Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hiding in plain sight: Radovan Karadzic

Much is being made of how dramatically Karadzic changed his appearance so that he would not be "recognized" while he was hiding from war crimes investigators as well as the Serbian police, who were supposedly looking for him all these years. According to today's New York Times: "Dejan Anastasijevic, a reporter who specialized in war crimes and followed his case closely for Vreme, a political weekly in Belgrade, said that based on the photograph at the press conference on Monday he would not have recognized Mr. Karadzic even if he had walked right by him."

Well, that's what good disguises are supposed to do. But strangely enough, the Serbian police have yet to brag about the years of dogged and skillful detective work that allowed them to find him anyway. As the Times also points out:

Despite what seemed to be the completeness of his disguise, it was not publicly known whether, as war crimes prosecutors have often alleged, the Serbian government had long been aware of Mr. Karadzic’s location and was only waiting for a convenient moment to apprehend him.

The arrest, nearly 13 years to the day after his indictment in connection with the massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosnian men and boys at Srebrenica, seemed aimed at strengthening Serbia’s ties to the European Union. A condition for membership remains the capture of Mr. Karadzic’s wartime ally, Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is also being sought for trial in The Hague on genocide charges.

Some analysts saw the arrest of Mr. Karadzic as an indication that General Mladic would soon be seized. Over the years, there were many reports that Mr. Mladic wandered around downtown Belgrade without hiding his identity.

Perhaps the Serbian police are at this moment regaling reporters about how they found Karadzic, and we will soon be reading all the fascinating details. Or perhaps they don't want to compromise their hunt for Mladic and will wait until he is captured to tell all. But they will tell us how they found these war criminals soon--won't they? I am sure that Serbian officials would not want to leave us with the impression that they have known all along where they were and that no detective work was actually required.

Or perhaps they figure no one will really care once the criminals are in The Hague and Serbia is a respected member of the European Union.

PS--If you think that a companion piece in today's Times entitled "Serbian Officials Provide Details on Arrest of Karadzic" sheds any light on this question, dream on. The article is entirely about the political changes in Serbia that made the arrest possible. Could the reporters on these stories have the courtesy to let us know that they have at least asked the right questions? But the Times' editorial page strikes the right tone of irony about Serbia's "investigative breakthrough."

Photo: Agence France-Presse — Getty Images/New York Times

Afterthought: As a skeptical journalist, I don't give much credibility to rumors that Ratko Mladic is disguised as the head chef at a well-known gourmet restaurant in Belgrade.


Richard said...

Karadzic and Mladic's crimes pale in comparison with those of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, but at least they had the courage to be physically present when they were carried out (as if that was any cause for mitigation).

Vojkan said...

It’s very interesting that one year ago, a group of students of the Faculty of Drama Arts from Belgrade made pilot episode for a TVsitcom ‘MLADICI’ (The Room-mates with Ratko Mladic), that in some way predicted the concept of Radovan Karadzic hiding.

The story of a this authentic serbian sitcom, but also in some way a remake of a popular tv series “ALF” is that it shows tense relations between Ratko Mladic and two young men sharing a flat with him and wishing to organize a party. The flat is owned by their grandmother Smilja and they are allowed to live in it only under condition to share it with the former military commander of the Republic of Srpska.

The pilot episode was very popular on the internet, and a lot of Serbina newspapers wrote about it, but no Television in Serbia dare to show it or to produce a sitcom, because it was too “problematic”.

Here you have a link to watch the sitcom ‘Mladici’ (The Room-mates with Ratko Mladic)

GM Roper said...

@ Richard: What Tawddle! comparing the two shows the shallowness of your thinking and the degree that your intellect has been compromised.