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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Looking for Karadzic - Interactive Forum transcript
Looking for Karadzic: A Maggie O'Kane Investigation
Maggie O'Kane

Maggie O'Kane, the Guardian's celebrated war correspondent, and Anthony Borden, Executive Director of the Institute of War & Peace Reporting, answered your questions in a live interactive forum on Sunday 19 May.

56k Click here to watch the forum



Olenka Frenkiel:

Hello and welcome to Correspondent Interactive. A live television and internet debate on the search for Karadzic following our programme which has just finished on BBC2.

I'm Olenka Frenkiel and with me are Maggie O'Kane who is a reporter and Anthony Borden, the Executive Director of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

We've had lots of e-mails and mobile phone text messages but first Anthony let me ask you why is it so important to find Karadzic?


Anthony Borden:

There are two main reasons; the broader one is that for the region to move forward peace and reconciliation are essential and that has to be based on justice which means arresting those who were indicted for war crimes. In a practical sense the political infrastructure that led the war so many years ago is largely still in place and in many ways we have reason to believe that Karadzic is still very influential within it. So the top of that infrastructure has to be taken out.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Maggie, did you ever really expect to find him?


Maggie O'Kane:

No I didn't think we would find him but I think what we were doing in the programme was raising the question why in a country the size of Wales, which is quite a small country, has this man not been found, given the fact that there have been thousands of international troops supposedly looking for him.


Olenka Frenkiel:

In the film you spoke to Major Scott Lundy from the Nato Special Forces, S-FOR about their recent attempts to capture Radovan Karadzic. This is what he had to say.

[Film Clip]


Major Scott Lundy:

Well we're deeply disappointed. I think Lord Robertson said that as well. However, we have gained more information, we've had moderate success in this weapons cache that was seized on the 28th February and we're certainly feeling that we've very close to getting him.

S-FOR feels that we got really close to finding Karadzic and I'm not going to be able to give you the information that led us to believe that way. But we feel we came very close.


Olenka Frenkiel:

How close - 20 miles, 30 miles, 10 minutes - how close?


Major Scott-Lundy:

Close enough.

[End of clip]


Olenka Frenkiel:

Well that's S-FOR's version. What in your opinion is the real reason that he has not yet been found?


Maggie O'Kane:

I think that until recently there wasn't the serious effort being put into finding him. I think the international forces, the international governments, were reluctant to risk their troops and frankly it wasn't a priority - it wasn't No. 1 in the priority list.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Anthony, why not?


Anthony Borden:

Well, for a couple of reasons. First, there's no institution, which is charged with an arrest. The local governments and states are actually responsible but they don't have the capacity and as for the international troops, they are actually not actively tasked with doing the job.

For many years of course the western trooper didn't want to risk their own soldiers and they also thought that it would destabilise the situation. But as Maggie says in the film, all of a sudden they woke up and they realised that the international desire not to reduce troop commitments and actually leave the Balkans is stuck and until Karadzic and Mladic, his co-partner in the adventures of war, are arrested actually they can never the exit or substantially reduce the number of troops - so it is their exit strategy.


Olenka Frenkiel:

We have an e-mail Christopher Ashover [phon.] from Germany who asks: What do you think the seven year failure to take action about Karadzic says about the resolve of European politicians to render justice to these victims of genocide?


Maggie O'Kane:

I think it's clear that they're not a priority. We've seen a mass of mobilisation forces to look for Bin Laden after the disaster that happened in September - we've haven't seen anything on that scale. So it raises questions about the value of Bosnian lives - the value of the suffering that people went through.


Olenka Frenkiel:

One question Seamus Martin from the Netherlands, who asks: Would there be a greater likelihood of locating Dr. Karadzic if Mrs Del Ponte in the Hague took real action to indict Muslims and Croats for war crimes as well as Serbs?


Anthony Borden:

I think that's an important question - I think that by now it's a bit of a canard - there has been indictments, serious indictments, against Croats and Bosniaks or Muslims and in a practical sense it wouldn't make a great difference. What that question is getting at is actually the local credibility - the support for the tribunal - which is rejected because people see it as an anti-Serb mechanism. But the brutal truth is that Serbs will be indicted predominately because more crimes were committed by Serbs.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Raymond Delatte [phon.] from the USA asks: What is the status of the accusations that French troops in Bosnia tried to prevent the capture of Karadzic by keeping him informed of Nato moves? Is there any truth in that?


Maggie O'Kane:

After the last attempt, which was on February 28th, there was some speculation that the French had actually tipped him off and this comes out historically over the years, we have found that indicted war criminals tended to cluster within areas that were controlled by the French international forces and the question that was raised was - are the French more sympathetic? We don't have evidence to support that except that they haven't lifted as many people as say the British have.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Of course there's a lot of rumour around this kind of figure at all times. Raymond Delatte [phon.] goes on to say that there was a rumour that Karadzic had been hiding in Russia and that he was secretly taken there aboard Russian military cargo plans. Have you heard that one?


Anthony Borden:

I suppose it's a bit like Elvis really, I think he will be popping up everywhere. I don't mean to belittle any of the reports but I think Maggie was very largely on the point when she discovered that the argument that he's on the border and slipping between Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia. The reality is that any western state - any international government - that is recognised by West and Russia certainly is right now, trying to play with the West and be a responsible international partner He's under very substantial international requirements to turn over a war fugitive so I don't think they'd want him.


Olenka Frenkiel:

But what all these questions seem to be getting at is that with the European community not really seeing him as a priority, with, as we saw in your film, the Serbs themselves certainly not pulling their finger out to find him, with there not being the political will anywhere to find him - isn't all of this really a bit of mirage?


Maggie O'Kane:

I think things have changed substantially since Bush took over in the States. I think since September 11th, Colin Powell has said that he is their exit strategy. The Americans want out of the Balkans, they have other wars to fight and they really can't leave without making sure that those men are handed over. So I think we are moving to a substantially different period in terms of capturing him.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Do you think they will find him?


Anthony Borden:

For many years I was asked, would Slobodan Milosevic be put in the Hague and many times when I wasn't really sure that it was case, I said yes, he's there and Karadzic and Mladic will also be there. I suppose the only excuse we give to the internationals is that it's much more important that he's arrested alive at any time than early and he's killed because what is required is a trial - a fair hearing of truth - that's what is really essential for the Balkans however the case may fall.


Olenka Frenkiel:

How long do you give it?


Maggie O'Kane:

I would say it's a matter of months because I've gone back regularly since 1992 and over the last couple of year specifically to say where's Karadzic, where's the hunt and I see a qualitative difference now between the whole mood, the whole atmosphere - particularly among the Americans. The Americans have taken over the show that's the realpolitik of it all and there's a sense of urgency. I think that they will, combined with the money - with the fact that they're offering such a huge ransom - a local store man said to our driver - well for 5 million dollars I'd bring my father to the Hague. So there's a lot of incentives there - he can't keep running forever.


Olenka Frenkiel:

So you think it's a matter of months. Anthony how long do you think he's got?


Anthony Borden:

I think he will end up in the Hague. I think it's very difficult to put time limits on it. What we do know is that the Hague is in operation at least until 2008.


Olenka Frenkiel:

We have an e-mail on a different subject from Steve in Taiwan who says: What's the difference between Radovan Karadzic and Ariel Sharon?


Maggie O'Kane:

In terms of Sabra and Shatila, I think Ariel Sharon should also be asked - I think there's a case to answer for war crimes. So I really don't see any difference.


Anthony Borden:

I would say one very, very crucial difference, which is that Radovan Karadzic is indicted by a legitimated incorporated and authorised tribunal. There is something called the international criminal country which has recently been founded but it will not be looking at cases previous to its incorporation which is basically just now so that's an unfortunate situation. But the importance here is we are talking about law and facts in a legally constituted court and which we do not have that could cover such cases and that's a great regret.


Olenka Frenkiel:

This is a follow-up question from Steve from Taiwan: In the future do you think it likely that we'll see Nato troops scouring Israel for Sharon?

And you're saying no because they don't have the power to do that.


Anthony Borden:

I think what should happen is if there's an international court founded, which there will be, and if a case is reasonable and it is put forward then indeed it should be heard.


Maggie O'Kane:

I think we're probably being quite idealistic about it - it's a much more sensitive issue as we know with Israel. But if we do look at the massacres in Sabra and Shatila and Sharon's role there, there is, some would say, certainly the substance of a case that may well be put.


Olenka Frenkiel:

We have had a lot of e-mails in support of Radovan Karadzic. We have a certain Mr Arkan [phon.] from Australia who says that Karadzic is a wonderful person.

R. Milos from Albania says he's a great man. Alex in the USA describes him as a hero. Have we perhaps not presented their point of view?


Maggie O'Kane:

What we have presented are the facts as put forward by the International War Crimes Tribunal and the facts as I have understood them on the ground that the man has a case to answer for genocide and crimes against humanity.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Is there no doubt though about his involvement in that?


Maggie O'Kane:

But that needs to be answered by the court - what was the chain of command. What we do know is that he effectively was the head of the SDS - the president at the time when the horrors of Srebrenica took place and the shelling took place in Sarajevo - they are questions that the court must answer. But I think one of the most extraordinary things is that Serbia and the Republica Serbska is a country that's still in denial and that finds it very difficult to face up to their past. Part of the reason for that is that they're perhaps not fully aware of what happened because of the control of the media.


Olenka Frenkiel:

But these are Serbs living outside Serbia - these are Serbs living in Australia.


Maggie O'Kane:

I speak as an Irish person - if you go to the Catskill Mountains in North America, that's where you find the support for the IRA. People are nostalgic, people are romantic and it's very hard to face up to the reality of the facts - like the reality of the IRA for example.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Frank from the UK asks: In your experience do the Bosnian Serbs acknowledge in any way the crimes committed by their leaders and soldiers during the Bosnian war?


Maggie O'Kane:

I have to say that I've worked as a war correspondent for 10 years and I have never covered a country where I've seen so much denial. I think they find it extremely difficult to acknowledge that there could have been anything other than an international conspiracy against Serbs.


Olenka Frenkiel:

But there must be exceptions - there must be some people in that area who do recognise that some things that were done were wrong.


Maggie O'Kane:

I'd say they are the exceptions.


Anthony Borden:

One of the interesting things just going back a couple questions that could link to this one is that one of the issues that really hasn't been revealed enough of course and this was crucial to turning Serbian opinion - the Serbian nation in Bosnia may not really care about tragedies inflicted upon Bosniaks or Muslims. But if more facts about economic thievery is simply what occurred - much of the war was about taking resources - if these things were made more clear and if the responsibility for the situation that they're in - which the film made absolutely clear about it and it showed that life is not a party in the Republic of Serbska now - if this could be driven home, I think some of the glamour of the hero might be shaken.


Olenka Frenkiel:

But given that the Serbs have been so demonised and isolated in the West, Seamus Martin writes from the Netherlands, why would the Bosnian Serbs be remotely inclined the help Nato or the War Crimes Tribunal?


Anthony Borden:

One of the things that the discussion has been about for many years is how to move away from the war and one of the interesting things for the region is actually how to move towards something - which is actually towards Europe - and it is simply carrot and stick. There is a huge incentive and it's not only $5 million but it's actually joining Europe. They actually use the euro now, earlier than Britain, because they were using a different currency - the Deutschmark - and they've converted to that currency and they have really only one place to go which is to join Europe and this is simply a requirement and it's a big incentive.


Olenka Frenkiel:

But looking at the people there that Maggie was talking to in the Serbian Republic, there didn't seem to be a huge inclination to move Europe's way. They were definitely digging their heels in.


Maggie O'Kane:

I think it's an exhaustion. They are a country that's absolutely exhausted and worn out by years of war and now of poverty and there's a $60 million aid package on offer that's been blocked at the moment by the American Congress. But they want to move around and in a way I think Karadzic has been painted as a folk hero. But it's like Milosevic, when Milosevic went to the Hague Serbia didn't erupt - people said, well perhaps we can move on - that's what ordinary people want.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Let us move on to our next clip because it seems certainly from your film that there's been support not just from the Serb people but from the Serb Orthodox Church. This interview we're about to see with Brother Luca [phon.] was secretly filmed.

[Film clip]


Maggie O'Kane:

So as far as Radovan Karadzic is concerned, if every Serb supports him then is it not logical that this great institution, the Serb Orthodox Church, would support him - when he needs you, when he's running from the hunters of the world?


Brother Luca:

You think he is running?


Maggie O'Kane:

Yes - why can't you say it straight - that if Karadzic came here would you offer him a place?


Brother Luca:

Of course yes.


Maggie O'Kane:

Is the Church keeping Radovan Karadzic?


Brother Luca:

No.


Brother Luca:

I think he has not been in Herzegovina among his people. I think everybody knows this.

[End of clip]


Olenka Frenkiel:

So why did you have to film that secretly and do you think they were hiding Karadzic?


Maggie O'Kane:

I think Karadzic spent quite a lot of time in that monastery and they've admitted that he has.

The reason why it was filmed secretly was because nobody will openly admit that they have kept him. The man hasn't been sleeping under the stars for seven years; he's been staying somewhere. It's an incredibly sensitive political issue. But when you do ask them privately they do say that there's huge support from the Church.


Olenka Frenkiel:

We have an e-mail from Simon in the UK which has just arrived. Maggie, he says, don't you think you were a little pushy interrupting a Bishop performing a religious ceremony and a hidden camera when you were expressly asked not to film?


Maggie O'Kane:

Well I think we have to look at the Bishop and this is a Bishop who not only may have harboured Karadzic but also has been seen in photographs with people like Arkan (now dead) who was one of the worse Serb paramilitaries. This is a man who was notorious for being involved in illegal activities and I don't believe that we should be kissing his ring.


Olenka Frenkiel:

An e-mail from L. Hege [phon.] in the USA: Why not arrest and put on trial those Serb clergy in the monasteries who actively helped Karadzic evade the law?


Maggie O'Kane:

We have to build a credible case and the Hague is saying we have a credible case against Karadzic, Mladic, Milosevic and they must answer the case. The question is how can we prove he's been there? We can investigate, we can say he's been seen, we can say that Bosnian intelligence leads us to these churches but it would be quite hard to substantiate the case.


Olenka Frenkiel:

Is there no proof that the Serb Orthodox Church has protected these wanted criminals? After all that must be a crime too, they are accessories.


Anthony Borden:

I think firstly, you touch on it later in the film but some of the real responsible culprits here would be those political leaders. I think there's a great interchange between the Orthodox Church and the SDS, the political party which Karadzic founded and remains very much in power - or the power behind the throne. It's impossible to believe that this political structure is not very, very much involved in his remaining free. Yet this political structure remains very vulnerable to western pressure, which it may not be getting full pressure from because it is part of the governing authorities in Banja Luka - so more pressure could be put on them.


Olenka Frenkiel:

This brings us to the next e-mail from Paul O'Hagan [phon.] from the UK who says: Do you then agree that most Serbs are in denial about the atrocities committed in their name and therefore that their collectively guilty? All these politicians, all these prelates?


Anthony Borden:

Well of course the entire purpose of the tribunal is actually to eradicate the concept of collective guilt. In fact it is Milosevic and one of the characters in the film who say we are all supporting, we are all guilty or responsible - that's actually the crime against that nation. The concept of these trials is to individualise the responsibility and it is to the shame of those people who do not come forward with the evidence put before them and answer the cases. Some leading Serbian politicians and others have come forward and gone to the Hague to defend their names and the cowards are those like Karadzic who refuse to come forward.

It is important to note that with Karadzic and Mladic as key figures, there are upwards of 100 people that the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague has indicted or intends to indict which are not in the Hague and this is only still the tip of the iceberg. A large group - because you mentioned why not others - well this is going to take time for those societies to reform their own judiciaries and come to that situation where they can decide how far they want to go with the process. So the whole issue of denial - there are war criminals running small communities throughout Bosnia still.


Olenka Frenkiel:

We have an e-mail from Alan in Edinburgh who says that he has friends in London who were kicked out of Banja Luca- I take it they were Bosnian Muslims - and he says he made a film about them. Do you think the international committee are really serious about catching him and Mladic?


Maggie O'Kane:

I think the Americans are serious now. I think that's what happened. At one stage there was 50,000 international troops in Bosnia when Dayton was signed. He wasn't caught then so I don't think they were serious. But I think it has changed after September 11th.


Olenka Frenkiel:

So it is the Americans who are going to in the fore when it happens?


Maggie O'Kane:

I think basically it is and as somebody said off the record, that Nato has become in a sense the cheerleader - the Americans are running this show - they've got the intelligence, their generals are running the operation and they are the ones who are actually taking part in the most active attempts that we saw for example on the 28th.


Anthony Borden:

We have some evidence that in those small communities there were serious efforts to get to the core of the war criminals in that municipality. The top person, the second person - there was a reasonable hardcore and then you get refugee returns.

So this is not about ethnicity, this is not about hatred from long-term problems - this is about when you remove the war criminals, then you'll get refugee returns and that's the crucial lesson for the international community.


Olenka Frenkiel:

So refugee returns is the factor that signals success?


Anthony Borden:

Absolutely. The war was about ethnic cleansing - getting people to leave. In as much as the international community can get people back, it's a success.


Maggie O'Kane:

For example - in ??? where we were in, only 15 Muslims have returned - all those people are over 60 out of a population of 20,000. So that's saying something is not going the way it should.


Olenka Frenkiel:

The last thing that we have time for this evening is from ??? Markovic from Yugoslavia. She says: Did you consider searching for the other wanted war criminal Mladic when it became know that he was in Valievo?????


Maggie O'Kane:

No. I went in as a journalist to look for Karadzic and that was hard work and I think that people should be looking for Mladic as well and asking exactly the same questions. Why hasn't he been caught?


Olenka Frenkiel:

They do say that he goes in and out of Belgrade fairly regularly.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Karadzic - still in hiding
Karadzic - wanted for seven years and still in hiding
Heroes are hard to catch
"We're deeply disappointed - we got really close to catching him"
Snipers will get you
"You can get killed anyway - they can find you if it's really meant to be"
Karadzic has sympathisers
"Karadzic has sympathisers within the official structure of governance"
Looking for Karadzic: A Maggie O'Kane Investigation

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