updated 7/22/2008 10:37:32 AM ET 2008-07-22T14:37:32

Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic, one of the world's most wanted war crimes fugitives, was arrested in Belgrade after 11 years on the run, provoking questions of how he was able to hide out for so long and what his arrest means for the Balkans.

The director of media and information for the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Andrew Stroehlein, discusses the landmark arrest.

Why did it take so long to catch Radovan Karadzic?
The Serbian government probably had very good information as to where he was but didn’t have the will to act. It’s obvious that they knew where he was with his new age medical lectures advertised all over the Internet over the past 11 years. It is really a matter of political will in Belgrade. But, remember, he’s not the last one. This is one down two to go. (Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic are still wanted by the Hague Tribunal)

What is Serbia’s interest in arresting Karadzic now?
They realize that in order to move forward toward European integration and eventual candidacy for membership in the European Union that many EU member states won’t tolerate that unless they see progress on bringing in Europe’s most wanted men who are alleged to have committed the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

Will Karadzic be turned over to The Hague?
I think it would be incredibly difficult for Belgrade to hold onto him for too long. Their excuse for too long was that they didn’t know where he was, but they can’t use that excuse any longer. They’ll have a few days to make the legal handover technically work, but will be under tremendous international pressure if they don’t hand him over within a couple weeks. What would their excuse be?

Do you think the other war crimes suspects wanted by The Hague, Mladic and Hadzic, will be turned in?
It’s hard to say because we don’t really know how the arrest happened. We don’t really know if this is the first of several or not. Belgrade has moved so slowly on this issue that I can’t see that they’ll do this all at once, but it would be nice if they did.

How will his arrest affect Bosnia?
It’s a really important step in terms of reconciliation or at least getting beyond the past. For the long term social health, breaking with its deadly past is a pretty major step. It’s partially symbolic, but the symbol has incredible meaning for those who suffered through this war. It’s an important step that should’ve happened a long time ago.

How will it affect the future of Serbia?
At the moment it doesn’t seem like there’s too much unrest in Serbia. There’s some shock, surprise, and confusion over how he led a life that was in the open -- that’s caused some amusement. But, I don’t think this a make or break issue in Serbia anymore; it’s not the potent symbol it used to be.
It’s a very fractured public. There are some very strong pro-European voices in Serbia and some much more nationalistic voices. There’s also a practical group that even if they aren’t pro-EU, they realize that the EU’s really the only the game in town, and for economic reasons alone it’s the only place to be if their country is going to get ahead.
No-one will be running through streets cheering, but I doubt there will be anyone protesting it either. These two fugitives (Karadzic and Mladic) are not a big enough issue for the Serbian public anymore.

Editor's note: The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.

Interview by's Jennifer Carlile.


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