Monday, July 21, 2008

Breaking News: Bosnian Serb Leader Arrested

Good news, in the sense of better late than never!

Few details yet, aside from the fact that former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic--on the run since 1997--was arrested in Serbia.

The deeper question, of course, is why it took so long. As several reports point out, the arrest comes on the eve of negotiations involving Serbia's progress on entry into the EU, one precondition for which is the arrest of war criminals. (See this BBC report from 2004 on earlier difficulties in the pursuit of the criminals.)

Among the crimes he is charged with in the indictment of the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague are complicity in the shooting of civilians during the siege of Sarajevo and the infamous massacre of 8000 Muslims at Srebrenica.

Two general lessons: (1) It is essential to pursue war criminals relentlessly for both principled and practical reasons (they live in the constant awareness that they are never out of danger--small discomfort compared to what they forced their victims to endure, but nonetheless a form of poetic interim justice; and under pressure, they may make crucial mistakes); (2) In the course of that pursuit, it is worth remembering that naked self-interest can at times trump ideology and personal loyalty. At the least, one begins to wear down and tempt all but their most fanatical protectors. By this time, Karadzic was clearly a liability rather than an asset to the Serbian government.

A sampling of early reports:


AP (via Newsweek)


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