Serb leaders await judgment in purgatory

Bosnia's partners in crime remain free to brood or boast of their bloodthirsty deeds, writes Emma Daly

Pale - Radovan Karadzic, the poet-psychiatrist who led the Bosnian Serbs into four years of war, is the anti-Scarlet Pimpernel: he is everywhere, yet Nato seeks mostly not to seek him there. General Ratko Mladic, his partner in crimes against humanity, according to the International Tribunal, has taken a more traditional role, vanishing into a subterranean bunker.

But Mr Karadzic has become ever bolder in his travels above ground, ever more grandiose in his schemes for the future, hoping to write the tale of two cities: old Sarajevo, reduced to rubble by his guns, and new Sarajevo, a golden place built by the world for Serbs who have fled the capital.

Mr Karadzic and General Mladic, the civilian and military authors of the bloody Serb war in Bosnia, are fugitives in a shrinking fiefdom, sought by the International War Crimes Tribunal on charges of genocide. The 60,000 Nato troops based in Bosnia have the right to arrest both men, but not the inclination, at least for the time being.

The practical difficulties of acting against the general are more obvious. He is elusive, although he is rumoured to be living under Mount Zep, in the warren of bunkers and buildings that make up Bosnian Serb Army headquarters close to the town of Han Pijesak, in eastern Bosnia.

A sign beside a narrow, snowy road winding through pine trees gives the only clue to the nature of the apparently peaceful landscape around: foreigners are barred from stopping their cars or walking in the wood. Around a bend stands the castle keep, constructed of pine and manned by several young soldiers, who summoned an officer to deal with their unexpected visitors.

"How did you find this place?" the officer asked, bemused. Directed by locals, of course, in our search for General Mladic. "Do you know where the general is?" he asked. No. "Then why did you come here?" It seemed our best bet. We were not invited in, and our cameras were temporarily removed, but the greeting was cordial.

In view of the gossip that General Mladic is depressed and drinking heavily, we asked how the commander was. "Even in peacetime life is difficult for generals," the officer sighed. "He has many problems, not just with the soldiers but with civilians [moving out of Sarajevo] who have nowhere to live. He's very busy." But he still, apparently, finds time and space to visit his troops. "Of course, why not?"

Why, indeed, when Mr Karadzic enjoys relative freedom of movement through the territory patrolled by Nato. He is always accompanied, it must be said, by at least three bodyguards, although they are probably thinking first about the threat from disgruntled constituents, or from Belgrade, rather than Nato.

As one Serb analyst noted, Mr Karadzic seems better off now than before the Dayton peace deal. First, he noted, the Serbian state media has ended its smear campaign against war profiteering and war crimes. Secondly, Mr Karadzic has yet to suffer the fatal car accident predicted by many in Belgrade. President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, former mentor to both men, is apparently biding his time before disposing of them.

In the longer term, however, the future looks bleak. Mr Karadzic's party, the SDS, will contest the elections but his name will not be on the ballot.

As an indicted war criminal, Mr Karadzic cannot hold office. He may remain the power behind the throne, but in a land where strength is prized above all in a leader, his will surely start to fade.

And the SDS will face stiff electoral competition from Mr Milosevic's own Serbian Socialist Party (SPS), which is setting up branches in Bosnia and seeking allies among those opposed to Mr Karadzic. Judging by its words to date, the Bosnian SPS plans to campaign on the argument that political union with Serbia will not be possible until the Bosnian Serb entity shares Belgrade's political philosophy, that is, the philosophy of its ruling party.

Mr Karadzic has looked drawn in recent public appearances, despite some success in quelling dissent in Banja Luka, and many of his constituents say his fate is sealed. Most people in Pale were embarrassed by Mr Karadzic's grandiose scheme for a "new" Sarajevo to house Serbs who have fled the capital as the entire city reverts to government rule. Even the television presenter quizzing the "President" sounded sceptical, asking who would pay for this brave new world?

"Karadzic's name will be writ large in our history books," said the commander of an elite military unit based in Pale. "But there are stronger forces trying to push him out and I think he will have to go. It's the same for Mladic."

The general has not been seen in public since a review of the troops in December, a remarkable absence even for one who always shunned the media limelight. Perhaps he has spent the time in Belgrade, the site of the grave of his daughter, who committed suicide in 1994. Her death was never explained: rumours in Belgrade had it that she was terminally ill, or that she could not bear the guilt of her father's career in Bosnia.

"Mladic," said one Serb in Pale, "is not in heaven or on earth but in between. I don't know the word in English." He meant purgatory; the general's victims hope it will soon be hell - that or The Hague.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform