One of the world’s most wanted men looked nothing like his wanted posters until his arrest last year. With a beard, hat and glasses he looked more like a New Age hippy than a suspected war criminal, and it was like this Radovan Karadzic went to a Serbian festival in June 2008, totally at ease and confident in his anonymity.
For 11 years he had lived on the run under the name of Dragan Dabic. The former poet and psychiatrist peddled alternative medicine with this new identity. The world knew him as the face of a thousand news bulletins, standing alongside his mentor, Slobodan Milosevic, or the Bosnian Serbs’ military leader, General Ratko Mladic, still at large. He was indicted with Mladic on genocide charges by the UN’s war crimes tribunal in 1995. He was arrested in Serbia in July 2008, and the same month he made his first appearance in the Hague, where he announced he would defend himself. At his second appearance he refused to plead, and the tribunal had to enter a “not guilty” plea on his behalf. Helped by heavyweight US lawyer Peter Robinson, Karadzic decided to follow a similar strategy to Milosevic’s, turning his case into a political trial. His cell is equipped with computer and telephone to allow him to prepare his defence, and by refusing to appear at the trial’s first day Karadzic has drawn first blood. The Tribunal is desperate to avoid a repetition of the Milosevic trial, when the former Serbian leader drew things out for so long he died before being judged, but not before refusing to recognise the court and decrying it as “illegal”.