Accessibility links

Balkan Report: August 1, 2005

1 August 2005, Volume 9, Number 22

With this issue, "RFE/RL Balkan Report" will be published every second week.

KARADZIC AND MLADIC: 'THEY'RE EVERYWHERE BUT IN THE HAGUE.' Ten years have passed since former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his former military commander General Ratko Mladic were indicted by the Hague-based war crimes tribunal for genocide and other war crimes. The two fugitives remain at large, despite the obligation of NATO-led peacekeepers and the various governments in the region to arrest the indictees and send them to The Hague. Many people wonder why the most powerful military alliance in history and a host of governments seeking Euro-Atlantic integration remain unable to catch the two.

It is the Balkan equivalent of Loch Ness Monster stories. Reports pop up in the regional press from time to time, especially when news is slow in the summer, about a reported sighting of Karadzic, Mladic, former Croatian General Ante Gotovina, or some other fugitive indictee. In a related genre, articles appear in the media speculating on which local politician or commander will be the next one to be indicted by the tribunal. Whichever the case, the reports tend to be short on hard facts but long on speculation by "informed intelligence sources" or the like.

What is certain is that Karadzic and Mladic were indicted on 26 July 1995 -- while the 1992-95 conflict was still raging -- but remain on the run. The anniversary of the indictments attracted media attention, especially in the region. The Banja Luka daily "Nezavisne novine" published a long article about the reported sightings with the headline: "They're Everywhere But Not In The Hague Tribunal." RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service stressed that the two men have managed to hide successfully for a decade without anyone being able to catch them. Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service noted that there is a $5 million international reward out for the two fugitives, but even such a princely sum does not appear to have prompted anyone in an impoverished region to turn one or the other man in.

Radovan Karadzic was born on 19 June 1945 in the Niksic region of Montenegro, which is more generally known for its beer. His father was a craftsman, and the family had its role in continuing the Montenegrin tradition of epic folk poetry. Radovan has also demonstrated a literary bent, but his chosen profession is psychiatry. His studies included a stint in the United States, and his fluent English reportedly made him a favorite of foreigners in communist-era Sarajevo who sought the services of his profession. He allegedly was known for favoring drug therapy over counseling, and one of his patients recalled years later that she walked into his office on her visits but later "flew" home.

Karadzic made his mark on public life by helping found the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in 1989 and became its first president. The SDS is one of the three nationalist parties that have dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina's political life since the collapse of communism in a reversion to a pre-communist tradition of strong ethnically based parties. In the parliament in 1992, Karadzic warned Muslim and Croatian deputies that any move aimed at declaring independence from a rump Yugoslavia dominated by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic would be a step "on the highway to hell on which Slovenia and Croatia have already embarked." He added that the Muslim people would not survive such a conflict.

His record as a war criminal from April 1992 is based on the Bosnian Serb "ethnic-cleansing" campaigns, especially in eastern Bosnia and in the Banja Luka region, as well as on the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, crimes in which Mladic allegedly shares responsibility (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 July 2005). Following the conclusion of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, Karadzic gradually withdrew from public life and eventually disappeared from view altogether. He is believed to move about in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Montenegro, where clan traditions remain strong. Some reports have suggested that he has cut his trademark bushy hair and retired to a Serbian Orthodox monastery, but this and other accounts are pure speculation. What seems certain is that he has a solid and reliable network of supporters who have helped him avoid capture for a decade.

Mladic also seems to have friends and supporters, but they are most likely military men. He was born on 12 March 1943 in the village of Bozanovic near Kalinovik, which is south of Sarajevo and west of Foca. Kalinovik was traditionally a center of cattle breeding but developed as a garrison town during the Austro-Hungarian occupation from 1878 to 1918. Mladic's father was killed by the Ustashe during the war, so Ratko never knew him. The boy proved intelligent in school and eventually went to a military academy, where he finished first in his class in 1965. He rapidly rose through the ranks and had postings in Skopje, Kumanovo, Ohrid, and Stip.

The breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991 found him first in command of the Prishtina Corps in Kosova, and then in Knin, Croatia, which had just declared independence. Mladic commanded Bosnian Serb forces from May 1992 until the end of the war in 1995. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic removed him from his post in October 1996, after which he retired.

Subsequent Mladic "sightings" center on his former command center at Han Pijesak and at various places in Serbia, including Belgrade and its Topcider military complex. He appears to have been on the Bosnian Serb military payroll until 2002. As is the case with Karadzic, virtually all of the reports about him are speculation and might contain an element of disinformation, especially as regards the size and strength of the alleged bodyguard contingents protecting each of them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February and 25 July 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 November 2004).

The question remains as to how Karadzic's regional network and Mladic's military friends could be so effective in thwarting the intelligence-gathering and striking capabilities of NATO. Indeed, there have been some well-publicized NATO operations over the years, which presumably were aimed at catching one or the other of the fugitives, but all have come up empty-handed. The failure to apprehend the two men appears all the more embarrassing whenever an official of the tribunal or of a Western or regional country tells the press that he or she is "sure" that Karadzic or Mladic will be in The Hague by a certain date, which then comes and goes without any arrest having taken place.

Many people inside and outside the region have put forward various explanations for the apparent failure of the strongest military alliance in history to catch two men, some of which center on the alleged reluctance of some NATO forces to take casualties by trying to arrest presumably well-guarded fugitives, while others suggest that French, British, or perhaps other NATO officers are protecting one or both of the men as a matter of unstated policy. Some theories even hold that the Western powers and perhaps some Muslim and Croatian politicians would prefer not to have Karadzic or Mladic appear before the tribunal, where they might make some delicate wartime secrets public. As to the Serbian and Bosnian Serb authorities, it is generally assumed that they have either no desire to arrest the two men or no willingness to take the political risks that would arise if they did so.

In any event, until the two fugitives are in The Hague, they will be a source of embarrassment to NATO and of anger for Muslims and Croats. But one person from Sarajevo took a different approach and told RFE/RL that it is perhaps best that the two are not caught "so that they will have to go on living on the run like animals." (Patrick Moore)

NEW DISPUTE IN SLOVENIAN-CROATIAN RELATIONS? Relations between Croatia and Slovenia continue to be strained by a number of problems left over from the breakup of former Yugoslavia 14 years ago. This year, in addition to the hardy perennial question of maritime border issues, a dispute over highway construction has moved to center stage.

The first half of 2005 represented a generally peaceful respite from the tensions that have marred Slovenian-Croatian relations since they both declared independence from former Yugoslavia in June 1991 and traditionally flare up during the summer months. Perhaps it was in part to take advantage of this lull that the Croatian and Slovenian governments held a joint session on the Croatian island of Brijuni in early June. Although a number of agreements were reached -- most notably, an understanding to avoid future incidents in the contested Bay of Piran -- the goodwill expressed at the meeting appears to have reflected wishful thinking rather than true rapprochement in bilateral relations.

Years of petty incidents and squabbles between Slovenia and Croatia have polarized attitudes among both the general public and political leaders in both countries. Some of the contentious issues stemming from the post-Yugoslav succession include property rights, bank accounts, land frontiers, and the use and funding of the nuclear power plant at Krsko. But heading the list has been the dispute over the demarcation of the countries' maritime border, which was nearly resolved in 2001 by an agreement initialed by former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and his Croatian counterpart at the time, Ivica Racan, but which was later rejected by Croatia's parliament (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 3 August 2001). Since then, numerous incidents involving fishing vessels have taken place every summer, and resentment in Slovenia reached its apex in 2003 when Croatia unilaterally extended its jurisdiction over much of the Adriatic, effectively cutting Slovenia off from access to the open sea (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 October 2003).

The Bay of Piran appears set to become a point of contention once again in summer 2005. Slovenia's daily "Delo" reported on 16 July that there are almost daily incidents in the bay, mostly involving maritime police notifying fishermen that they are in contested waters. It was reported that on 14 July Croatian police intercepted a sailboat of Austrian tourists in waters claimed by Slovenia and demanded that they identify themselves. Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel also raised Croatian hackles in an interview published on 9 July in which he stated that the Drnovsek-Racan agreement remains the optimum basis for resolving the maritime dispute, despite its having been repudiated by the Croatian side.

Further inland, however, grumbling can be heard about a new issue: Slovenian delay in building highway connections to link Croatia's superhighway network with points northward. In July, Croatia celebrated the completion of a superhighway link extending most of the length of Dalmatia, as far south as Split. Dalmatian tourism is big business for Croatia and a key element in both the national economy and Croatia's image as a maritime country.

The Dalmatian superhighway is intended to speed Dutch, Austrian, and German tourists to their destinations -- and money into Croatia's coffers -- but there is one catch: You cannot get there from here. Or, at least, getting there is very inconvenient. Croatia's western and eastern superhighway connections feeding into Rijeka and Krapina stop short at the Slovenian border, where they degenerate into tedious secondary roads threading their way northward. The central Zagreb superhighway link does extend into Slovenia but peters out on its way to the Slovenian town of Novo Mesto. The comments published in Rijeka's "Novi List" on 1 July exemplify Croatia's resentment: "We're building, and the Slovenes are standing still. At least we're better than the Slovenes [who are members of both the EU and NATO] at road construction.... The Slovenes probably won't finish their part for another 20 years!"

Popular opinion in Croatia contends that Slovenia is deliberately delaying the development of road links to the south in retaliation for what Slovenes see as Croatian intransigence on bilateral issues. However, Slovenia counters that it is simply pursuing its own priorities first in highway construction. Slovenia's mountainous terrain has represented a significant challenge in developing its highway network (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 July 2002), and the superhighway linking Slovenia's two major cities -- Ljubljana and Maribor -- is slated to be completed only on 12 August.

Completing Slovenia's second national superhighway -- from Jesenice to Brezice -- will be the next priority, and creating connections to regional population centers will follow. Unfortunately for Croatia, the Slovenian regions that abut Croatia's northbound superhighways are some of the least populated in the country, and Slovenia therefore has little or no national incentive to hasten highway construction in those areas.

In a meeting at the Slovenian resort of Otocec on 4 July, Slovenian Transport Minister Janez Bozic promised his Croatian counterpart Bozidar Kalmeta that Slovenia would accelerate its plans to complete the link to Croatia's eastern superhighway connection. According to a 4 July article in Zagreb's "Vecernji List," construction of Slovenia's 40-kilometer Maribor-Gruskovje/Macelj segment has been advanced from 2010 to 2008, while Croatia will complete its 15-kilometer Krapina-Macelj segment by 2007. This will complete Croatia's lucrative connection to Germany via Austria's Pyhrn (A9) superhighway.

A 5 July "Delo" article pointed out that the Slovenian segment is due to become the greatest bottleneck on this route between Scandinavia and the Adriatic. Perhaps ultimately German and Dutch beachgoers -- rather than Zagreb politicians -- will pressure Slovenia to meet Croatia's highway demands. (Donald F. Reindl,

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "The biggest genocide in [all of] civilization." -- Ivo Miro Jovic, the Croatian member and current chairman of the Bosnian Presidency, on the expulsion of Croats from Bosnia during the 1992-95 conflict. Those expelled amounted to 45 percent of the prewar total. Quoted by Hina in Doboj on 24 July.

"The torture and murder of people -- innocent civilians -- cannot be a patriotic act but only a horrible crime." -- Belgrade District Court Judge Vinka Beraha-Nikicevic, in sentencing four Serbs for the killing of 16 Muslims in 1992 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2005). Quoted by Reuters.