We happened to be downtown today at the same time the protest march was coming around. Above is the front of the group that was marching through the streets of Belgrade. Our taxi was diverted by police and I snapped this photo through the window. There were many policemen all decked out in riot gear, but it was quite civilized and peaceful. We were on our way to dinner to Pizza Hut which is downtown, but we decided it best to get back to our neighborhood of Senjak to find something to eat.
The protesters are against the arrest of Radovan Karadzic. He was the first President of the Republic Srpska. The Republic Srpska is the Serbian half of the nation of Bosnia & Herzogovina. Mr. Karadzic has been a fugitive from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia since 1995. He is the 44th Serb to be brought to the ICTY. He is charged with 10 counts of various war crimes from his time leading the war effort in Bosnia from 1992-95.
Radovan sounds like a character in a Dostoevsky novel! He has lived a full life to say the least. I can see why many Serbs admire him, he is steeped in “Serbdom.” His father was a Chetnik fighter in WWII and after the war was imprisoned by the Tito’s Communist party. Karadzic is a psychologist by training, even spending a year at Columbia University in New York. He is a published poet and has won awards for his works. He was imprisoned for a year himself by the Yugoslav Communist government on charges of fraud and embezzlement while working at a hospital in Belgrade.
He next got into politics and founded the Serbian Democratic Party of Bosnia. This was during the chaotic time of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe. His Bosnian Serb party promoted a union of Bosnia with Serbia and they organized a vote for an independent government. A day later Bosnia went independent from Yugoslavia and that is when the violence started. Karadzic assumed the Head of State powers of the Republica Srpska. Like in the USA, the President is also Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and head of the Security Council. Karadzic is being charged by the ICTY for being the leader of the armed forces that carried out the Siege of Sarajevo, the Srebenica Massacre, and kidnapping UN personnel. In his defense, he is claiming that he acted as any normal president would in a time of war.
He was captured Monday on a public bus in Belgrade. He had been running an alternative medicine clinic under an assumed name. He was a guru of “Human Quantum Energy” and claimed that his methods helped sexual disorders among other ailments. He looks like Saddam Hussein looked when he was captured in December of 2003. Below is the front page of the Blic newspaper of Belgrade and it shows how long his hair and beard are.