THE apprehension of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic opens the way not only to justice for a notorious war criminal but also to a brighter future for Serbia.
Karadzic, the intellectual architect of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, had been at large since his indictment for crimes against humanity in connection with the 1992-95 war in Bosnia. A psychiatrist by training, he led a group of secessionists that killed and terrorized thousands of people of other faiths and ethnicities in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Karadzic s regime presided over a number of atrocities, including the shelling of the Bosnia-Herzegovinian capital, Sarajevo, and the massacre of an estimated 8,300 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, a town whose name will live forever in the annals of European war crimes.
The war ended with the signing of the Dayton Accords in 1995, but Karadzic s Bosnian Serb military counterpart, Gen. Ratko Mladic, is still at large.
Serbia s willingness to protect Karadzic and Mladic from being brought before an international tribunal has so far kept Serbia out of the European Union. EU membership will be the key to political modernization and economic development in Serbia, a nation of 10 million, which now lags behind most of the rest of Europe.
Serbia s election in February of a president, Boris Tadic, who is considered pro-Western and who strongly favors EU membership, democratization, and economic modernization, is said to have opened the door to Karadzic s capture. In Serbian political terms, this was no mean feat.
The Serbians and some Bosnia-Herzogovinians have known where Karadzic was for years, but chose to protect him, based on what was perceived as his contribution to the Serbian nation during the bitter years after the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Karadzic is expected to go before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague for trial, as did former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Milosevic died before his four-year-long trial was completed, so there is hope that Karadzic s trial will proceed more efficiently.
Now is the time for the Serbians to hand over Mladic, considered every bit as evil as Karadzic. His protectors are his former military colleagues, and the outcome will provide another test for the Tadic government.