Beneath the major weekend headlines lay an important story that presents us with a victory for justice on the international stage. After twenty-one long years, Radovan Karadžić was convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his actions against Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the 1990s. He was sentenced to forty years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague. Out of the 161 criminals who were indicted, only three have not yet gone to trial.
He was captured in 2008 after years of living as “Dr. Dragan Dabic.” Dr. Dabic was a self-proclaimed “Spiritual Explorer”, who promoted alternative medicine and “gave public lectures on the subject of Human Quantum Energy”. Far from the clean shaven former president of the Republika Srpska (an administrative entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, translates to “Serb Republic”), “Dr. Dabic” sported a beard and long hair which he wore in a top knot. He looked like some yogi from Portland who has a peace-sign bumper sticker on his car. And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Bosnian war in which Karadžić was a major player, lasted from 1992-1995. After the Cold War ended, the Balkan states were in disarray. Ethnic tensions were at an all time high as the newly created Bosnia and Herzegovnia contained a diverse population that consisted of a “multiethnic mix of Muslim Bosniaks (44%), Orthodox Serbs (31%), and Catholic Croats (17%).” A contingency of Bosnian Serbs allied with the neighboring country of Serbia to carry out an “ethnic cleansing” in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Muslim and Croat males were their primary targets. The height of the cleansing occurred in 1992, as “men and boys were held in concentration camps, where prosecutors said thousands were tortured, were killed or died of starvation, and women were said to have been raped and used as sex slaves.” Estimated casualties for the entire war range between 90,000 to 300,000.
The war finally ended in December 1995, after President Clinton signed the Dayton Accords with the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia. The accords acted as a peace agreement that “preserved Bosnia as a single state made up of two parts, the Bosniak-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic, with Sarajevo remaining as the undivided capital city.”
Just years later, NATO forces was called into intervene against Serbian attempts to ethnically cleanse itself of its Albanian population in Kosovo. Even today, radical Serbian nationalism presents problems within the region. In response to Karadžić’s sentence, some claimed that he was only sentenced because he is a Serb. Milorad Dodik, the current president of Republika Srpska, even named a dormitory after him this past week.
These tensions will likely continue, but Karadžić’s victims can take heart that he is finally paying for his crimes.