The wife of fugitive Radovan Karadzic today appealed to her husband to surrender to the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal “for the sake of the family”.
Ljiljana Karadzic, who has always backed her husband during his flight from justice over the last 10 years, was speaking at her home.
“Our family is under constant pressure from all over. Our life and our existence is jeopardised,” she said in apparent reference to raids by NATO troops on her home and those of her son and daughter in recent months.
In early July, troops detained the couple’s son, Aleksandar, and questioned him for 10 days before releasing him.
The family has always claimed it has had no contact with Karadzic and should be left alone.
A UN war crimes tribunal in 1995 indicted the wartime Bosnian Serb leader for genocide and other war crimes during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, including the 1995 massacre of as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica.
He remains one of the tribunal’s most wanted fugitives, sought by NATO and EU peacekeepers.
It is believed that his Bosnian Serb supporters have helped him elude capture despite a US-sponsored $5m (€4.1m) reward for information leading to his arrest.
His wife struggled to hold back tears during the interview and said her decision had not been an easy one.
“In hope that you are alive and that you can make decisions by yourself, I’m begging you to make this decision,” she said. “I’m now doing the only thing I can – I’m begging you,” she said.
“Between loyalty to you and to the children and grandchildren, I had to choose and I have chosen…It will be your sacrifice for us, for the sake of your family,” she said.
She said she hoped her message would reach him.
UN war crimes prosecutors believe Karadzic is hiding in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia and that he often crosses over to neighbouring Serbia, using the mountainous border area – and the popularity he still enjoys among Serb nationalists.
Former US envoy Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the 1995 Bosnian peace agreement, told the AP recently that Karadzic is being sheltered by the ruling Serb Democratic Party, SDS, which he once established as well as by the Serb Orthodox Church.
“Elements of the SDS are in on this. I think the SDS is a criminal organisation sheltering him,” said former Holbrooke, adding: “I’d guess he is in a monastery, having shaved his hair and having his beard grow.”
Former associates of the fugitive have said Karadzic has often slipped into Pale, the Bosnian Serb wartime capital, for night-time visits to his wife, Ljiljana, daughter, Sonja and son, Aleksandar-Sasa.
Mrs Karadzic told Serbian media recently that none of them had seen Karadzic since 1998 when he went into hiding and that NATO knows well the family does not know where he is “because they follow us all the time. We have also found various listening and tracking devices on our cars”.
“It’s better that we don’t know because we would be the weakest link,” she claimed.