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Karadzic arrest 'imminent'

Radovan Karadzic.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Carla Del Ponte
Radovan Karadzic

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, says she is optimistic that former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic will be in custody by the end of the day Wednesday.

Asked why she thought they would be in custody soon, Del Ponte said Tuesday, "I cannot tell it now publicly -- let's obtain the arrest of Karadzic and afterward we will talk about what we have done, what we have learned."

For years, Karadzic was said to be at large somewhere in the Republika Srpska -- the Serb part of Bosnia-Hercegovina. There has been renewed pressure on Bosnia to hand over Karadzic.

Aides to Del Ponte say there have been new pressures placed on Serb officials in Bosnia who were recently convinced to give fresh evidence on mass graves for a report on the massacres in Srebrenica in July 1995.

Bosnia also is hoping to join NATO's Partnership for Peace -- a cooperative defense program with NATO.

At the recent NATO summit in Istanbul, Bosnia was reminded that it had not lived up to its obligation to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal -- a condition for joining NATO's Partnership for Peace.

Del Ponte has been saying in various forums over the past year that she was hopeful Karadzic would be arrested by the end of the year, and recently told journalists she was confident he would be arrested by the end of June 2004.

The International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and another U.N. Tribunal for War Crimes in Rwanda, are now under mandate from the U.N. Security Council to wrap up their work.

While there is no particular deadline for arrests to be made, investigations must be completed by the end of 2004 and trials must be completed by the end of 2008.

Del Ponte told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that the tribunal was in a "dire budgetary and financial situation."

She also said the deadlines imposed by the council meant that "fugitives and their protective networks are trying to buy time until 2008 in hopes of evading justice, as they believe the time to be tried in The Hague will soon expire."

Karadzic is wanted for his role in Bosnia's war -- he has been twice indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Karadzic as well as another top war crimes suspect, former Bosnian Serb military leader General Ratko Mladic, are alleged to be directly responsible for the atrocities committed against the Bosnian Muslim population in Srebrenica.

Both Karadzic and Mladic are also charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for crimes perpetrated against the civilian population throughout Bosnia-and-Herzegovina, for the sniping campaign against civilians in Sarajevo, and for the taking of U.N.-peacekeepers as hostages and their use as human shields.

Del Ponte says there are a total of 20 fugitives from the war crimes tribunal including Karadzic, and 15 of the fugitives are thought to be in Serbia and Montenegro.

Next year will mark the 10th year that both Karadzic and Mladic have been on the run from the court.

Del Ponte told the council, "How long will it be tolerated that these leaders escape justice? How long will it be tolerated that they make a parody of both justice and the repeated commitment of the Security Council to have them arrested and tried?"

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