Karadzic's War of Words

Another collection of writings by the Hague tribunal’s most-wanted fugitive contains no new insights – or clues as to his whereabouts.

Karadzic's War of Words

Another collection of writings by the Hague tribunal’s most-wanted fugitive contains no new insights – or clues as to his whereabouts.

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

If the literary career of the Hague tribunal’s most wanted fugitive Radovan Karadzic is anything to go by, hiding in the Bosnian mountains for almost a decade is a potent source of literary inspiration.

The book “Charity and Appeals” was launched by supporters of the former wartime Bosnian Serb leader – who has been on the run since he was indicted on charges including genocide in 1995 – in Belgrade this week.

Members of the International Committee for the Truth About Radovan Karadzic, who are mostly writers and former politicians, said that the book is a collection of various “acts of charity, public appeals and letters” that Karadzic wrote during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is part of a series of books intended to show “the truth about Karadzic”, committee members said, adding that they would soon publish one more. Four books of Karadzic's wartime letters and documents have already been published in Serbia.

Hardly any new information has come to light in the book, which mostly comprises transcripts of his calls for the release of Bosnian Serbs captured during the war, and sinister hints about what may happen if his appeals were not answered.

What remains unclear is just how the publishers were able to get in touch with Karadzic – something that NATO troops and the police forces of Bosnia and Serbia and Montenegro have notably failed to do for more than a decade.

“There is not a single person who could have any kind of contact – direct or indirect - with Karadzic now,” said publisher Miroslav Toholj, who served as wartime information minister under the fugitive indictee.

“However, we can’t rule out the possibility that a parcel containing a manuscript could arrive at our address via regular mail at some time in the future,” he said, adding that the papers which make up “Charity and Appeals” had been sent to the committee back in October 2001.

Belgrade is under increasing pressure from the international community to hand over the tribunal’s most wanted suspects, Karadzic and former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who are both believed to spend at least some of their time on Serbian soil.

In spite of this, Toholj claims that the Serbian police have shown no interest in his publishing activities – even those relating to one of the world’s most high-profile fugitives.

But the former Bosnian Serb leader’s long-time friend Gojko Djogo told the Belgrade weekly Vreme that Karadzic had indeed been in contact with the truth committee and the publishing company which handled the new book.

“He looked over the letters,” Djogo said, “but for understandable reasons was able to add his remarks to only some of them.

“There are no clues in the book that would indicate relations with Karadzic, but it’s obvious that they exist. Why would we hide that?”

Before he began a political career that would lead to him being indicted for war crimes, Karadzic was a psychiatrist and an amateur poet. But his career as a writer did not take off until after the Bosnian war, and especially after he was forced to go into hiding.

Since then, reprints have been issued of a book of his selected poems and one of children’s verse, four books of war letters, statements and documents, and he has even made his debut as a dramatist with “an easy comedy piece” called “Sitovacija”. According to the publisher, all royalties and copyrights belong to Karadzic’s wife, Ljiljana.

The critics have been generous, hailing Karadzic’s work as a “lyrical light in historical darkness”. The author himself had been described by one reviewer as a “poet of a neo-Romanticist expression, who had placed longing for love and joining, uniting in beauty and hope, in the very heart of his poetry”.

Toholj shrugged when asked how his latest publication was doing, and described sales as “average”, adding, “People here don’t really read plays and poetry much.”

Tamara Skrozza is a reporter with the Belgarde weekly Vreme.

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