THE WORLD'S MOST WANTED
August 26, 1997
After the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, former Bosnian Serb President Rodovan Karadzic and other indicted war criminals were supposed to be tried in The Hague, but NATO commanders have been reluctant to risk their troops arresting them. Western commanders, though, are beginning to close the net around the world's most wanted war criminals. After a report by NBC correspondent Jim Maceda, Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion of NATO's apparently tougher stance.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The uneasy peace in Bosnia is our lead focus tonight. The Dayton Accords, which ended the war in 1995, required the surrender of all indicted war criminals, but as of now only 11 of the more than 75 people publicly and secretly indicted are being held in custody. Why so few? For some answers an NBC news team visited Bosnia three weeks ago. In addition to their NBC reports, they prepared a story for the NewsHour. The correspondent is Jim Maceda.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
August 26, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a discussion of NATO's supposedly tougher stance against Bosnian war criminals.
August 11, 1997:
Elizabeth Farnsworth interviews Richard Holbrooke, chief U.S. negotiator of the Dayton Peace Agreement.
July 10, 1997:
Charles Krause discusses NATO's shooting and arrest of Bosnian war criminals.
May 13, 1997:
Margaret Warner conducts a Newsmaker Interview with Bosnian Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic.
May 12, 1997:
Departing NATO Supreme Commander General George Joulwan discusses the mission in Bosnia.
February 3, 1997:
Gaby Rado reports on the continued unrest in Serbia.
December 20, 1996:
Two Bosnian experts discuss the military and civilian efforts of SFOR.
September 16, 1996:
Richard Holbrooke discusses the Bosnian elections.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Bosnia.
JIM MACEDA: Alex Ivanko, a Russian, is the face of the United Nations in Bosnia--spokesman for both its police force and its war crimes tribunal.
ALEX IVANKO, UN Spokesman: The front line was just after the tunnel.
JIM MACEDA: Every week, Ivanko travels over the former front line, from Sarajevo into the Serb half of Bosnia known as the Republic of Srbska. He comes to brief Serb and international journalists on the UNs activities in Bosnia. This is Pale, war-time capital for the Bosnian Serbs.
ALEX IVANKO: Well, here it is, the great capital of the Republic of Srbska, a former ski resort.
The world's most wanted man, a mile away from a NATO checkpoint.
JIM MACEDA: Ivanko must make the 10-mile trek in a NATO armored convoy. A fragile peace in Bosnia may be holding, but here in Serb territory, Ivanko is very unwelcome. He needs NATOs protection, for this is Karadzic land, the home and hideout of Radovan Karadzic, at the top of the UN Tribunals list of indicted war criminals. And every week, in this town, Ivanko is reminded just how powerless he is to arrest the former Bosnian Serb president.
ALEX IVANKO: The most wanted person on this planet lives just down the road there, about a mile away. And it is quite pathetic that nothing is being done about the fact that he can freely move around Pale; he can still control the political situation in Pale, while the international community is present in Pale, and neither the international community, or the local authorities, are doing anything to try to arrest the most wanted person on this planet.
REP. EDWARD MARKEY: Karadzic was supposed to obey the Dayton Peace Accords and step down from power. He has not. He continues to rule from the shadows, refusing to disappear, even though he is wanted for genocide. During the three-year siege of Sarajevo it was Karadzic who allegedly gave the orders which led to the killing of more than 11,000 civilians and the maiming of 60,000 more, with his artillery shells, mortar rounds and sniper fire.
ALEX IVANKO: The red building was one of the main Serb sniper positions. From that building hundreds of people were maimed and killed.
JIM MACEDA: And it was Dr. Karadzic, the poet and psychiatrist, along with his right-hand man, the indicted Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, who oversaw the July 1995 slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica. Mladic, like Karadzic, is still a free man, while Srebrenica has become the symbol of the wars worst crimes.
Bosnia: A nation of open wounds.
Its where Hasan Nuhanovic saw his family for the last time. An interpreter for the UN contingent in Srebrenica, Hasan was allowed to stay in the camp while his father and brother were herded off by Serb soldiers, most likely, to their deaths. Today, Hasan, one of only a handful of male survivors, feels guilty to be alive.
He cannot return to Srebrenica. Its now a Serb town, and thats too risky. And, like many in this ethnically-branded country, he believes the hatred he feels like an open wound will never heal until war criminals like Karadzic are brought to justice.
HASAN NUHANOVIC, UN Interpreter: I dont want them to think that I forgot about it, those who done this; I will not allow them to rest.
JIM MACEDA: There is little the Hasans of Bosnia can do. Arresting indicted war criminals, when encountered, is supposed to be the job of NATO troops. In reality, theyve avoided any confrontation with the likes of Karadzic. This NATO checkpoint is less than a mile from Karadzics house.
NATO SOLDIER: We cant touch him. Were not allowed to.
JIM MACEDA: You could not touch him?
NATO SOLDIER: Were not allowed to. We have to probably radio in back to the headquarters and ask for permission.
JIM MACEDA: And if you did that, hed be gone?
NATO SOLDIER: Its not our problem.
ALEX INVANKO: The problem is that there is no political will to go and arrest him. Theres always the fear of casualties on the part of the international community. He is very well guarded, got about four or five hundred bodyguards, and there are reports that his house is also mined. So were talking about mounting a very major operation. So the problem is casualties and lack of political will.
A new NATO resolve?
JIM MACEDA: But, on July 10th, NATO did act. A highly-trained British SAS SWAT team cornered two Bosnia Serb suspects, both on a sealed war crimes indictment, both caught by surprise inside the Serb republic. One Serb, reportedly close to Karadzic, was killed resisting arrest. NATO was seen finally to be flexing its muscles. Since NATO troops have shown that theyre now willing to use commando-style tactics to arrest indicted war criminals, investigators say its like a shot in the arm. NATO, they say, is finally getting it right, but, for how long? The recent arrests were enough to convince American Bill Stuebner that it was time to come back to Bosnia--his home throughout the war. Stuebner, a former soldier and adviser to the war crimes tribunal, went this time on his own: his mission, to try to persuade Radovan Karadzic to turn himself in. Married to a Bosnian Serb, Stuebner said he wanted to tell the Serb leader he had but two options: surrender or risk death in a violent NATO-led capture.
BILL STUEBNER, Former Adviser, War Crimes Tribunal: If NATO is given the order, no one can stand up to NATO. Youre either then going to go to the Hague, as, you know, bound and basically as a prisoner, or in the fire fight something much worse could happen.
JIM MACEDA: Encouraged by early positive signals, Stuebner met with Karadzics lawyer and several government officials in this building in Pale. Another meeting followed two days later, but this time the lawyer didnt show, nor did the ministers, nor did Karadzic.
BILL STUEBNER: Right at this moment there probably is no further room for negotiation and discussion. I hope that the issue is not over. I certainly hope that people will see the light and will decide to turn themselves in voluntarily.
JIM MACEDA: How do you feel right now, Bill? Is it a great disappointment?
BILL STUEBNER: Well, of course, its somewhat disappointing, but, you cant expect miracles all the time.
Karadzic: still viewed as a hero by Bosnian Serbs.
JIM MACEDA: Indeed, Karadzic seems to have opted for a standoff. But rumors of his imminent arrest are growing, and he is jumping, traveling only after dark, spending no more than one or two nights under the same roof. His guards are also tense. When we tried to approach Karadzics house in Pale, we were detained, our camera confiscated, and we were told we could just as well have been= shot. His people are prepared to protect him--even for those Serbs who lost everything in the war, while he got rich through black marketeering--he is more popular than ever--seen as a martyr and hero, standing up for Serbs against the world.
But Karadzic isnt the only local hero found on the Tribunals "Most Wanted" poster. There are others. This is Vitez, in central Bosnia. where Croats and Muslims lived together until the war. In 1993, in an orgy of ethnic killing, several Croat men are accused of gunning down thousands of Muslim men, women, and children, of burning their homes. Among the indicted war criminals, a local grocer, an engineer, a town clerk, and, like Karadzic, these men are respected and defended by fellow fighters, by friends, such as Zvonomir Cilic, a Croat journalist.
ZVONOMIR CILIC, Croat Journalist: (speaking through interpreter) These men are still in Vitez, but they have to live like hunted animals. Imagine what it would be like. They have to sleep in a different house every day or two. They have to change their appearance, fearing that NATO might go after them.
JIM MACEDA: In the cafes of Vitez, theres little talk of war crimes. These so-called "war criminals," it is said here, were simply defending their families against Muslim attacks. Is that a crime? Besides, they ask, what about crimes committed by the Muslim side? Its a refrain heard in Bosnia on all sides.
BILL STUEBNER: I would say that probably the bulk of the indicted war criminals, probably dont consider themselves criminals. On the other hand, I think so long as at least the ones that are actually indicted are not even brought to justice, then how is anyone going to have any confidence in the peace process? I was hoping that the tribunal would be able to do that. The tribunal, though, with its lack of resourcing, I think, will probably never be able to fully carry out that task.
JIM MACEDA: In fact, the underfunded UN Tribunal in the Hague has only now sent over a few investigators from its tiny staff to unearth yet more evidence of mass executions of Muslims, this time in the northern Bosnian town of Brcko, part of the slow-moving official case against several local Serb suspects already indicted but still at large. This mass grave outside Brcko is turning up hundreds of bodies, apparent victims of war crimes. To date, 900 bodies have been exhumed throughout the country, but there are still 20,000 Bosnians missing.
One man's quest -- the truth.
Twenty thousand ghosts this man is trying to find. Salih Brkic, a Muslim, is a unique war crimes investigator; he does it on his own. His day job, reporter at Bosnian TV, just pays the bills. But its the cause that drives him.
SALIH BRKIC, Reporter, Bosnian TV: (speaking through interpreter) I know I am blacklisted by the Serbs. It is dangerous for me to go to the Serb side. But I am doing this because my conscience dictates. It will not be silenced. I will work on war crimes as long as I live. I will not stop.
JIM MACEDA: Salih puts faces on the wars most horrific crimes. A one-man dragnet, he covers hundreds of miles a day, seeking fresh leads, new eyewitnesses, piecing together the nightmare.
These are faces that haunt him--not just those like Dr. Karadzic, known to the world, but the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of war criminals his detective work has uncovered--all unknown to the War Crimes Tribunal. With no police to make arrests, and no hope of bringing any suspects in, Salih fights for the truth on his own terms. His home has become a virtual war crimes library--more than a thousand videotaped eyewitness accounts--over a hundred thousand documents, photos, his life an obsessive search for more faces.
JIM MACEDA: What do you see when you look at that person?
SALIH BRKIC: (speaking through interpreter) I see a face of stone, a face of someone who enjoys killing. I saw a few such faces when Serbs who worked in the camps were captured. They all said they were cooks or chopped wood or peeled potatoes in the kitchen. No one had killed. No one had raped. No one set houses on fire. So who was it who killed over 200,000 Bosnians? It cannot be answered with only the 70 or so on the war criminals poster.
JIM MACEDA: Among such faces of alleged evil--and so many of pain--a few faces of justice are emerging, all so frustrated in Bosnia; among them Salih Brkic--like a man consumed--remains in the hunt. Bill Stuebner goes home empty-handed. And Alex Ivanko asks with each passing day when will the world say enough to Karadzic and the others on the loose? Until that day comes, the indicted war criminals, many say, will go on thumbing their noses at the world. And peace in Bosnia will remain just as elusive.
A power struggle threatens to tear the Republic of Serbska apart.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Since NBC Correspondent Jim Maceda left three weeks ago, a long simmering power struggle among the leaders of the Serbian part of Bosnia has boiled over.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic has moved to seize more levers of power visa-vis Radovan Karadzic. She formally replaced him after the Dayton Peace Accords, but he continued to rule behind the scenes. Herself a fervent Serb nationalist and onetime supporter of Karadzic, Mrs. Plavsic is now accusing him and his entourage of war profiteering and corruption. The struggle between the two could split the Bosnian Serb Republic. Karadzic's headquarters are in Pale, just outside Sarajevo, and Plavsic is based in Banja Luka.
Last week in Banja Luka troops from the NATO-led stabilization force sealed the area around police buildings and stood guard as security forces loyal to Mrs. Plavsic replaced those aligned with Karadzic. Yesterday, Plavsic supporters took control of a television station that had been broadcasting programs critical of her and supportive of Karadzic. And today President Plavsic turned her attention to the Bosnian Serb military, which has been strongly allied with Karadzic. She summoned a group of generals to a meeting, but as of this evening, the outcome remained in doubt.
Elizabeth Farnsworth leads a follow-up discussion...