Serbian nationalists and ultra-nationalists are gearing up to protest Radovan Karadzic’s arrest in Belgrade as the Serbian authorities prepare to extradite the man accused of masterminding the Srebrenica massacre to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
Spearheaded by the opposition Serbian Radical Party and its leader, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian nationalists have been gathering for daily protests in support of the Bosnian Serb leader who was arrested last week after 11 years on the run.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, French Balkans expert Yves Tomic doubted the demonstration would be a political success. “Only a couple of hundred people attended recent demonstrations,” he says, “it is a test for the nationalists today.”
According to Laurent Rouy, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Belgrade, nationalists and ultra-nationalists will demonstrate because they refuse to accept that one could betray a Serb and hand him over to foreigners.
Serbs who “do not understand the process at The Hague” will also join the demonstration, according to Rouy. Many recent ICTY rulings cleared non-Serb suspected war criminals, such as the former wartime Kosovo prime minister, Ramush Haradinaj. A number of Serbs do not understand why the court seems to condemn Serbs and free non-Serbs, he says.
Protesters do not represent the majority of the population in Serbia, however. “More than 70% of Serbs are in favour of cooperation with The Hague,” Rouy says, adding though that only 42% support extradition.
While the radical leader Vucic promised the demonstration would be peaceful, Tomic says some extremist groups such as Obraz are difficult to control and ready to come to blows with the police.
EU talks still on hold
Despite Karadzic’s arrest, EU ambassadors refused on Tuesday to improve trading conditions with Serbia according to Reuters, saying the EU would wait until he was in The Hague to make any decision.
The government of pro-European president Boris Tadic, who was elected in February, hopes that Karadzic will be transferred as quickly as possible so that “the EU foreign ministers realize that Serbia is fully cooperating and will agree to sign an economic partner ship agreement with Serbia,” says Rouy.
Last week, European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn had urged the bloc to allow Serbia improved trading conditions after the Bosnian Serb leader was captured in disguise as bearded medicine man.
Waiting for the post
The procedure to extradite Karadzic has been slowed by his reluctance to file an appeal to Serbia’s war crimes court ― at least until the nationalists had staged a mass protest in his favour. Karadzic’s brother Luka says the appeal was sent from a remote post office at the last minute required under Serbian law on Friday evening. There has been no independent confirmation of Luka Karadzic’s claim.
On Tuesday morning, however, the Serbian war crimes court had not yet received the appeal.
Karadzic's lawyer, Svetozar Vujacic, said he was confident the ploy to delay his client's transfer ― to face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity ― had worked. And FRANCE 24’s Rouy raises the possibility that the lawyer did not send an appeal at all.
When and if the appeal is received, a panel of judges has three days to rule on it.
Meanwhile, at The Hague, the prosecution is reviewing the indictment against Karadic, which was last amended in 2000, to take into account recent jurisprudence and new evidence, Olga Kavran, spokesperson for the ICTY prosecution told FRANCE 24.
According to Tomic, the ICTY have reviewed their functioning to speed up trials after the trial of the former Yugoslavian President Slobadon Milosevic trailed on for four years until he died.