WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was arrested yesterday in Serbia. Hoyer is the former Chairman of the Helsinki Commission:
“I strongly welcome the news that the Bosnian Serb leader who helped to orchestrate the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic, has been arrested in Serbia. I hope he will be promptly transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where he faces charges of genocide and numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity. I also hope that Ratko Maldic, who played as leading a role in the commission of these crimes as Karadzic, is also apprehended and transferred to the tribunal as soon as possible.
“Countless times we saw on television or read in the newspapers about the displacement of whole towns and villages, about the shelling of Sarajevo and the detention camps like Omarska and Trnopolje, the mass rapes, and numerous other crimes associated with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. I had the opportunity in 1998, along with some of my colleagues, of standing before an excavated mass grave near Srebrenica and seeing the remains of those killed as they were being recovered. It was an experience I will never forget. And I can recall, time and time again, Radovan Karadzic emerging from the negotiating halls or his well-protected headquarters to proclaim with utmost arrogance that the shelling was the fault of those being shelled, that the international community was responsible for provoking the atrocities, and that the ethnic purification of Bosnia as part of the formation of a ‘Greater Serbia’ was an historical inevitability we all needed to accept.
“In the early 1990s, many of us in the Congress saw the conflict in Bosnia for what it was – senseless aggression – and called not only for decisive action to stop the atrocities but to bring those responsible to justice. I did so repeatedly as a chairman of the Helsinki Commission. In the immediate post-Cold War world, it was difficult for Europe, the United States and the international community to come to grips with the true horror that confronted them. Despite hesitancy and sometimes outright opposition from some, we nevertheless did stop the conflict and establish a needed precedent by forming a tribunal for war crimes, the first since World War II. Bringing those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to justice has remained an issue in our relations with Serbia and other countries ever since.
“I look forward to Mr. Karadzic’s explanation of his actions, no longer before the television cameras but before a panel of judges in The Hague. I hope his apprehension and trial will help Bosnians find closure as victims and for Serbs to reject completely the nationalist legacy of Slobodan Milosevic. This will allow both countries to move toward European integration. In the meantime, given the continued horrors that occur around the world today, I also hope the apprehension of Radovan Karadzic will represent one more small but definite step to making
international justice a true deterrent to those thugs around the world who contemplate war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide to achieve their hate-filled aims.”