Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageBosnian Serb leader Karadzic: war criminal with '1,000 faces'

By Rusmir SMAJILHODZIC (AFP)     Mar 20, 2019 in World

President, psychiatrist, poet and even New Age healer -- Serb hero Radovan Karadzic lived a varied life before being convicted of war crimes in The Hague.

Now the former Bosnian Serb leader will spend the rest of it in jail, after a UN court handed him a life sentence on appeal for his role in Bosnia's 1990s inter-ethnic war, which left 100,000 people dead and displaced more than two million.

The tribunal increased Karadzic's sentence from 40 years to life, upholding his conviction on charges including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The worst atrocity on the charge-sheet was the slaughter of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica in July 1995.

While international justice has now laid down its final judgement of the 73-year-old, Karadzic remains a deeply divisive figure in the court of public opinion.

To the international community and his foes, Bosnia's Croats and Muslims, he is a monster responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

But for many Serbs he remains a hero -- akin to those in the epic Serb poetry that inspired him -- who stood up for his people in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war as Yugoslavia fell apart.

"Personally, I don't believe in the legitimacy of this court," the current leader of Bosnia's Serbs, Milorad Dodik, said on the eve of the ruling.

- 'A thousand faces' -

Map and description of the events that led to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre
Map and description of the events that led to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre
V.Breschi/J-M.Cornu, Jonathan JACOBSEN, AFP

Karadzic was born in the poor Montenegrin village of Petnjica in June 1945 -- the same year that Josip Broz Tito's communist Yugoslavia came into being at the end of World War II.

In 1960 Karadzic moved to ethnically mixed Sarajevo, where he studied medicine, met his wife Ljiljana and later served a year in prison for fraud.

A keen poet, Karadzic was said to live a bohemian lifestyle and have Muslim friends, working as a football team psychiatrist and showing few nationalistic tendencies.

His professional mentor, psychiatrist Ismet Ceric, told the US programme Frontline that Karadzic had "a thousand different faces" and likely a personality disorder.

"He doesn't live in reality," said Ceric, describing the poetry Karadzic was so proud of as "very, very ordinary".

It was not until 1990, as communism collapsed, that Karadzic entered politics and founded the nationalist Serb Democratic Party, soon discovering a taste for power.

After Bosnia became independent from Yugoslavia in 1992 following a referendum boycotted by Bosnian Serbs, Belgrade-backed Karadzic declared a separate Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, with himself as leader.

A Bosnian woman mourns at the grave of a relative at the Potocari Memorial Center near the town of S...
A Bosnian woman mourns at the grave of a relative at the Potocari Memorial Center near the town of Srebrenica, where almost 8,000 Muslims men and boys were killed in July 1995
Dimitar Dilkoff, AFP/File

In the bitter war that ensued with Bosnia's Muslim-led government, Karadzic is blamed for authorising ethnic cleansing in which more than a million non-Serbs were driven from their homes, accompanied by widespread killing and rape in a calculated programme of terror.

Opening the prosecution at his trial in 2009, Alan Tieger described Karadzic as the "supreme commander, a man who harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to implement his vision of an ethnically separated Bosnia".

- 'Most evil' -

At the end of 1995, Karadzic was excluded from the peace negotiations by his former ally, Belgrade's strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who later died in detention in The Hague before facing a verdict.

Richard Holbrooke said Karadzic 'would have made a good Nazi'
Richard Holbrooke said Karadzic 'would have made a good Nazi'
PASCAL GUYOT, AFP

The late Richard Holbrooke, a chief architect of the 1995 Dayton peace accord that ended the war, once described Karadzic as "one of the worst, most evil men in the world".

"He would have made a good Nazi," Holbrooke told Der Spiegel magazine after Karadzic's arrest.

After the peace accord, Karadzic resigned under pressure from the international community and went into hiding, with reports emerging of him sheltering in remote Orthodox monasteries in the region.

Winning near-mythical status as spy services failed to find him, Karadzic took on the alter ego of spiritual healer Dragan Dabic, who gave lectures, had a national magazine column and drank in a Belgrade bar called the Madhouse.

With a $5 million bounty on his head, Dabic was finally unmasked as Karadzic when he was arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008, after nearly 13 years on the run.

The news sparked celebrations in Sarajevo and protests in Belgrade, while a defiant Karadzic was sent to The Hague, where he will now spend his remaining years.

burs-ssm/bp

More about Serbia, Bosnia, warcrimes, icty
More news from
Latest News
Top News