THE HAGUE (AFP) — Serbia on Wednesday handed over former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the UN's Yugoslav war crimes court in The Hague to face genocide charges after more than a decade on the run.
The charges against the so-called "Butcher of Bosnia" focus on the two most notorious events of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war -- the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre in which thousands died.
The 63-year-old Karadzic , arrested in Belgrade on July 21, left for the Netherlands on a special flight in the early hours of Wednesday, shortly after Serbian police clashed with his supporters in the Serbian capital.
Serbia's justice ministry said it had authorised Karadzic's transfer to the detention unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The ministry said the Belgrade District Court had ruled "that all conditions have been met for the turnover of Radovan Karadzic to the ICTY."
The plane carrying Karadzic arrived at Rotterdam airport around 6:30 (0430 GMT) amid tight security.
A convoy of vehicles then sped from the airport to the UN detention unit about 25 kilometres (15 miles) to the north, followed by two police helicopters minutes later.
"Radovan Karadzic was today transferred into the Tribunal's custody, after having been at large for more than 13 years," the ICTY said in a statement.
He is likely to be brought before a judge as soon as possible to enter a plea, but no trial is expected for several months. Karadzic faces life imprisonment if found guilty of the 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity listed on his indictment.
ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz was to hold a press conference later in the day.
When Karadzic was arrested, he was disguised as a bearded, long-haired, alternative medicine guru, Doctor Dragan Dabic.
Serbian media said dozens of secret service agents had tracked Karadzic for months before his detention.
"I am proud how he has been hiding all these years and I am appalled how he was thrown in the jaws of the beast," said Karadzic supporter, 55-year-old writer Momir Vasiljevic, in Belgrade.
A close Karadzic ally, former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, is still on the run. Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, another key figure in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, died in 2006 while being tried by the ICTY.
Karadzic's transfer followed close on the heels of Serbian riot police clashing with youths in central Belgrade during an ultra-nationalist rally by more than 15,000 people opposed to his arrest.
Karadzic remains an iconic figure among Serbian hardliners .
At least 25 police and 19 civilians, including a Spanish and a Serbian journalist, were injured in the clashes, hospital officials said.
Karadzic had been seeking to delay his transfer to the UN tribunal.
His entourage claimed he had mailed an appeal against his transfer at the last minute on Friday, but the Serbian war crimes court said it didn't arrive on time.
On Wednesday, Karadzic's lawyer admitted that no appeal was lodged.
The charges against Karadzic include two key events from the Bosnian war -- the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb troops, and the siege of Sarajevo which claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Karadzic vanished from public view in 1996, the year after the ICTY indicted him for genocide and crimes against humanity.
A police search of Karadzic's last hideout uncovered military documents of his Bosnian Serb regime, Serbia's interior minister said on Monday.
The discovery was made in Karadzic's flat in the New Belgrade district after his arrest, the Tanjug state news agency cited Interior Minister Ivica Dacic as saying.
The documents concerned meetings of his military chiefs from the Republika Srpska, the self-declared state Karadzic carved out during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
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