The political will to capture Karadzic and Mladic may not be there

Author: BBC interview with Maggie O'Kane
Uploaded: Tuesday, 09 October, 2001

As the focus of the The Hague war crimes tribunal turns to Bosnian War leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, award-winning British journalist Maggie O'Kane tells of her own search for the suspects and offers her view on the next moves

BBC News Online:
Radovan Karadzic is believed to be in Foca in eastern Bosnia. Is that the case, to the best of your information?

Maggie O'Kane:
I don't believe he is in Foca all the time. Eastern Bosnia is a very hostile environment with very steep mountains and very extreme temperatures in the winter and the summer. There is a series of mountain villages and towns - Rudo, Visegrad, Cajnice and Foca. There have been sightings of him in most of these areas. There are also allegations that he has been harboured by the Serbian Orthodox Church, that he has stayed in church property.

I have spoken to a lot of people, including his mother, who have said that he is with his own people. The information that I have is that anyone who has been to visit him, mainly his mother and his brother, have gone to eastern Bosnia.

BBC News Online:
And Ratko Mladic - do you have any information on his whereabouts?

Maggie O'Kane:
There has been speculation that he is in Han Pijesak, his command centre during the Bosnian war. He was until February living in a suburb of Belgrade. His address was well known, he lived in a diplomatic village, and he was seen at, for example, football matches. It is notable though that since Milosevic lost power, he is much more vulnerable and has moved out of Belgrade. I think it's logical that he would be in Han Pijesak, which is just outside Sarajevo, and is a place where he would undoubtedly feel the safest.

BBC News Online:
In terms of S-For control in the region, Foca is in a French sector. Does this make any difference to the likelihood of a military operation to capture Mr Karadzic or Mr Mladic?

Maggie O'Kane:
Foca is in the French area, Rudo is in the German. If you go further east, you are in a British area. This has made a difference. There was a period when most of those wanted by The Hague gravitated to the French area. At one stage French troops were renting a house from one of the indicted war criminals. There definitely wasn't the will among French soldiers to risk picking them up. That seems to have changed recently when there was a commitment from the French Government to change their record.

The British have been relatively good, particularly I have to say since the Blair government took over. The SAS have picked up a number of indicted war criminals. The Americans have been notably hands-off. They are absolutely terrified of losing their troops. If you are a war criminal stay away from the Brits - the French are getting a little bit tougher and the American sectors are probably the safest.

BBC News Online:
What is your reaction to the suggestion by the Bosnian Serb prime minister that that top war crimes suspects, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, could be arrested and handed over to The Hague tribunal?

Maggie O'Kane:
I think there needs to be a bit more analysis of this. Saying that they are willing to co-operate is a mantra that we have heard an awful lot from the Balkans. But to actually deliver, as they have done in Belgrade, is a different matter. I think that the mood in the Republika Srpska, the kingdom that Karadzic used to run, is very different from the mood in Belgrade. Karadzic is to a certain extent still seen as a nationalist hero, and Bosnian Serbs are very bitter, as they see it, about being abandoned by Belgrade.

I think that there will be more hostility in Republika Srpska to delivering Karadzic and Mladic than there was in Belgrade to delivering Milosevic. I think that the political mood in Belgrade had changed particularly after, in a sense, the dirt began to appear on their doorstep when bodies were uncovered in the suburbs of Belgrade and linked to Kosovo. There was a turning in the public mood. I don't think that has happened in Republika Srpska. They see themselves as victims and they see the world as having turned against them.

BBC News Online:
You have argued in your writing that the international community's political determination to send in troops to capture Karadzic or Mladic has diminished since the election of US President George Bush. Has anything happened to change this view?

Maggie O'Kane:
Well there is some evidence that there is more political will for lifting alleged war criminals - as we have seen in the case of Mr Milosevic. The difficulty for the Americans is that they have very good intelligence. They know where Karadzic and Mladic are - I firmly believe that - but they are continually moving.

In order to organise and co-ordinate what would in this case be an international force including the Germans, the French, the Americans and possibly the British, that takes time and I think they just haven't been able to organise it. Perhaps they haven't really put their mind to it. That may change and I think that a swoop is more likely in the immediate future than for Karadzic and Mladic to be handed over.

BBC News Online:
By floating the idea of handing over war crimes suspects, is the Bosnian Serb Government beginning the process of negotiating an international aid package like the one Belgrade secured immediately after handing over Mr Milosevic.

Maggie O'Kane:
As with Belgrade this is a question of money. Republika Srpska is in a terrible economic state. There is no economy, there has been a collapse in any kind of industry, they have been treated like pariahs for the last 10 years. So the people in Republika Srpska are desperate to get back onto some steady economic footing. Obviously the promise of any sort of international aid package is a huge, huge carrot that is being waved. That said, I don't know yet whether they are ready to hand him over.

BBC, 5 July 2001
Back To News Index
home | about us | publications | news | contact | bosnia | search | bosnia report | credits
bosnia report
Bosnia Report is a bi-monthly magazine which publishes articles and other information about Bosnia-Herzegovina and related issues. Use the links below to access the current issue or archives.


Search our archives: