Can Serbia now deliver Mladic to The Hague?
Thursday, 24 July 2008

Radovan Karadzic's arrest is testament to Boris Tadic's office, but progress towards EU accession depends on delivering more

Ian Bancroft

The arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, announced last night by the office of the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, is a significant development for Serbia and the wider region. While the exact time and location of Karadzic's apprehension remains unknown, the involvement of the Serbian security services demonstrates both the patronage and influence of Tadic's pro-EU coalition, and Serbia's continuing transition towards civilian control over the state's security infrastructure. It is, however, the capture of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander also indicted for genocide and crimes against humanity, that will provide the severest test of the leverage of Tadic's pro-European forces.
 
Despite being first indicted in 1995, the significant international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina proved itself both unwilling and unable to apprehend Karadzic. Since then, Karadzic has allegedly been sighted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, and was also suspected of having fled to Russia, a claim vigorously denied by the Russian government. A recent book by Florence Hartmann, former spokeswoman for Carla del Ponte (chief prosecutor of the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)), entitled Peace and Punishment, explores the reluctance of France, Britain and the US to bring Karadzic to justice. As for opponents of the international criminal court's (ICC) indictment of Sudanese president Umar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur, pursuing Karadzic was often deemed secondary to the interests and presumed practicalities of pragmatism.
 
The arrest of Karadzic by Serbia's security services marks an important shift in the relationship between the security infrastructure and Serbia's democratically elected politicians. The assassination of Zoran Djindjic in 2002 raised important questions about parliamentary control and oversight of the security services, while ex-prime minister Vojislav Kostunica was widely believed to maintain a tight reign over the service's personnel and mandates. One of the first actions of the new government was to appoint Sasa Vukadinovic as the new director of the security services (BIA). Politically affiliated to Tadic's Democratic party (DS), Vukadinovic played a key role in the operation that followed Djindjic's assassination. As former state security chief Goran Petrovi asserted: "that post is under political patronage ... and since the DS is proposing him, and it is demanding The Hague's cooperation, which is Serbia's only condition for EU membership, that means that this will be the director's priority."
 
Karadzic's arrest comes at a time when the attitudes of many Serbs towards the ICTY have been further soured by the acquittals of both Ramush Haradinaj, a former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army and former prime minister of Kosovo, and Naser Oric, a former Bosnian commander accused of crimes against Serbs in the area of Srebrenica. In response to the latter verdict, several members of the governing coalition called for a freezing of cooperation with The Hague tribunal. The inclusion of the Socialist party of Serbia (SPS) in the new governing coalition, meanwhile, had raised serious doubts about its ability to comply with ICTY conditionality. The SPS remains publicly opposed to extraditing the remaining war crimes suspects, with the new interior minister and SPS leader, Ivica Dacic, suggesting that Serbia's co operation with The Hague was not a priority. Indeed, the interior ministry has been quick to clarify that its officers "had nothing to do with locating and arresting Radovan Karadzic".
 
As such, the arrest of Karadzic demonstrates the determination of Tadic's governing coalition to hasten Serbia's accession towards the EU. Though Serbia signed the stabilisation and association agreement (SAA) with the EU prior to May's parliamentary elections, its ratification by EU member states was made dependent upon a positive appraisal of Serbia's cooperation with The Hague. As European commission president José Manuel Barroso attests, Karadzic's capture "proves the determination of the new Serbian government to achieve full cooperation with The Hague tribunal".
 
Attention will now immediately shift to the two remaining war crimes suspects, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, one of the former Croatian Serb leaders. The former has been deemed, particularly by the Netherlands and Belgium, the prime obstacle to Serbia's accession towards Europe. In comparison to Karadzic, Mladic remains more widely revered as a war hero to Serbian nationalists and, as an ex-military commander, is believed to command significant protection from factions within Serbia's armed forces. Whether the office of President Tadic possesses the necessary leverage to pursue Mladic remains unclear, but his seizure and extradition to The Hague would provide the most decisive signal yet that Serbia is ready to join the EU.
 
The detention of Radovan Karadzic after 13 years is testimony to both the political will and capacity of the office of President Tadic to pursue a European course. While it remains to be seen whether or not Karadzic's apprehension will be sufficient for Serge Brammertz, The Hague's chief prosecutor, to deliver a positive assessment of Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY, the EU should immediately capitalise on these developments to encourage an acceleration of Serbia's bid for EU membership. Future progress, however, will ultimately depend upon Serbia's ability to deliver Mladic to The Hague.
 
Ian Bancroft worked as a consultant to the Democratisation Department of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.

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