Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Failure to Arrest Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic

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1 Aug 2001

There are rape camps all over the country. Thousands of women are being raped and killed. Thousands are pregnant as a result of rape. Over and over again, everywhere I went ... women told me stories of abomination--of being kept in a room, raped repeatedly and told they would be held until they gave birth to Serbian children. I heard stories of men being raped, of forced incest--fathers forced to rape daughters, brothers forced to rape sisters. There is a deliberate and systematic campaign being carried out by Serbian forces to destroy the sexuality, the family structure, the lives and spirit of non-Serbian, and particularly Moslem people who live in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

—Feryal Gharahi, Equality Now board member on fact-finding mission in 1993

Justice is long overdue for the women whose bodies and lives were violated and shattered under the genocidal "ethnic cleansing" policy executed in Bosnia by Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, and Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian Serb army. For years the forces led by them conducted a horrific campaign of torture, rape and killing. Equality Now first called attention to the systematic use of rape against Bosnian Muslims in 1992, and has repeatedly called for the arrest of Karadzic and Mladic. On July 25, 1995 the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, charging them with genocide and crimes against humanity. The indictment includes in the list of acts and omissions attributed to Karadzic and Mladic, "murders, rapes and sexual assaults, tortures, beatings, robberies, as well as other forms of mental and physical abuse" of detained Bosnian Muslim and Croats. The indictment further specifies that, "In many instances, women and girls who were detained were raped at the camps or were taken from the detention centres and raped or otherwise sexually abused at other locations."

More than five years after the ICTY indicted them, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic remain at large. Until recently they were seen in public frequently and reportedly crossed checkpoints at which they could have been apprehended, even though the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) is mandated "to detain and transfer to the ICTY persons indicted for war crimes when SFOR personnel come into contact with them while carrying out their duties." While there have been several unconfirmed reports of failed NATO attempts to arrest Radovan Karadzic, in April 2001, Karadzic was quoted as saying, "I walk around normally, I go to baptism ceremonies, associate with my friends and my soldiers, and I have recently been even in Sarajevo." Mladic was reported to be living in Belgrade until February 2001. Both men are now thought to be in hiding in the Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity which is part of Bosnia-Herzegovina. According to the terms of the Dayton Peace Accord, the Republika Srpska has the obligation to "comply with any order or request of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for the arrest, detention, surrender of or access to persons who ... are accused of violations within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal." On 25 July 2001, the Parliament of the Republika Srpska passed a law that should pave the way for its co-operation with the ICTY.

A major breakthrough in international criminal justice took place on 28 June 2001 when, under intense international pressure, the government of the Republic of Yugoslavia finally handed over its former president Slobodan Milosevic to the ICTY. The next day, the ICTY Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, called again for action against Karadzic and Mladic, characterizing the fact that they have not been arrested as "scandalous." Many of the atrocities that took place in the name of "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia-Herzegovina were carried out under orders, and leaders such as Karadzic and Mladic should be held responsible for the systematic violations that were committed, including the rape and sexual degradation of women and girls.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to General Joseph Ralston, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, calling on him to apprehend Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, and turn them over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to stand trial for the crimes they are charged with. Please also write to the Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, Mladen Ivanic, noting the recently-adopted legislation that approves co-operation with the ICTY and asking him to take steps to ensure the immediate arrest of Karadzic and Mladic.

General Joseph Ralston
Supreme Allied Commander for Europe
NATO Headquarters
1110 Brussels

H.E. Mladen Ivanic
Prime Minister of Republika Srpska
Banja Luka
Republika Srpska