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Karadzic taken into UN custody PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 2008

The Hahue, July 30 ( - War crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic was taken into custody by the UN war crimes tribunal on Wednesday to face trial at The Hague on charges of genocide for his actions in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.

The former leader of the Bosnian Serbs, arrested in Serbia last week, was taken to the Scheveningen detention centre near The Hague shortly after landing at Rotterdam airport at dawn. A police helicopter landed but several other unmarked vehicles were also observed entering the facility.

"Radovan Karadzic was today transferred into the Tribunal's custody, after having been at large for more than 13 years," the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said in a statement.

Karadzic will be brought before the court for an initial appearance in the coming days, at which he will have an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.

Karadzic faces two charges of genocide for the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

Arrested last week after 11 years on the run, Karadzic was most recently living under an assumed name as a bearded, long-haired alternative healer.

Earlier, he was escorted to the airport in Belgrade by masked officials from the Serbian secret service. Security was also tight at the tribunal's detention facility, with armed guards patrolling the inner walls.

On Tuesday, some 10,000 hard-line nationalists, many brought by bus from rural nationalist strongholds, showed their support for Karadzic in downtown Belgrade, chanting his name and holding up giant banners with his picture.

Clashes broke out when several dozen youths linked to hooligan groups threw flares, stones and garbage cans at riot police. Some 45 people, most of them policemen, were wounded.

Karadzic's delivery to The Hague was key to Serbia securing closer ties with the European Union and his arrest was seen as a clear pro-Western signal by the new government, sworn in earlier this month.

His arrival at the U.N. war crimes tribunal is expected by the government to defuse tension and stop further protests, but also to unlock EU trade benefits.

Karadzic's legal team had tried to delay his extradition by launching a cumbersome appeal procedure that threatened to drag on for several more days. But even they admitted they could only postpone, not stop, his transfer.

Relatives have said Karadzic is in good spirits and preparing for his defense. He has had two suits delivered for his court appearance, one light, one dark.

There are currently 37 detainees at The Hague indicted for their roles in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Released inmates say the ethnic rivalries that drove them to fratricide have faded within the prison's walls, and most indictees socialize and cook together, play sport and board games, and celebrate religious holidays.

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