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'Butcher of Bosnia' held after decade-long hunt

  • Story Highlights
  • Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been arrested in Serbia
  • Karadzic charged with genocide in connection with the Srebrenica massacre
  • His military leader, Gen. Ratko Mladic, is still on the run
  • U.N. tribunal: It is an important day for international justice
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(CNN) -- Former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, the man accused of masterminding the massacre of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the brutal Balkans conflict, has been arrested after more than 10 years on the run.

Radovan Karadzic, shown here in 1995, is charged with war crimes relating to the 1992-1995 Bosnia conflict.

Radovan Karadzic, shown here in 1995, is charged with war crimes relating to the 1992-1995 Bosnia conflict.

Karadzic, accused of ordering the deadly siege of Sarajevo and some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II -- including the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica -- was arrested by Serb authorities Friday on a bus in the Serbian capital Belgrade, his lawyer said.

The capture of the so-called "Butcher of Bosnia" was hailed as a landmark for international justice and for Serbia, whose new government has pledged to bring its wanted war criminals to justice as a condition of membership of the European Union.

"Karadzic's arrest drew jubilation in the streets of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, which Bosnian Serb forces had shelled heavily during the war, and a small protest from ultra Serb nationalists in front of Belgrade's heavily guarded war crimes court. Video Watch protests in Serbia »

His lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said their were concerns over his arrest and treatment. He said he was not eating but that a doctor's examination had deemed him healthy. Watch Karadzic's lawyer slam arrest Video

"No one knows who arrested him, who ordered that and who kept him for three days until he was brought here tonight," he said.

"He just said that these people showed him a police badge and than he was taken to some place and kept in the room," he said.

"He was blindfolded...he was kept in some room.... And that is absolutely against the law what they did. The judge also said that he will look into this matter, who and why kept him for three days."

Karadzic -- last seen in public in 1996 -- was the Bosnian Serb political leader during the 1992-1995 war that followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's secession from Yugoslavia.

Former U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke blamed Karadzic for all the deaths in the three-year war in Bosnia, which had the bloodiest of the Balkan conflicts that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.

"Without Radovan Karadzic, this thing wouldn't have happened," Holbrooke told CNN. Video Watch Holbrooke say the arrest will help stabilize the Balkans »

"This guy in my view was worse than Milosevic ... he was the intellectual leader," he said, referring to the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic who died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes in The Hague.

While president of the so-called Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Karadzic's troops were reported to have massacred hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats during a campaign of "ethnic cleansing."

Early estimates of the death toll from the 3-year war ranged up to 300,000, but recent research reduced that to about 100,000.

Vladimir Petrovic, the charge d'affairs at the Serbian Embassy in Washington, said the arrest showed his country's commitment to accounting for its past.

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"I think this is an example that the Serbian government is committed to all its international obligations and that it will continue cooperation with the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia," Petrovic said.

Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, congratulated Serbian authorities for taking Karadzic into custody and called it "an important day for the victims."

This news gives us immense satisfaction," EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana said, according to The Associated Press. "The new government in Belgrade stands for a new Serbia, for a new quality of relations with the EU."

Karadzic's arrest leaves former Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander, as the top-ranking war crimes suspect still at large.

"While this is an important milestone, the work of the International Tribunal will not be complete until all fugitives have been arrested and tried," a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said.

"Today, I can tell you that I feel kind of good," said Zlatko Lagumdzija, a former Bosnian prime minister wounded during the siege. He said the arrest could offer "a chance for new thinking" in Bosnia, still grappling with the scars of war.

Karadzic, a one-time psychiatrist and self-styled poet, declared himself president of a Bosnian Serb republic when Bosnia-Herzegovina seceded from Yugoslavia in 1992. Video Watch CNN's Christiane Amanpour chronicle the life of Karadzic »

The Bosnian Serbs, backed by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav military and paramilitary forces, quickly seized control of most of the country and laid siege to Sarajevo, the capital.

During the conflict that followed, the Serb forces launched what they called the "ethnic cleansing" of the territories under their control -- the forced displacement and killings of Muslims and Croats. See a map of the Balkans today »


He was removed from power in 1995, when the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian war barred anyone accused of war crimes from holding office.

But he remained "kind of a Robin Hood" to Serbs during more than a decade as a fugitive, said Holbrooke, one of the architects of the Dayton Accords. Follow a timeline on Karadzic »

All About Radovan KaradzicRatko MladicBosnia and Herzegovina

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