Global Policy Forum

Karadzic and Mladic Will Never Really "Do Time"


By John Berlin

UN Observer
August 11, 2007

General Ratko Mladic remains at large. Mr Radovan Karadzic remains at large. The men responsible for the Srebrenica massacre and for many other atrocities on the Balkans in the 1990s may never see a prison cell from the inside. They're on the ICTY's wanted list; several European and other intelligence services are on the lookout for them; EUFOR is on the lookout for them; there's a multi-million-dollar-reward for information that leads to their arrest . It makes you wonder how it is possible that twelve (!) years after Srebrenica, Mladic and Karadzic, both now in their early sixties, are still free men. Clearly something is wrong.

Years ago, Western powers divided the top of the most-wanted-list among them. Major fugitives must be caught by major powers - that's part of the game. Most of the people that were wanted by the ICTY have been caught. The "Secret List" (i.e. the unpublished list) of people wanted by the Tribunal now no longer exists; that list has been fulfilled. From the published list, only a handful of fugitives remain, with Karadzic and Mladic topping the list.

Karadzic is believed to be in Montenegro. Montenegro lies outside the mandate of EUFOR - which makes it considerably harder for intelligence operations to be carried out there. Mladic is believed to be in Serbia, under the protection of Serbia's intelligence structure and elements from the military. But none of the major powers seems actively interested in catching them and the minor powers that over the years had forces in the Balkans as well, didn't have Karadzic or Mladic on their part of the Wanted List. So the two didn't have much to fear. Karadzic seems to be in deep hiding, Mladic seems to "surface" briefly, only now and then.

Once in a while, one hears arguments supporting the present situation, arguments for not pursuing the arrest of these two Most Wanted men. The essence of such arguments almost always is: "They are still highly popular in nationalist Serbia as symbols of a war that Serbians perceive to have been very successful; therefore the badly needed normalization of Serbia and the country's integration into Europe will be severely hampered by Karadzic' and Mladic' arrest."

Such arguments don't generally receive a lot of attention, as it is often seen to be immoral to "weigh the fate of eight million living Serbs against that of the 8,000 from Srebrenica and the victims from other atrocities - but perhaps that is exactly what is going on. Perhaps the survivors, the victims' relatives and friends, as well as the general public, are being railroaded.

Every now and then rumours surface about negotiations between Mladic and Western powers. These negotiations are said to be about the terms and conditions of Mladic' arrest. And these rumours are basically always the same: Mladic wants financial and security "arrangements" for his family and for some crooks in his circle; Western powers find his demands too steep, and then there's silence again. On the side, the Serbian government, every now and then, pays lip service to the desirability of Karadzic' and Mladic' capture. No vindication, so far, for Srebrenica's 8,000.

Chances are that not much will change between now and the end of 2008. By the end of next year, the ICTY's mandate basically ends. If the two mass murderers have not been standing in front of their judges in The Hague then, they never will. There's no time to lose, you would think. But face it: it has been years and years and years, and they're still at large. Predominantly because the most important major power, the US, has not lifted even a finger for their capture.

For example, in 1996 and 1997 Western military presence in Bosnia was at its peak. The two men could easily have been caught. How is it then that NATO personnel visiting a Serbian military base in August 1996 hurriedly left when it transpired that Mladic was coming to that same base? The same goes, of course, for Karadzic. Or how else could it be that, at a time when over 60,000 NATO troops were deployed in Bosnia and when all roads were rife with checkpoints, Karadzic travelled uninterrupted from Pale to Banja Luka, a route some 220 miles long? According to NATO, Karadzic has almost completely gone underground and was last seen in the summer of 2003 in the Ostrog monastery in eastern Bosnia. This indicates that NATO, by definition, denies any newer sightings in Bosnia, such as in the spring of 2006, in Trebinje.

What to think of the claim by Ambassador Bill Montgomery, US Special Representative for peace implementation in Bosnia in the years immediately after the Bosnian War, that "(.) the senior officials of the uniformed and civilian sides of the United States Department of Defense absolutely refused to have anything to do with the apprehension of war criminals in Bosnia"? A claim substantiated by none other than former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, who held several senior UN positions in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 90's, who wrote that "There was (.) a truly massive reluctance throughout the NATO chain of command - the senior commanders on all levels of relevance being American - to address (this) issue."

When you look around, you can find several of such indications, big and small - indications of there being a significant American interest in the freedom of Gen Mladic and Mr Karadzic. Why? If there is an active interest in their freedom, if - as we may assume - the ICTY Chief Prosecutor's often repeated claim is true that not enough is being done to catch them: why? If the periodical rumours about Mladic' negotiations are true - and these rumours can generally be traced back to "intelligence sources", which makes them "governmental"- then no deal can have been struck between Mladic and Western powers that would enable Mladic to remain at large. Yet if there is a deal, then these "governmental" rumours have most probably been deliberately fabricated. After all, Mladic cannot both have secured his freedom AND carry on negotiations about his arrest.

It usually helps to ask who profits - and how. Well, if Mladic and Karadzic have made a deal with the Western powers to secure their freedom, they profit by the end of next year - when ICTY essentially starts to fold. There is already a trend to have "local" trials for war crimes suspects, so after 2008, the two main fugitives could appear in a Serbian court, participate in some kind of trial that goes easy on them, receive some symbolic sentence, and be in the clear - and the international community would, according to some, profit from the fact that the normalization and euro-integration of Serbia would not be hampered by something as shocking as life imprisonment for two of the world's greatest mass murderers who happen to be almost national heroes in their own country.

Of course there are other forces at work as well, forces that may hamper or even disable any freedom-deal between the Western powers and the fugitives. The ICTY tries to gain some degree of influence in political Balkan circles; members of Western intelligence services on the Balkans sometimes step up real efforts because they believe in justice; the shady mix of organized crime and politics that partly governs the Balkans, at times, may need to get rid of the Karadzic/Mladic-factor. But when such forces come too close to success, they come under attack. Some years ago, it seemed as if MI6 (i.e. the British foreign intelligence service) was coming closer to actually endangering the security of the two fugitives. Guess what? MI6 agents in the Balkans were exposed through newspaper reports and MI6 cars and equipment trucks were simply blown up. One cannot prove precisely who orchestrated this, but to believe that such things happen by coincidence would be utterly naí¯ve.

So, you have genocide, war crimes and other atrocities; you know who are ultimately responsible; you can find out where they are; you basically have the means and the men to get them - and for years and years, you don't. Just periodically there are these "rumours" about "negotiations" from intelligence sources, and that's it. Wait until 2009 for some fake trial in Serbia. It is a crying shame.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on Radovan Karadzic
More Information on Ratko Mladic
More Information on the Rogues Gallery
More Information on the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.