alive, not "dead or alive" like Saddam.

    "Dead, we could have him already, but this is not what the UN court needs," he emphasised.

     

    SOURCE: AFP


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