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Opinion: Karadzic Arrest is Only the Beginning

The international community has welcomed the arrest of Radovan Karadzic. But now that the true story looks set to come out, some people will have a lot of explaining to do, says DW's Benjamin Pargan.

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"No authority in Serbia knows the whereabouts of Karadzic and Mladic," said the Serbian minister in charge of cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, just last week. But on Monday, July 21, the news broke that Europe's most-wanted suspected war criminal had been arrested while traveling by bus in a Belgrade suburb -- scuppering rumors that he was either hiding somewhere in Russia or had undergone plastic surgery to avoid being recognized. These, it seems were all part of deliberate efforts on the part of the previous Serbian government led by former Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to conceal the truth.

The arrest proves that the EU was right to exert pressure on Serbia. And it should continue to do until Radovan Karadzic's General Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, former president of a breakaway Serbian entity in Croatia during the war in the former Yugoslavia, are locked up in The Hague.

In the past, not all EU countries were consistent in their calls for the arrest of all war crimes suspects, and for this to be a precondition for any Serbian bid for EU membership. Only Belgium and the Netherlands insisted Serbia must meet all criteria before the EU signed a pre-membership Stabilization and Association accord with the Balkan country. Hopefully, these countries will remain consistent and continue to insist that all war crimes suspects are handed over.

Facing the past

However, the international community needs to actively support the new Serbian government. The sudden arrest of Karadzic was a courageous step forward. But praise aside, it should not be forgotten that two further steps are still needed. Only then will it be possible to face up to this dark chapter in recent Serbian history. And it's important that Serbia does. In neighboring Bosnia Herzegovina, relatives of Karadzic's victims have been waiting for justice for almost 13 years. The arrest won't bring back the husbands and sons murdered in Srebrenica, but the knowledge that justice has prevailed after all these years will no doubt give some comfort to their loved ones.

Rumors have been circulating in the Balkans for years that a deal had been done with Karadzic, guaranteeing him freedom in return for his withdrawal from politics. With his arrest, his Bosnian victims' faith in the international community has been partly returned -- although many still believe the deal was made.

But the psychiatrist from Montenegro might now end up revealing a few uncomfortable truths that could leave several of the internal protagonists in the Balkans tragedy with a lot of explaining to do. The past needs to be faced, even if many would rather it weren't.

Benjamin Pargan is an editor for DW-RADIO's Bosnian department (jp)

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