Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Karadžić: The Saga Continues....

The arrest of Radovan Karadžić is the gift that keeps on giving for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Balkans.

First, it gave the proprietor of this still-humble blog a chance to assess the turbulent seven months in Serbia before Karadžić's arrest and what might happen in the future at The American Prospect's website.

Part of my argument in the piece is that Western diplomats need to give the new government a lot of positive praise, target any aid to achieve objectives that will make a positive difference in the life of ordinary Serbs, and to recalibrate their public stance a bit when it comes to pressuring Serbia. Firm insistence that the other two Hague Tribunal fugitives are located, arrested and turned over? Yes. Every one that is turned over is a defeat for Serbia's nationalists. Pushing hard on Kosovo status? Less useful at the moment. It is the one issue that gives the nationalists the necessary fuel to stoke disorder and discontent and possible cave in an already-shaky governing coalition.

And guess what? Just like clockwork, a US diplomat goes and pushes hard in public on Kosovo in Brussels.

Of course Kosovo's status will need to be settled. But a reform-minded government in Serbia that is much closer to accession to the EU and more firmly in the saddle is essential to doing so.

Meanwhile, the stories of Karadzic's life on the run get stranger and stranger. Turns out he was the king of Blok 45 in Novi Beograd, at a cafe called the "Mad House." (And that he treated bees with more dignity and compassion, than, say, the citizens of Sarajevo.)

Vesna Peric Zimonjic has two great stories today as well. Her first article in The Independent analyzes the news that Karadžić will try and defend himself at the Hague, along with including a lot of other juicy tidbits on the fake identity card that Karadžić obtained. Her other article is another take on "Karadžić on the lam" -- with the added frisson of talking with a Serbian novelist whose fictional account of the Hague Tribunal fugitive has eerie resonances with reality:

As a fuller picture emerged of his life as a fugitive, one person who was more shocked than most was the Belgrade writer Mirjana Djurdjevic, who found life imitating her fiction.

In her novel The First, Second and Third Man Djurdjevic put one of the most wanted men in the world into a Belgrade clinic where he worked as a psychiatrist.

"Of course I knew nothing about him. Putting him into a psychiatric office came as the result of my common sense," the novelist said on Serbian television. "I just tried to make an irony on the long-lasting hunt for Karadzic. It's often said that literature imitates reality, but now it came the other way round."

And as you ponder some of the other nuggets that Zimonjic unearths (Karadžić explained his odd hairdo by claiming that "This is how I receive energy"), you should also check out Eric Gordy's excellent piece on the politics of it all at OpenDemocracy's site.

In particular, the man behind East Ethnia digs deeper into a point to which I've only alluded at the end of my previous post on the arrest and in the Prospect article:

Serge Brammertz, the ICTY prosecutor, issued a statement welcoming the arrest. He must, however, be conscious of the challenge that awaits him. Not all of the major ICTY cases have gone so well for the prosecution. The prime suspect Slobodan Miloševic died in custody in March 2006 before a verdict could be reached; while one of the main witnesses against Milosevic, his former collaborator Milan Babic, committed suicide in custody. The trial of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader Vojislav Seselj repeatedly threatens to descend into a judicial circus. The acquittals of the Bosniak military commander Naser Oric and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Ramush Haradinaj have made the prosecution appear at best to be deficient in skill. The tribunal also on 18 July 2008 released its first convict, the unrepentant low-ranking soldier Dusan (Dusko) Tadic, after he had served two-thirds of his twenty-year sentence.

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