Radovan Karadzic is far from The Hague, just as Bosnia and Herzegovina is far from the Partnership for Peace program and Euro-Atlantic integration. Big words and great expectations are completely relativised and exciting promises seem to be morphing, slowly but surely, into yet another scam.
We are hours away from the NATO summit in Istanbul. Over the past few weeks, this event has been marked as the place where Republika Srpska could prove its ability to respond to demands from The Hague to arrest Radovan Karadzic. This is the key condition for Bosnia and Herzegovina's decisive step on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration and its admission to the Partnership for Peace program.
At this moment, the facts are incontrovertible: Republika Srpska is far from the Partnership for Peace program and Euro-Atlantic integration. Big words and great expectations are completely relativised and exciting promises seem to be morphing, slowly but surely, into yet another scam.
Paddy Ashdown, the international community’s High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, warned in an interview with our agency last month that Republika Srpska – by failing to comply with its obligations under international law – was undermining the very foundations in international law upon which its existence is based. It was a not too veiled threat that the continued freedom of the fugitives from international justice, primarily of Radovan Karadzic, could endanger the survival of RS as a creation under the Dayton peace accords.
It seemed that the threat reached those it was addressed to and that it was taken seriously. Dragan Kalinic, Speaker of the RS National Assembly and the top man of the SDS, stated in an interview last week that "the arrest of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic is a question of to be or not to be for Republika Srpska." He added that "he had reliable information that this time the international community is in earnest and that – if this key condition is not met – it would bring into question everything about Republika Srpska…."
It seems that Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte has given credence to the assertion that this time, unlike all previous times, "the international community is in earnest." Some ten days ago, she claimed she had "good reason to believe that Radovan Karadzic will be in The Hague by 29 June," the day when the decision on the "partnership" between BH and NATO is to be made in Istanbul.
Former prime minister and current leader of the opposition in RS, Milorad Dodik, does not share her optimism. In an interview with the SENSE agency, he says that "it is not realistic to expect that the political party which is still controlled by Radovan Karadzic and which is in power will execute the arrest warrant for its former leader…." In his view, the majority of people in Republika Srpska "see the capture of Karadzic as an unpleasant topic which should be resolved as soon as possible, and Karadzic's transfer to The Hague should absolutely bring relief and improve their chances in many aspects of their lives…."
It seems that officials in Republika Srpska believe that the shift in the entity’s attitude towards war crimes, evidenced in the RS report on Srebrenica and the statement that it was a "dark page in Serbian history," is enough to compensate for the fact that Karadzic and Mladic are still at large. At the same time, they continue to express their deepest conviction that SFOR and NATO – not local authorities – should arrest those accused of war crimes. As local politicians are fond of saying, "You cannot expect a police officer working for a monthly salary of 200 euro to arrest Karadzic, even if someone were to order them to do so…."
The vain promises coming from various sides that Karadzic will be in The Hague soon probably contain a measure of hope that he might perhaps surrender to save "his baby" – Republika Srpska. For many, that would be "the most elegant solution": those who are really responsible for his arrest would be amnestied and the "national hero" myth would grow even stronger. The bad thing about this option is that it seems Karadzic has no intention of ever showing up in The Hague, not even in the name of the myth he has built the greatest part of his charisma on.
As time goes by and Istanbul draws nearer, it seems that the other side is exerting pressure in a new, milder way, regarding sanctions against RS. Paddy Ashdown no longer speaks about the Istanbul summit as the ultimate deadline for completion of the job. The rhetoric has changed. The High Representative has commended the Srebrenica report, saying that it was "not sufficient" in the context of Karadzic's arrest, but that "political will" must be shown in this regard. The "political will" to arrest someone and the arrest as a fait accompli are not one and the same thing. On the other hand, BH will not join the Partnership for Peace, the Srebrenica report notwithstanding, and that is a fait accompli.
Karadzic's freedom has already boomeranged on Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina and all its inhabitants, and on the international community, too. The consequences have truly become unbearable. This, it seems, does not mean yet that everyone involved is ready to put an end to the whole affair. Many parties are directly involved, many are responsible and many have been deluded. They obviously cannot decide their own fates, which is mostly still the case.