Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic Arrested: What Lies Ahead

Radovan Karadzic, the accused mastermind of Europe's worst massacre since World War II and the former Bosnian Serb leader was arrested on Monday evening in a Belgrade suburb after more than a decade on the run. Video by AP
Olga Kavran
Spokesperson for the Lead Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribubunal for the Former Yugolsavia, The Hague
Wednesday, July 23, 2008; 11:00 AM

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader indicted by a U.N. war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, was captured in Serbia on Monday. The arrest ends a decade-long manhunt that had repeatedly frustrated his Western pursuers and left festering one of the most murderous chapters in Europe's post-World War II history.

From the Netherlands, Olga Kavran, spokesperson for prosecutor Serge Brammertz at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, was online Wednesday, July 23, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the capture, arrest and upcoming trial of the former Serb leader.

A transcript follows.


Olga Kavran: This is Olga Kavran, Spokesperson for the Prosecutor of the ICTY and I am available for your questions. As you will have heard, Mr. Radovan Karadzic, who has been at large for 13 years has been arrested and will be transferred to the Tribunal. This is a very important development for the victims who have been waiting for this day for over a decade and it is very important for international justice. It shows that nobody is beyond the reach to the law and that all fugitives will be arrested, sooner or later.


Arlington, Va.: The BBC is reporting that Karadzic plans to conduct his own defense Karadzic 'aims to defend himself' ( BBC News, July 23). Milosevic also defended himself -- a move that did no favors for either the prosecution or the court. Since the court's charter and existence is scheduled to expire in 2010, will Karadzic essentially be able to run out the clock by delaying completion of his trial for years?

Olga Kavran: The Prosecution has consistently opposed self-representation of the accused before the Tribunal. In our view, it would in the best interest of the administration of justice if the accused is represented by qualified counsel. This is because war crimes cases are very complex, they involve a high volume of evidence, much of it documentary evidence; the proceedings are a mix of common law and civil law procedures are require knowledge of both systems, etc. These are some of the reasons why the Prosecution has opposed self-representation. However, the decision of whether to allow an accused to represent himself can only be made by the Judges on the case, not the Prosecution.


Bridgewater, Mass.: The Tribunal seems to have had real difficulties dealing with some of the higher profile defendants -- Milosevic made a farce of his trial, and Seselj doesn't seem to be far from doing the same. (Having him return in triumph after being found not guilty may be worse than not having tried him at all.)

Have the judges and prosecutors learned any lessons that will help them run fair but more efficient trials for Karadzic and Mladic?

Olga Kavran: I cannot speak on behalf of the Judges. The Prosecution has ceratainly learned from every case conducted before the Tribunal in the last 15 years. However, if you are referring to the behavior of the accused in court - that can only be regulated by the Judges, not the Prosecution.


Washington, D.C.: Do you believe that NATO/EUFOR pressure on the networks and more recently on their efforts to coordinate with the Serbian government had an impact on the capture, or do you believe it was purely a political decision on the part of Serbia to capture him now?

Olga Kavran: It is very difficult to speculate on that at this time. We do not have all the details of where Mr. Karadzic spent the last 13 years of his life and how he was assisted in hiding and by whom.


Arlington, Va.: Radovan Karadzic was the president and leader of the so-called Republika Serpska for five years. Republika Serpska (RS) was sadly codified into legal existence by Holbrooke and the Dayton Accords, rewarding the aggressors and punishing the victims. If the ICTY finds Karadzic guilty of genocide, will this not lead to reversal of the Dayton Agreenment and the dissolution of RS, as it should ?

Olga Kavran: This is not a question that can be answered by someone from the Tribunal. The Tribunal deals only with the criminal proceedings against individuals brought to trial before it.


Washington, D.C.: How many judges are there?

Olga Kavran: On a particular case, Trial Chambers consist of 3 judges and Appeals Chambers of 5.

Here's more information from the Tribunal's website (

The Chambers consist of 16 permanent judges and a maximum at any one time of twelve ad litem judges. A temporary increase in the number of ad litem judges to a maximum of 16 during the year 2008 was approved by the UN Security Council on 20 February 2008. The 16 permanent judges are elected by the UN General Assembly for a term of four years. They can be re-elected.

The ad litem judges are drawn from a pool of 27 judges. They are also elected by the UN General Assembly for a term of four years, and they are eligible for re-election. An ad litem judge can serve at the ICTY following his/her appointment by the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the ICTY President in order to sit on one or more specific trials for a period of up to three years during the term for which they are elected. Ad litem Judges may also be appointed as reserve Judges to be present at each stage of a trial and to replace a Judge that is unable to continue sitting.

The judges are divided between three Trial Chambers and one Appeals Chamber. Each Trial Chamber consists of three permanent judges and a maximum, at any one time, of six ad litem judges. A Trial Chamber may be divided into mixed sections of three judges (one permanent and two ad litem, or two permanent and one ad litem). Each Trial Chamber can be comprised of up to three sections. The Appeals Chamber consists of seven permanent judges: five from the permanent judges of the ICTY, and two from the 11 permanent judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). These seven judges also constitute the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR. Each appeal is heard and decided by five judges.

The judges represent the main legal systems in the world and bring to the Tribunal a variety of legal expertise. The judges hear testimony and legal arguments, decide on the innocence or the guilt of the accused and pass sentence.

The permanent judges also have important regulatory functions: they draft and adopt the legal instruments regulating the functioning of the ICTY, such as the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.


Fairfax, Va.: Did people know it was Karadzic all along, even with the disguise, but no one turned him in? Was he protected?

Olga Kavran: I am afraid I do not have the answers to your question at this time. There is a lot of information being reported by Belgrade media and a lot of it is available in English.

_______________________ The Two-Bit Villain the World Somehow Feared ( Post, July 23)


Annapolis, Md.: What has been the reaction of the people since his capture? When will the trial begin? Where is he now?

Olga Kavran: The reaction here in the Office of the Prosecutor has been very positive. Tomorrow will be exactly 13 years since the first indictment against Mr. Karadzic was confirmed and we have been waiting for the arrest for a long time.

As the Prosecutor said in his statement - it is a very important day for the victims who have been waiting for this for well over a decade. It is also a very important day for international justice. It clearly shows that noone is beyond the reach of the law and that all fugitives will be arrested, sooner or later.

Mr. Karadzic is currently held in detention in Belgrade and we expect his transfer to the Tribunal soon, as soon as the legal formalities in Belgrade are completed.

It is not possible to predict the exact time when the Trial will begin - the Judges will determine a date when all the conditions are met.


Washington, D.C.: Can you explain the details of his capture please.

Olga Kavran: We do not have details at this time. This is a question that can best be answered by the Belgrade authorities.


Alexandria, Va.: Will there be a jury for the trial and is it possible for him to get a fair trial, considering all the knowledge of the accusations?

Olga Kavran: There is no jury at the Tribunal. All trials are conducted before a bench of three professional judges (I refer you to a previous question to get more information on the Judges of the Tribunal, which can also be found on our website at

Yes, he wil get a fair trial. The Tribunal conducts its trials in accordance with the highest international standards. The rights of the accused are enshrined in the Statute of the Tribunal (also available on our website) and safeguarded throught the process. The presumption of innocence applies and the burden of proof is on the Prosecution.


College Park, Md.: What might be the punishment in the end? Could he be executed or get life in prison?

Olga Kavran: The maximum penalty at the Tribunal is life imprisonment. There is no death penalty.


Montreal, Quebec: After his transfer , how long will it take before Karadzic is brought to trial?

Olga Kavran: This is impossible to predict at this time. The Judges will schedule the trial when all the necessary procedural steps have been taken.

_______________________ International Criminal Tribunal


Shirlington, Va.: Do you predict that this will be a highly publicized trial and that that the eyes of the world will be on it? Will it be historic with lots of media attention?

Olga Kavran: Judging by the current media attention - it will probably be highly publicized. It is unfortunate that our other trials do not generate that much media attention. Very few people (especially those outside the region of the former Yugoslavia) know that the Tribunal currently has 27 people on trial and another 16 in other stages of proceedings. The Tribunal has already concluded proceedings against another 66 individuals, 56 of whom were convicted and 10 acquitted. They include a number of high level military and civilian leaders.

This is why it is very unfortunate that many people base their perceptions of the Tribunal only on 2 or 3 cases.


Arlington, Va.: Is there a danger that the Tribunal will go out of existence before the trial is completed?

What about other wanted, but still at-large, suspects -- could they evade prosecution if they remain free until the Tribunal's sunset date?

Olga Kavran: The UN Security Council is the only authority that can decide when the Tribunal will close its doors. There has been no indication that this will happen before all the current and pending proceedings are completed. The Prosecutor has also said that he cannot imagine that the Tribunal will close without the remaining fugitives in custody. With the arrest of Mr. Karadzic, the number of remaining fugitives is down to two - Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic and we certainly they will both be arrested and transferred soon.


Washington, D.C.: What does the European Union have to do with all of this, please explain what it means to Yugoslavia.

Olga Kavran: The European Union has been very supportive of the Tribunal and has made cooperation with the Tribunal a condition for in the process accession of the States in the former Yugoslavia a

Olga Kavran: The European Union has been very supportive of the Tribunal. The EU has made cooperation with the Tribunal a condition for the states in the region of the former Yugoslavia who wish to join the EU.


Arlington, Va.: The first post on this session asked the following question: "Since the court's charter and existence is scheduled to expire in 2010, will Karadzic essentially be able to run out the clock by delaying completion of his trial for years?"

Your answer to this poster did not answer the question. Can you answer it now? Does the expiration of the court's charter in 2010 represent a completion deadline for all trials, or can a trial continue past 2010 if it was started before expiration of the charter?

Olga Kavran: There is no 'expiration date' on the Tribunal. The Security Council has yet to make a decision on when the Tribunal will close its doors.


Olga Kavran: Dear all, thank you very much for your very interesting questions. Please continue to follow the work of the Tribunal - it truly is important. You can watch all of our trials online at the Tribunal's website:


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