Radovan Karadzic was a wanted man. The United States had put a bounty worth 3-million euros on the head of the former Bosnian Serb leader, and his military chief, Ratko Mladic.
They were both being hunted for their alleged roles in war crimes committed during the Bosnian War between 1992 and 95. Mladic is still at large. In February 1992, as war was about to erupt, Karadzic had a stark warning for the Bosnian Parliament.
“Don’t think you won’t take Bosnia to hell and Muslim people perphaps to extinction,” he said, “because Muslims can’t defend themselves if there is a war here.”
The former psychiatrist and amateur poet became the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and the right hand man of Slobodan Milosevic – who himself had been accused of wanting to create a Greater Serbia. The war in Bosnia, which was to claim 200,000 dead or missing, came to be symbolised by the siege of Sarajevo.
For three years, the city was surrounded by Bosnian Serb artillery and snipers, raining shells and bullets onto the population below. One of the worst atrocities exploded among shoppers at a market in the city. At the end of August, 1995, it was packed when Serb mortars fell. At least 33 civilians died.
In May 1995, Karadzic’s positions were facing bombardment by NATO forces. The Serbs took hostages – soldiers of the United Nations – and used them as human shields. It is another charge Karadzic is facing.
But it is Srebrenica which encapsulated the viciousness of the Bosnian War. The town had been declared a safe-haven by the UN, guarded by Dutch troops. But Bosnian Serbs took over, separated the men and boys from the women, and massacred all 8-thousand over a period of days.
The Dayton Accord in December 95 brought an end to the Bosnian War. Karadzic denounced the settlement and defied international demands for him to leave office.
Bosnia Herzegovina had been split into two: The Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Srpska Republic – the domain of Radovan Karadzic. Despite his stubborn stance, he eventually bowed to international pressure and stepped down as Bosnian Serb leader in the middle of 96.
He had been officially indicted, and NATO troops had begun rounding up war crimes suspects. By 1997, it was time to go underground. But the years of being the United Nations quarry took its toll on his supporters.
In July 2005, his wife Ljiljana pleaded with him to give himself up. “I beg you to surrender,” she said,“and to do this for all of us. This course of action is the only thing I can’t do. I’m begging you”.