In the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where thousands of Muslim men and boys were massacred by Serb forces 13 years ago, the capture of the Bosnian Serb wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, has brought renewed grief over the loss of loved ones. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Srebrenica.
|A recent photograph of Radovan Karadzic, who was living under false identity in Belgrade before his capture Monday|
A fountain flows as an eternal river of tears near the site where thousands of Muslim men and boys have been buried.
At the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center, about 3,000 graves with white pillar tomb stones are visible reminders of Europe’s worst massacre since World War Two. The remains of another 5,000 victims have yet to be identified or remain missing.
Bosnian Serb forces overran the town and rounded up men and boys in July of 1995, as part of an apparent plan to ethnically cleanse the area, and bring the region under Serb control.
Survivors are not celebrating the arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is charged with war crimes, including for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.
Beriza Kandzetovic, a 48-year-old mother of two, who fled to the Netherlands, has just returned to Srebrenica after learning that her brother’s remains have been found. Kandzetovic earlier buried her husband, who died in the town of Tuzla, as a soldier defending the region. Her father was among those killed in Srebrenica.
|A Bosnian Muslim woman weeps among coffins of Srebrenica victims during funeral ceremony at Memorial center of Potocari near Srebrenica, northeast of Sarajevo, 11 Jul 2008|
As she shows the grave, Kandzetovic, speaking in Dutch, says the arrest of Karadzic came 13 long years too late. She says, “Look what Karadzic and his commander, Ratko Mladic, have done.” She gestures to the thousands of tombstones. She says, “Do I now have to be happy about the arrest? It was all a game.” She asks why Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was found and arrested comparatively quickly, but not Karadzic. She says Karardzic’s detention and expected extradition to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague will not bring back her family.
In the Serbian capital, Belgrade, where Karadzic was arrested, and where he had lived openly, practicing alternative medicine under an assumed name, some still view Karadzic as a hero.
Photos of Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, who is also wanted for war crimes but is still at large, are hanging at the bar of a Belgrade pub. There is also a picture of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in custody in The Hague before his war crimes trial ended.
This is the pub where Radovan Karadzic is said to have been a regular during his years in hiding. Nobody recognized him, as he sported a long white beard and white hair, including 49-year-old bar tender, Darka Raketic. “He was a friendly and good client, because he always paid his bills. I didn’t know he was Karadzic, but he must have seen the posters. I think he should be judged, in Serbia, not at the United Nations Tribunal at The Hague,” he said.
The pub is located near the grey apartment block in New Belgrade where authorities say Karadzic lived in recent years. Graffiti on the side of the building says: “This is the street of Radovan Karadzic.”
An old elevator with sliding doors leads to the third floor, where he had an apartment. The neighbors refuse to open their doors. But on the fifth floor, 70-year old Mirjana Savic is willing to talk to a reporter. “He had a very extrvagant look. He had a very long white beard, and he very special cap on $his head. sometimes he helped me to open the door. I thought he was a scientist or of that background. Because we have another scientist living here,” he says.
She and other residents in the neighborhood say they do not understand why Karadzic should be extradited to The Hague tribunal. Some Belgrade residents make clear, however, they support his arrest by the pro-Western government, saying it is the best way for their country to burry the past and join Europe.
Yet that’s small comfort for those still burying their loved once in Srebrenica near the fountain at the Potocari Memorial Center, not far from the burned out factories and remnants of bombed out homes.
Nearby, children play football. Survivor Beriza Kandzetovic does not know whether these youngsters are a sign of hope. Srebrenica, she says, is like a state of death, where people have long stopped living.