Radovan Karadžić ( born 19 June 1945) is a former Bosnian Serb politician and convicted war criminal who served as the President of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War and sought the direct unification of that entity with Serbia.
Educated as a psychiatrist, he co-founded the Serb Democratic Party in Bosnia and Herzegovina and served as the first President of Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996. He was a fugitive from 1996 until July 2008 after having been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The indictment concluded there were reasonable grounds for believing he committed war crimes, including genocide against Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilians during the Bosnian War (1992–95). While a fugitive he worked at a private clinic in Belgrade, specialising in alternative medicine and psychology under an alias. His nephew, Dragan Karadžić, has claimed in an interview to the Corriere della Sera that Radovan Karadžić attended Serie A football matches and that he visited Venice using a different alias (Petar Glumac).
He was eventually arrested in Belgrade on 21 July 2008 and brought before Belgrade’s War Crimes Court a few days later. Extradited to the Netherlands, he is in the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the United Nations Detention Unit of Scheveningen, where he was charged with 11 counts of war crimes. He is sometimes referred to by the Western media as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, a sobriquet also applied to former Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) General Ratko Mladić. On 24 March 2016, he was found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica, war crimes and crimes against humanity, 10 of the 11 eleven charges in total, and sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment.
Radovan Karadžić was born on 19 June 1945 in the village of Petnjica in the Socialist Republic of Montenegro, SFR Yugoslavia, near Šavnik. Karadžić’s father, Vuko (1912–1987), was a cobbler from Petnjica. His mother, Jovanka (née Jakić; 1922–2005), was a peasant girl from Pljevlja. She married Karadžić’s father in 1943, aged twenty. Karadžić claims to be related to the Serbian linguistic reformer Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787–1864), although this claim cannot be confirmed. His father had been a member of the Chetniks—the army of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia’s government-in-exile during World War II—and was imprisoned by the post-war communist regime for much of his son’s childhood. Karadžić moved to Sarajevo in 1960 to study psychiatry at the Sarajevo University School of Medicine.
He studied neurotic disorders and depression at Næstved Hospital in Denmark in 1970, and during 1974-75 he underwent further medical training at Columbia University in New York. After his return to Yugoslavia, he worked in the Koševo Hospital. He was also a poet, influenced by Serbian writer Dobrica Ćosić, who encouraged him to go into politics. During his spell as an ecologist, he declared that “Bolshevism is bad, but nationalism is even worse”.
Soon after graduation, Karadžić started working in a treatment centre at the psychiatric clinic of the main Sarajevo hospital, Koševo. According to testimony, he often boosted his income by issuing fake medical and psychological evaluations to healthcare workers who wanted early retirement or to criminals who tried to avoid punishment by pleading insanity. In 1983, Karadžić started working at a hospital in the Belgrade suburb of Voždovac. With his partner Momčilo Krajišnik, then manager of a mining enterprise Energoinvest, he managed to get a loan from an agricultural-development fund and they used it to build themselves houses in Pale, a Serb town above Sarajevo turned into a ski resort by the government.
On 1 November 1984 the two were arrested for fraud and spent 11 months in detention before their friend Nikola Koljević managed to bail them out. Due to a lack of evidence, Karadžić was released and his trial was brought to a halt. The trial was revived and on 26 September 1985 Karadžić was sentenced to three years in prison for embezzlement and fraud. As he had already spent over a year in detention, Karadžić did not serve the remaining sentence in prison.
Following encouragement from Dobrica Ćosić, later the first president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Jovan Rašković, leader of Croatian Serbs, he cofounded the Serb Democratic Party (Srpska Demokratska Stranka) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1989. The party aimed at unifying the Republic’s Bosnian Serb community and joining Croatian Serbs in leading them in remaining as part of Yugoslavia in the event of secession by those two republics from the federation.
Throughout September 1991, the SDS began to establish various “Serb Autonomous Regions” throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the Bosnian parliament voted on sovereignty on 15 October 1991, a separate Serb Assembly was founded on 24 October 1991 in Banja Luka, to exclusively represent the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The following month, Bosnian Serbs held a referendum which resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of staying in a federal state with Serbia and Montenegro, as part of Yugoslavia. In December 1991, a top secret document, For the organisation and activity of organs of the Serbs people in Bosnia-Herzegovina in extraordinary circumstances, was drawn up by the SDS leadership. This was a centralised programme for the takeover of each municipality in the country, through the creation of shadow governments and para-governmental structures through various “crisis headquarters”, and by preparing loyalist Serbs for the takeover in co-ordination with the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA).
On 9 January 1992, the Bosnian Serb Assembly proclaimed the Republic of the Serb people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Република српског народа Босне и Херцеговине/Republika srpskog naroda Bosne i Hercegovine). On 28 February 1992, the constitution of the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was adopted and declared that the state’s territory included Serb autonomous regions, municipalities, and other Serbian ethnic entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as “all regions in which the Serbian people represent a minority due to the Second World War genocide”, although how this was established was never specified, and it was declared to be a part of the federal Yugoslav state. On 29 February and 1 March 1992 a referendum on the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Yugoslavia was held. Many Serbs boycotted the referendum and pro-independence Bosniaks and Croats turned out.
President of Republika Srpska
On 6 and 7 April 1992, Bosnia was recognized as an independent state by the European Community and the US. It was admitted to the UN on 22 May 1992. Karadžić was voted President of this Bosnian Serb administration in Pale on about 13 May 1992 after the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. At the time he assumed this position, his de jure powers, as described in the constitution of the Bosnian Serb administration, included commanding the army of the Bosnian Serb administration in times of war and peace, and having the authority to appoint, promote and discharge officers of the army. Karadžić made three trips to the UN in New York in February and March 1993 for negotiations on the future of Bosnia.
He went to Moscow in 1994 for meetings with Russian officials on the Bosnian situation. In 1994, the Greek Orthodox Church declared Karadžić “one of the most prominent sons of our Lord Jesus Christ working for peace”, and decorated him with the nine-hundred-year-old Knights’ Order of the First Rank of Saint Dionysius of Xanthe. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew announced that “the Serbian people have been chosen by God to protect the western frontiers of Orthodoxy”.
On Friday, 4 August 1995, with a massive Croatian military force poised to attack the Serb-held Krajina region in central Croatia, Karadžić announced he was removing General Ratko Mladić from his commandant post and assuming personal command of the VRS himself. Karadžić blamed Mladić for the loss of two key Serb-held towns in western Bosnia that had recently fallen to the Croats, and he used the loss of the towns as the excuse to announce his surprise command structure changes. General Mladić was demoted to an “adviser”. Mladić refused to go quietly, claiming the support of the Bosnian Serb military and the people. Karadžić countered by attempting to pull political rank as well as denouncing Mladić as a “madman”, but Mladić’s popular support forced Karadžić to rescind his order on 11 August.
War crimes charges
Karadžić was accused by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of personal and command responsibility for numerous war crimes committed against non-Serbs, in his roles as Supreme Commander of the Bosnian Serb armed forces and President of the National Security Council of the Republika Srpska. He was accused by the same authority of being responsible for the deaths of more than 7,500 Muslims. Under his direction and command, Bosnian Serb forces initiated the Siege of Sarajevo. He was accused by the ICTY of ordering the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, directing Bosnian Serb forces to “create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival of life” in the UN safe area. He was also accused by the ICTY of ordering that United Nations personnel be taken hostage in May–June 1995.
He was jointly indicted by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1995, along with General Ratko Mladić. The indictment charged Karadžić on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility (Article 7(1) of the Statute) and superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) of the Statute) with:
Five counts of crimes against humanity (Article 5 of the Statute – extermination, murder, persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, persecutions, inhumane acts (forcible transfer));
Three counts of violations of the laws of war (Article 3 of the Statute – murder, unlawfully inflicting terror upon civilians, taking hostages);
One count of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions (Article 2 of the Statute – willful killing).
Unlawful transfer of civilians because of religious or national identity.
The United States government offered a $5 million reward for his and Ratko Mladić’s arrests.
Bosnian genocide trial
Karadžić and Mladić were placed on trial for charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Srebrenica, Prijedor, Ključ, and other districts of Bosnia. They were charged, separately, with:
Count 1: Genocide. On 28 June 2012, the trial chamber granted a defence motion for acquittal on this count as “the evidence, even if taken at its highest, did not reach the level from which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that genocide occurred in the municipalities [in question]”. Motions for acquittal on nine other counts were dismissed. The Appeals Chamber subsequently concluded that the court had erred and reinstated Count 1 on 11 July 2013.
Municipalities: Bratunac, Foča, Ključ, Kotor Varoš, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Zvornik.
Count 2: Genocide.
Count 3: Persecutions on Political, Racial and Religious Grounds, a Crime Against Humanity.
Municipalities: Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Bosanska Krupa, Bosanski Novi, Bratunac, Brčko, Foča, Hadžići, Ilidža, Kalinovik, Ključ, Kotor Varoš, Novi Grad, Novo Sarajevo, Pale, Prijedor, Rogatica, Sanski Most, Sokolac, Trnovo, Vlasenica, Vogošća, Zvornik, and Srebrenica.
Count 4: Extermination, a Crime Against Humanity.
Count 5: Murder, a Crime Against Humanity.
Count 6: Murder, a Violation of the Laws or Customs of War.
Count 7: Deportation, a Crime Against Humanity.
Count 8: Inhumane Acts (forcible transfer), a Crime Against Humanity.
Count 9: Acts of Violence the Primary Purpose of which is to Spread Terror among the Civilian Population, a Violation of the Laws or Customs of War.
Count 10: Unlawful Attacks on Civilians, a Violation of the Laws or Customs of War.
Count 11: Taking of Hostages, a Violation of the Laws or Customs of War.
The Yugoslav war crimes court rejected on 27 June 2012 one of the two genocide charges against Karadžić. However, on 11 July 2013, the Appeals Chamber reinstated these charges.
Authorities missed arresting Karadžić in 1995 when he was an invitee of the United Nations. During his visit to the United Nations in 1993, he was handed a service of process for a civil claim under the Alien Tort Act. The Courts ruled that Karadžić was properly served and the trial was allowed to proceed in United States District Court.
Karadžić’s ability to evade capture for over a decade increased his esteem among some Bosnian Serbs, despite an alleged deal with Richard Holbrooke. Some sources allege that he received protection from the United States as a consequence of the Dayton Agreement. Holbrooke, however, repeatedly denied that such a deal was ever made.
During his time as fugitive he was helped by several people, including Bosko Radonjich and in 2001, hundreds of supporters demonstrated in support of Karadžić in his home town. In March 2003, his mother Jovanka publicly urged him to surrender.
British officials conceded military action was unlikely to be successful in bringing Karadžić and other suspects to trial, and that putting political pressure on Balkan governments would be more likely to succeed.
In May 2004, the UN learned that: “the brother of a war crimes suspect allegedly in the process of providing information on Radovan Karadzic and his network to the ICTY, was mistakenly killed in a raid by the Republika Srpska police” and added that “It is being argued that the informer was targeted in order to silence him before he was able to say more”.
In 2005, Bosnian Serb leaders called on Karadžić to surrender, stating that Bosnia and Serbia could not move ahead economically or politically while he remained at large. After a failed raid earlier in May, on 7 July 2005 NATO troops arrested Karadžić’s son, Aleksandar, but released him after 10 days. On 28 July, Karadžić’s wife, Ljiljana, made a call for him to surrender after, what she called, “enormous pressure”.
The BBC reported that Karadžić had been sighted in 2005 near Foča: “38 km (24 miles) down the road, on the edge of the Sutjeska national park, Radovan Karadžić has just got out of a red Mercedes” and asserted that “Western intelligence agencies knew roughly where they were, but that there was no political will in London or Washington to risk the lives of British, or U.S. agents, in a bid to seize” him and Mladić.
On 10 January 2008, the BBC reported that the passports of his closest relatives had been seized. On 21 February 2008, at the time Kosovo declared independence, portraits of Karadžić were on display during Belgrade’s “Kosovo is Serbia protest”.
Since 1999 Karadžić had been masquerading as a “new age” expert in alternative medicine using the fake name “D.D. David” printed on his business cards. The initials apparently stood for “Dragan Dabić”; officials said he was also using the name “Dr. Dragan David Dabić”. He lectured in front of hundreds of people on alternative medicine. He had his own website, where he offered his assistance in the treatment of sexual problems and disorders by using what he called “Human Quantum Energy”.
Allegedly evading capture in Austria
There were reports that Karadžić evaded capture in May 2007 in Vienna, where he lived under the name Petar Glumac, posing as a Croatian seller of herbal solutions and ointments. Austrian police talked to him during the raid regarding an unrelated homicide case in the area where Karadžić lived but failed to recognize his real identity. He had obtained a Croatian passport in the name of Petar Glumac and claimed to be in Vienna for training. The police did not ask any further questions nor demanded to fingerprint him as he appeared calm and readily answered questions. Nevertheless, this claim came into doubt when a man named Petar Glumac, an alternative medical practitioner from Novo Selo, Serbia, claims to have been the person the police talked with in Vienna. Glumac reportedly bears a striking resemblance to Karadžić’s appearance as Dragan Dabić. Dragan Karadžić, his nephew, claimed in an interview to the Corriere della Sera that Karadžić attended football matches of Serie A and visited Venice under the name of Petar Glumac.
Arrest and trial
The arrest of Radovan Karadžić took place on 21 July 2008 in Belgrade. He was in hiding, posing as a doctor of alternative medicine mostly in Belgrade but also in Vienna, Austria. Karadžić was transferred into ICTY custody in the Hague on 30 July. Karadžić appeared before judge Alphons Orie on 31 July, in the tribunal, which has sentenced 64 accused since 1993. During the first hearing Radovan Karadžić expressed a fear for his life by saying: “If Holbrooke wants my death and regrets there is no death sentence at this court, I want to know if his arm is long enough to reach me here.” and stated that the deal he made with Richard Holbrooke is the reason why it took 13 years for him to appear in front of the ICTY. He made similar accusations against the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Muhamed Sacirbey, Bosnian foreign minister at the time, claimed that a Karadžić-Holbrooke deal was made in July 1996.
In August 2008 Karadžić claimed there is a conspiracy against him and refused to enter a plea, whereby the court entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf to all 11 charges. He called the tribunal, chaired by Scottish judge Iain Bonomy, a “court of NATO” disguised as a court of the international community.
On 13 October 2009, the BBC reported that Karadžić’s plea to be granted immunity from his charges was denied. However, the start of his trial was moved to 26 October so he could prepare a defense.
On Monday, 26 October 2009, Karadžić’s trial was suspended after 15 minutes after he carried out his threat to boycott the start of the hearing. Judge O-Gon Kwon said that in the absence of Karadžić, who was defending himself, or any lawyer representing him, he was suspending the case for 24 hours, when the prosecution would begin its opening statement. On 5 November 2009, the court forcibly imposed a lawyer on him, and postponed his trial until 1 March 2010.
On 26 November 2009, Karadžić filed a motion challenging the legal validity and legitimacy of the tribunal, claiming that “the UN Security Council lacked the power to establish the ICTY, violated agreements under international law in so doing, and delegated non-existent legislative powers to the ICTY”, to which the Prosecution response was that “The Appeals Chamber has already determined the validity of the Tribunal’s creation in previous decisions which constitute established precedent on this issue”, therefore dismissing the Motion. The prosecution started its case on 13 April 2010, and completed it on 25 May 2012. The discovery of more than 300 previously unknown bodies in a mass grave at the Tomasica mine near Prijedor in September 2013 caused a flurry of motions which ended with the court denying reopening prosecutorial evidence. The defence began its case on 16 October 2012 and completed it in March 2014; Karadžić decided not to testify. Closing arguments in the case began on 29 September 2014 and were concluded on 7 October 2014, Karadžić having failed in his demand for a re-trial.
Conviction and sentence
On 24 March 2016 he was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. He was found guilty of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre, which aimed to kill “every able-bodied male” in the town and systematically exterminate the Bosnian Muslim community. He was also convicted of persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer (ethnic cleansing) and murder in connection with his campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of villages claimed by Serb forces.