He could almost pass for a Serbian Santa Claus. Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader and alleged instigator of the notorious Srebrenica massacre, has been a fugitive from international justice for nearly 13 years. Yet it turns out he has been living in plain sight in Belgrade under the alias Dragan Dabic. His face was one of the best known in the country, but Karadzic was virtually unrecognizable under a bushy white beard, oversized glasses and a new occupation as a practitioner of alternative medicine — quite a departure from his prior endeavors as ethnic cleanser and extreme nationalist.
His arrest and pending extradition to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague to face charges of genocide is a seminal moment for a nation that has been considered Europe's pariah for its willingness to harbor war criminals. The move by Serbian authorities is credited to the new coalition government headed by pro-Western President Boris Tadic. The new administration is clearly betting that the nation's future is best served by pleasing the European Union rather than appeasing the country's old-line militant nationalists.
It has long been thought that Serbian leaders were protecting Karadzic because of his popularity. But the EU has made the arrest of Karadzic and his comrade in war crimes, Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is still at large, a precondition of any consideration of Serbia's membership. The capture of Karadzic signals Serbia is ready to take some responsibility for its past.
Karadzic was Bosnian Serb president during the 1992-95 war. He was indicted by the international war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands soon after the massacre at Srebrenica, where thousands of Muslims were slaughtered. It is alleged that forces under Karadzic's command killed, tortured and raped non-Serbs throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina and that he is responsible for the years-long siege of Sarajevo in which many civilians died.
Despite his current grandfatherly visage, Karadzic's is the face of evil. His arrest is a welcome event in righting the scales of justice. A man with so much blood on his hands shouldn't be allowed to walk free, even in the incarnation of a harmless new-age doc.