The US government has made available to the Hague Tribunal a 1996 letter from Richard Holbrooke to Slobodan Milosevic in which Holbrooke says that Radovan Karadzic must leave Pale and go “to a monastery or elsewhere”.
In order to dismiss Radovan Karadzic’s claim that he reached an agreement on immunity from prosecution in 1996, the US government has decided to publish a series of documents about the negotiations held in Belgrade in July that year.
The negotiations were held on July 18 and 19 and, the US government claims, resulted in an obligation for Karadzic to withdrew from public life and politics, but did not guarantee immunity from prosecution.
Karadzic claims that he signed an immunity agreement and that, as he said in his first appearance in The Hague, this was why he went into hiding under a false identity in Belgrade, where he was arrested in
July last year.
Karadzic submitted on May 25 a motion to the Tribunal requesting that the indictment against him be dismissed because of the existence of this agreement.
The negotiations in Belgrade were held between Milosevic, then President of Serbia, Holbrooke, the US Special Envoy, accompanied by several US civil and military officials, as well as Momcilo Krajisnik, then President of the Republika Srpska Assembly, and RS Foreign Minister Aleksa Buha.
Karadzic was not present and he, allegedly, signed the agreement by fax.
On his return to the US on July 21, 1996, Holbrooke wrote the letter to Milosevic, citing a meeting in a “villa”, but not specifying where.
The letter describes the agreeement signed by Karadzic as “a step forward”, but “as the world press has noted, much remains to be done.”
Holbrooke goes on to explain that compliance with the terms of the agreement from July 18 and 19, 1996, is “the first test that must be passed by the Republika Srpska and the SDS.” He adds that Pale, at that time Karadzic’s headquarters, must understand that the US, “NATO, and Ambassador Frowick will be prepared to take whatever action is required to get Pale on course.”
Rober Frowick was the OSCE Ambassador in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the time.
Holbrooke mentions “an oral assurance” given by Krajisnik (subsequently sentenced by the Hague Tribunal to 20 years in prison) and Buha stressing that their assurances are important. These “unpublished and unpublicized assurances”, the letter says, cover the “use of posters of Karadzic and his private (i.e. secret or unpublicized) participation in the affairs of the RS and the SDS.”
In a section of the letter titled “The future of Dr. Karadzic,” Holbrooke writes that the US’ final goal is to see Karadzic and Mladic in The Hague.
“As I predicted to you, we have been criticized publicly for failing to obtain agreement that Karadzic and General Mladic present themselves at The Hague. I recognize, of course, that this was not realistic during our short trip, although it remains my government’s goal,” he writes.
“The next step is the permanent departure of Karadzic from Pale. I do not care at the outset where he goes – to a monastery or elsewhere. But we consider his departure from the town which he dominated essential. Even if he fulfills the exact terms of our agreement, his continued presence in Pale will carry with it the wrong message, not only to the world but to Bosnian Serbs. If Krajisnik and his collegues wish to end their total isolation, they must get him out of Pale, as the next step, after which he will move on,” Holbrooke concludes.
Holbrooke at the end suggests that Karadzic leave Pale “ostensibly of his own free will, immediately.”
“Even if his first stop is somwhere else in Bosnia, this would be a major step forward.”
Holbrooke ends by expressing his satisfaction that Milosevic is “willing to try to assist the process at a critical time.”
“And I was especially pleased that you served a fine lamb and sausages at the villa,” he notes.