Serbia: President upholds law and order ahead of pro-Karadzic protest

Belgrade, 29 July (AKI) – Serbian president Boris Tadic said on Tuesday that Serbia was a democratic country in which every citizen could express his or her opinion, but warned that law and order must be respected.

Tadic (photo) spoke only a few hours ahead of a mass rally to protest the extradition of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the UN's Hague-based Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) organised by Serbia's nationalist opposition.

Karadzic faces 11 charges, including genocide and crimes against humanity during Bosnia's 1992-1995 civil war.

Tadic said it was unbelievable that someone was protesting against the laws of his own country.

 “If we didn’t respect our own laws, we would send a message to our citizens and the world that there is no civilisation here,” Tadic said.

The opposition, led by the nationalist Serbian radical Party (SRS) has protested for the past week against Karadzic’s extradition, after he was arrested in Belgrade last week and several journalists have been seriously injured in the protests.     

 “I’m the man who supports the right to demonstrate and hold a different opinion, because we are a democracy, but order will have to be respected here,” Tadic said.

“As long as I’m the president, as long as this government is power, order will be upheld,” he added. 

Tadic, who has been receiving death threats since Karadzic was arrested, said the threats were unfortunately a part of political life. But he said it was unacceptable that even his children were being threatened.

“That’s the collapse of civilisation, because no one wants to invest where people threaten even each others’ offspring,” Tadic said.

“That’s a bad message coming from this country at a moment when all other messages are good,” he added.

Serbia has passed a law to arrest all war crimes indictees wanted by the Hague tribunal - a key precondition set by the European Union for Serbia’s entry to the bloc.

But Tadic has come under strong criticism from the opposition after Karadzic’s arrest. The latest survey showed that a majority of Serbs Serbs opposed Karadzic’s arrest - 54 percent - while 43 percent were in favour.

Security was raised to the highest level on Tuesday ahead of the rally at a central Belgrade square at seven pm local time.

The strong police presence was visible, particularly around western embassies, which were targeted by the demonstrators during a protest rally against Kosovo's independence in February.

The US embassy in Belgrade was set on fire and several western embassies were damaged. One demonstrator was killed in the unrest and scores of demonstrators and policemen were injured.


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