Global Policy Forum

Profile: Radovan Karadzic

February 20, 2004

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is one of the most wanted men in the world.

Accused of leading the slaughter of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, he has twice been indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The UN says his murder squads killed up to 6,000 Muslims at Srebrenica in July 1995 "in order to kill, terrorise and demoralise the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat population". He was also charged over the shelling of Sarajevo, and the use of 284 UN peacekeepers as human shields in May and June 1995. After the Dayton accord that ended the Bosnian war, the former nationalist president went into hiding - possibly in the mountainous south eastern area of the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia, and protected by paramilitaries.


He has denied the charges against him and refused to recognise the legitimacy of the UN tribunal. "If The Hague was a real juridical body I would be ready to go there to testify or do so on television, but it is a political body that has been created to blame the Serbs," he told the UK-based Times newspaper in February 1996. Mr Karadzic was born in 1945 in a stable in Savnik, Montenegro. His father, Vuk, had been a member of the Chetniks - Serb nationalist guerrillas who fought against both Nazi occupiers and Tito's communist partisans in World War II - and was in jail for much of his son's childhood. His mother, Jovankas Karadzic, has described her son as loyal, and a hard-worker, who used to help her in the home and in the field. She said he was a serious boy who was respectful towards the elderly and helped his school friends with their homework.

Head of state

In 1960 he moved to Sarajevo, where he later met his wife, Ljiljana, graduated as a doctor, and became a psychologist in a city hospital. He also became a poet and fell under the influence of the Serb nationalist writer Dobrica Cosic, who encouraged him to go into politics. Years later, after working briefly for the Green Party, he helped set up the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) - formed in 1990 in response to the rise of national and Croat parties in Bosnia and dedicated to the goal of a Greater Serbia. Less than two years later, as Bosnia-Hercegovina gained recognition as an independent state, he declared the creation of the independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina (later renamed Republika Srpska) with its capital in Sarajevo, and himself as head of state. He was jointly indicted in 1995 along with the Bosnian Serb military leader, Ratko Mladic, for alleged war crimes they committed during the 1992-95 war. He was obliged to step down as president of the SDS in 1996 as the West threatened sanctions against Republika Srpska, and later went into hiding.

More Information on International Justice
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