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Balkan Report: August 12, 2005


12 August 2005, Volume 9, Number 23

KARADZIC'S WIFE TELLS HIM: 'GIVE YOURSELF UP.' Both the wife of war crimes indictee and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and the current Republika Srpska president have called on Karadzic to surrender. Many wonder why these pleas came precisely at this time.

Almost 10 years to the day following his indictment for war crimes by the Hague-based tribunal, Karadzic's wife Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic appealed to him in a broadcast carried by several regional television stations on 28 July to surrender to the tribunal. She stressed that their family can no longer live with the incessant pressure from unnamed international and local authorities seeking his arrest.

"Our family is under constant pressures from all sides," she noted. "Our lives and existence are threatened. That is why I have to make a choice between my loyalty to you and toward my children and grandchildren. And I have made it," Zelen-Karadzic said in an emotional appeal. She stressed that "it is painful and difficult for me to plead with you. However, I am pleading with you with all my heart and soul to surrender" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 May and 18 July 2005, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 and 29 July 2005).

Her appeal came as a surprise to regional political, military, and journalistic communities. The couple's daughter, Sonja, told the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA that the interview was authentic, adding, however, that her mother will not make any further statements. In Belgrade, Radovan's brother Luka said that his sister-in-law's statement is evidence of the "great pressure" placed on the family by "those who claim to speak in the name of democracy and human rights."

In Sarajevo, EUFOR commander British Major General David Leakey told Bosnian television, however, that Zelen-Karadzic's announcement is no surprise considering the pressure that the Bosnian Serb authorities and the family have been under. "Her appeal does not surprise me at all. Radovan Karadzic has deserted his wife, and that is very upsetting for the family," Leakey added. He called Karadzic a "disgrace for his country" because he reportedly fled with large sums of money that could have been used for pensions and other public purposes. In the next few days, several other officials of the international community, including the U.S. State Department, also hailed Zelen-Karadzic's appeal.

Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 28 July she should have added that not only the family is threatened but also the Serbian state and people. Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Prvoslav Davinic said that her message is probably linked to an unspecified attempt by the international community to negotiate Radovan's surrender in agreement with his family.

Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, told the private Beta news agency on 29 July that it will greatly demoralize those people hiding and protecting fugitive indictee and former Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko Mladic if Karadzic turns himself in. Ljajic added that the decision is Karadzic's alone to make and will not be ordered by any third party.

Jovan Simic, who is an adviser to Serbian President Boris Tadic, told the private Beta news agency that the situation is "very serious" and that "we will probably know [Karadzic's] answer very soon." The following day, Tadic issued a statement praising Zelen-Karadzic's appeal. Referring to the political problems facing Belgrade and Banja Luka as long as Karadzic and former General Mladic remain at large, Tadic said that "the resolution of this question would contribute to the stabilization of the region and would serve to strengthen the credibility of the Republika Srpska."

Tadic used the opportunity to call once again on Mladic to surrender, adding that the Croatian authorities should similarly urge fugitive indictee and former General Ante Gotovina to give himself up to the tribunal. "The resolution of all these cases would significantly increase the chances for the entire region to enter the EU," Tadic stressed.

A spokesman for former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia said on 29 July that it is "in the interest of the state and nation" for indictees to surrender to the tribunal voluntarily, adding that the indictees themselves must decide what is right, the private Beta news agency reported.

Elsewhere, Gordana Pop Lazic, who is vice president of Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party, said that Zelen-Karadzic's appeal is fully understandable considering her position "as a mother and wife." Pop Lazic added, however, that she would remind Karadzic and former General Mladic that Seselj, who turned himself into the tribunal and is in prison in The Hague, has advised the two men "not to let themselves be taken alive to the Hague tribunal." Pop Lazic argued that the troubles of the Karadzic family will not cease even if Radovan goes to The Hague because there is no one to protect the family from unspecified threats.

Miroslav Popara, who is a top Bosnian Serb security official based in Pale, where the Karadzic family lives, told RFE/RL that no one in the family ever complained to police that they were threatened or in danger.

Republika Srpska officials did not otherwise react quickly to Zelen-Karadzic's plea, but President Dragan Cavic said in Banja Luka on 1 August that Karadzic must surrender to the tribunal in the interests of the Republika Srpska. Cavic stressed that "Karadzic must turn himself in. If he doesn't do so, he must be arrested.... There is no third way." Cavic noted that the Bosnian Serb police have been working for months to find and arrest indictees. He acknowledged that many Bosnian Serbs regard arresting indictees as unfair because they consider the tribunal biased against Serbs. The president added, however, that failure to arrest indictees poses "a serious political problem that might grow and create additional problems for the Republika Srpska."

Almost as soon as Zelen-Karadzic made her appeal, speculation began in the regional media as to why she spoke out precisely at that time. Some observers took her remarks at face value, suggesting that her decision might have been prompted by NATO peacekeepers' recent brief seizure of her son Sasa (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July 2005).

Another view is that her plea is part of a plan by Karadzic, his family, and officials in Banja Luka and Belgrade to orchestrate his surrender under circumstances that will enable him to portray himself as a devoted family man and patriot and gain a sort of propaganda victory in the process. Some commentators suggested that Belgrade and Banja Luka have assured the family of very generous material support if Karadzic surrenders, which is an approach that has apparently been the key to Belgrade's recent successful program of persuading indictees to give themselves up voluntarily.

Many commentators took the view that, regardless of what prompted Zelen-Karadzic's remarks, her husband is likely to respond in one way or another very soon. In any event, as Branko Todorovic of the Republika Srpska Helsinki Committee for Human Rights told RFE/RL, the recent developments have served to dim some of the aura around Karadzic in the eyes of many of his countrymen. (Patrick Moore)

MOVING BEYOND DAYTON. Sadic Ahmetvic is hoping to work himself right out of a job. The Srebrenica native is just one of 10 Muslims serving in the 82-member Republika Srpska parliament, an institution he hopes will someday cease to exist. "I am ready for a political fight to dismantle the Republika Srpska," Ahmetvic, 36, said in a recent interview in a cafe on the outskirts of Sarajevo. "The Republika Srpska only exists due to Radovan Karadzic's policy of genocide. It never existed before."

Ahmetvic's hostility to the Bosnian Serb Republic is rooted in experience -- he is one of a handful of males who managed to escape the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic executed as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Ahmetvic was working in a Srebrenica hospital when Mladic's forces launched their final assault on the city.

After tending to the last wounded on 11 July, Ahmetvic made a run for it by trekking through the surrounding mountains, arriving in Zepa, just as that city too fell to Serb forces. "I thought it was the end," he said. "I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk, I couldn't make any decisions." He then learned that a United Nations helicopter was flying the wounded to Sarajevo. "I wanted to be wounded," Ahmetvic said. "So I shot myself in the leg, put a bandage on the wound, and flew to Sarajevo."

In September 1995, Ahmetvic was united with his wife and infant son in Tuzla. And after the war ended, the family returned to Srebrenica. "This is how I am getting revenge for what they did," Ahmetvic said of his decision to return to Srebrenica. "This is for all the people who wanted me dead," he added.

As Bosnia-Herzegovina marked the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre earlier this month, stories like Ahmetvic's were featured prominently in media reports recalling the massacre. And as the country prepares to commemorate a decade of peace following the 1995 Dayton peace agreement in November, his notion that the Republika Srpska should be abolished is gaining increasing currency among Muslims.

While Dayton ended the war in Bosnia by dividing the country into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic, many Muslims say the creation of the Republika Srpska rewarded genocide and ethnic cleansing. "It would have been pretty nasty if the allies gave part of Germany back to the Nazis," Ahmetvic said.

Additionally, with two "entities" and a weak central government, the accords created a cumbersome administrative and bureaucratic labyrinth with five presidents, three prime ministers, three parliaments, 140 ministers, two separate police forces and -- until recently -- two armies.

But the road beyond Dayton, many analysts say, is fraught with peril and could just as easily lead in directions other than the abolition of the entities and the establishment of a unitary, democratic, and multinational state. Nationalists would likely dominate any constitutional convention, which could lead to either the strengthening of the power of Bosnia's entities, or even the eventual partitioning of the country.

Since taking office in May 2002, High Representative Paddy Ashdown has been pursuing a strategy of peeling away the powers of the entities, both the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska, and transferring them to the central government. A single prosecutorial service, a State Organized Crime Chamber, a State Information and Protection Agency, an Indirect Tax Authority, and a state intelligence agency have all been set up. On 18 July, the country's Defense Reform Commission signed legislation to create a unified army under a single defense minister.

The moves are all part of an effort by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to prepare Bosnia to join NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, and to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union. In a speech to the Bosnian parliament on 19 July, Ashdown said he hopes to see the country complete the necessary steps to sign the SAA by November -- in time for the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords -- and for the OHR to be replaced by an EU-led mission by October 2006. "Once that threshold is crossed, then the scaffolding of the European Union starts to replace the scaffolding of Dayton, as Bosnia-Herzegovina moves into the next phase of its journey to statehood," Ashdown said.

As one senior international official in Sarajevo, put it, the "push of Dayton will be replaced by the pull of Brussels." But while such a development would give Bosnia a chance for a better future, it is running into strong opposition in the Republika Srpska, where officials stand to lose a lot of power and influence. Ashdown's plans for police reform, which would transfer law-enforcement powers from the entities to the central government, are sparking the strongest opposition, with Bosnian Serb leaders consistently blocking the proposed overhaul. When the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and the Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) failed to show up for talks in Sarajevo on 26 July to discuss the future of police reform, Ashdown accused them of a "lack of seriousness" and said they are jeopardizing Bosnia's chances to integrate with Europe. Reforming Bosnia's police force is one of the EU's conditions for signing an SAA. "Those who decide that playing small opposition politics comes before their country's EU future cannot be a serious opposition party," Ashdown said in a press release posted on the OHR website.

Speaking to the Republika Srpska parliament on 21 April, Ashdown tried to calm fears that police reform is an effort to dismantle the entity. "There is no hidden agenda in police reform. There is no plot to open up, by clandestine means, the question of constitutional reform. This is not an attack on [the] Republika Srpska. This is not an attempt to abolish the entities," Ashdown said.

Nevertheless, analysts and top international officials in Bosnia have pointed out that even if the entities are not formally dismantled, police reform would accelerate the process of gutting, emasculating, and leaving them as essentially empty shells -- with real political power resting in the central government. And with 79 percent of the Republika Srpska's residents favoring eventual membership in the EU, and with 51 percent favoring police reform if it will take Bosnia into Europe, Ashdown appears to have public opinion on his side on the issue.

Maybe Sadic Ahmetvic will find himself happily out of a job after all. (Brian Whitmore)

CHURCHES AND HELICOPTERS IN MONTENEGRO: POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS. The Army of Serbia and Montenegro recently provided helicopters to help construct an Orthodox church in Montenegro. The ensuing controversy shows once again how politically explosive ostensibly religious issues can still be in parts of former Yugoslavia.

Representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) consecrated a small prefabricated metal church on Mount Rumija near Bar on 31 July, one day before the deadline that the Montenegrin Environment Ministry had given the SPC to remove the structure. An unspecified number of helicopters (some accounts say it was only one) of the Army of Serbia and Montenegro brought the church to the mountain on 21 July without the permission of the pro-independence Montenegrin authorities. After the church was dedicated, a spokesman for the pro-Belgrade Serbian People's Party (SNS) called for the reconstruction of a former SPC chapel on Mount Lovcen in place of the mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic Njegos, the Montenegrin national hero and writer.

Several pro-independence Montenegrin political leaders said the SPC is misusing religion for political ends by erecting the church on Mount Rumija, a mountain that has importance for Montenegro's Orthodox and Islamic communities alike. Montenegrin Albanian political leader Mehmet Bardhi said in Podgorica that the dedication of the church on Mount Rumija is "the biggest provocation against the Albanians in the past 50 years," adding that the move "is preparing the ground for further ones" that he did not specify.

Most Montenegrins belong to the SPC, regardless of their political beliefs. But there is also a small Montenegrin Orthodox Church that is closely allied to the much larger pro-independence movement. Many supporters of independence regard the SPC as an ally or instrument of the Belgrade authorities, who seek to shore up pro-Serbian elements in the Montenegrin population in anticipation of a referendum on independence in 2006. (See "Montenegrin Foreign Minister Makes The Case For Independence") Underlying the problem is the fact that there has never been a solid consensus among Montenegrins as to whether they are a special branch of the Serbian nation or a separate and distinct people.

On 2 August, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and speaker of the parliament Ranko Krivokapic announced in Podgorica that they will seek to determine who in the Army of Serbia and Montenegro is responsible for the use of the helicopter or helicopters to build the church.

It is not clear what the military's position is. On 2 August, Chief of the General Staff General Dragan Paskas said on Serbian television that high-ranking clerics of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Podgorica asked the army for the helicopters to transport the small building. Paskas argued that the army's agreement did not constitute an "abuse of its authority [because] the army in this case was [simply] helping, like [it has] in many previous situations."

Elsewhere, however, Deputy Defense Minister Vukasin Maras said those responsible for using the helicopters will have to answer for it. Some observers told RFE/RL that they are sure that Maras will get to the bottom of the matter, while others were skeptical and suggested that he is simply playing politics.

Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic took a slightly different tack. He said that there is no justification for the fact that he and his fellow Montenegrin, Serbia and Montenegro's President Svetozar Marovic, both learned about the use of the helicopters only from the media even though both men belong to the Supreme Defense Council. Maras, he added, also learned of the matter from the media.

It is not clear whether the authorities will seek to remove the church or whether some mutually face-saving deal will be worked out. The SPC has meanwhile sought to legalize the status of the structure. Several observers noted in the media that Montenegro has many buildings, including mosques, that were built without permits, and that efforts to legalize such structures now should be encouraged. For his part, Montenegro's Environment Minister Boro Vucinic said that he is happy that the SPC and its Metropolitan Amfilohije have, as he put it, "finally decided to respect the legal system and the laws of Montenegro" and register the new building.

Whatever might come of the Mount Rumija dispute, it seems certain to have political repercussions. Tensions between pro-independence and pro-Belgrade forces have been on the rise for some time in anticipation of the 2006 referendum. The Montenegrin government, moreover, has long been concerned about the roles of the army and the SPC in internal politics. And the present imbroglio over the church on Mount Rumija comes at a time when relations between Serbia and Macedonia also are strained over issues regarding the SPC and its rival, the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Some observers say that the two controversies are part of a broader attempt by the SPC to assert its role in public life throughout the region. Others commentators, such as one for Deutsche Welle's Bosnian Service, pointed out that Djukanovic himself has not been above misusing religion for political purposes and was happy to enlist the support of Amfilohije and the SPC in the 1997 Montenegrin presidential election campaign. Djukanovic was then running against Momir Bulatovic, an ally of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose relations with the SPC were poor.

In any event, the latest controversy over Mount Rumija shows how politically explosive ostensibly religious issues can still be in some parts of former Yugoslavia. This is true even at the start of the 21st century, when the governments of the region are officially committed to seeking Euro-Atlantic integration and a pluralistic society. (Patrick Moore)

QUOTATIONS: "We couldn't suspend our aid to Albania even if we wanted to." -- Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman Pasquale Terracciano, quoted by dpa in Rome on 28 July. He was referring to charges in a German daily that Italy is seeking to bully Albania by freezing $266 million in aid in order to persuade Tirana not to back Germany's campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

"In implementing its expansionist plans, the Catholic Church goes as far as to appropriate [public land] and illegally erect crosses where they should not be erected, with some priests spreading untruths about the [Muslims] and [denying their existence] as a nation." -- Mufti Seid Smajkovic to a group of young Muslims in Mostar. Quoted by Hina on 31 July.

"The rhetoric used by [Smajkovic] 10 years after the end of the war is worrying.... Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, should call for coexistence, peace, and tolerance, especially in multiethnic and multicultural Bosnia-Herzegovina." -- Miso Relota, a spokesman for the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ). Quoted by Hina in Mostar on 1 August.

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