War crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has arrived in the Netherlands to face trial at The Hague on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity relating to his role in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.
Just hours after an estimated 10,000 ultranationalists rallied in Belgrade to protest the July 21 capture, the former Bosnian Serb leader was escorted to the airport by masked officials from the Serbian secret service. A convoy of black jeeps took him from prison to the capital's airport.
Nerma Jelacic, a spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), told reporters on July 30 that Karadzic had been transferred into the UN court's custody.
"I can confirm that after 13 years of evading justice, Radovan Karadzic has been transferred into the custody of the tribunal. He arrived in the detention unit of Scheveningen shortly before 8 a.m."
Serge Brammertz, the ICTY's chief prosecutor, described Karadzic's capture as an important victory during a press conference in The Hague.
"The arrest of Radovan Karadzic is immensely important for the victims who had to wait for far too long for this day," he said. "It is also very important for international justice because it clearly demonstrates that there is no alternative to the arrest of war criminals and that there cannot be a safe heaven for the fugitives."
Karadzic's first days at The Hague will involve undergoing medical checkups and having his rights explained to him by representatives of the tribunal.
"The tribunal will ensure that Karadzic's well-being and right to [a] fair and expeditious trial is being respected and in accordance with [the] highest international standards that have been set by this tribunal, and during the course of today we expect to hear more about when we could be seeing him in the courtrooms of this tribunal for his initial appearance," Jelacic said.
Karadzic plans to represent himself during the trial, with the assistance of a team of lawyers. He will be summoned to face a judge on July 31 to enter pleas on 11 counts, including genocide and crimes against humanity. He is believed to be the mastermind behind the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left more than 12,000 dead and 50,000 wounded.
ICTY chief prosecutor Brammertz said that Karadzic's trial "will be a complex trial, like other cases before this tribunal. In order to prove these serious crimes, the prosecution will have to present a significant amount of evidence, including witness statements. We intend to present the prosecution case in the most efficient manner, while respecting the rights of the defense."
One of Karadzic's lawyers, Svetozar Vujacic, had been vocal in recent days in telling reporters about a last-ditch appeal that had been mailed from a remote location on July 25 in an attempt to delay his client's extradition before the ultranationalist rally in the Serbian capital on July 29. But Karadzic's legal team has now admitted that no such appeal had been lodged.
In signing off on Karadzic's extradition to The Hague, Serbia's Justice Ministry announced that "that all conditions have been met for the turnover of Radovan Karadzic to the ICTY."
Dusan Ignjatovic, the director of the Serbian government office for cooperation with The Hague tribunal, said in Belgrade that the extradition process followed standard procedure.
"The deadline for the appeal has expired, and based on a security estimate, he was transferred to The Hague," Ignjatovic said. "I do not see any relation between the rally of the Serbian Radical Party and the extradition of Karadzic."
Serbian Radical Party leader Aleksandar Vucic organized the July 29 rally to protest the "dictatorial regime" of President Boris Tadic, whose pro-Western government is hoping to capitalize on Karadzic's arrest by moving Serbia closer to the European Union.
Karadzic supporters were bussed into Belgrade for the demonstration, but their numbers fell short of expectations. Police estimated the crowd in central Belgrade at about 15,000, far fewer than the 150,000 demonstrators expected.
The protesters, singing nationalist songs and waving posters of their "Serbian Hero," were met by hundreds of police in riot gear. At least 25 police and 19 civilians were reportedly injured in clashes that broke out when police tried to break up the rally.
In the wake of the extradition, a newspaper delivery man told Reuters that he considers the former Bosnian Serb leader a savior. "Personally I was against this -- the extradition," he said. "He saved Serbs in Bosnia and without him there would be no more Serbs in Bosnia."
But many Serbs, including one unidentified Belgrade resident who spoke to Reuters, are of the opposite opinion. "If you ask me, all war criminals should be extradited. And if I may add something -- there is no collective guilt, why should you blame Serbia for the things that some individuals have done?"
The ICTY's Brammertz echoed those sentiments, calling for Serbia to deliver on its international obligations by handing over Karadzic's wartime commander and the former Serbian Croat leader, who remain at large.
"I hope that Serbia's cooperation will lead to the arrest of the two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic," he said. "Without these arrests, we cannot complete our mandate."