The Healer and the War Criminal The Double Life of Radovan Karadzic

For over a decade former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was one of the world's most wanted men. But instead of going underground, he sought a very public life -- even giving a talk on TV -- until the new government in Belgrade finally put an end to his strange new life.

By Renate Flottau in Belgrade


Is it possible to disappear into anonymity for close to 12 years and yet remain more or less at home? Can a man make himself invisible in the Balkans, even though half the world is looking for him? And of all the people he would have needed to help him live a life with a different identity, wasn't there at least one who wouldn't have been tempted by a $5 million (€3.2 million) reward?

Goran Kojic clearly remembers his first appointment with Dr. Dragan David Dabic. He appears to have been one of the few people who harbored certain doubts upon encountering the doctor, an expert in herbal medicine and Far Eastern therapies.

Kojic, who publishes the Belgrade magazine Zdrav Zivot, or Healthy Living, says that the man with the ponytail and long white beard came across as someone who was part-Freud, part-Bohemian. "He walked into my editorial offices wearing a black hat and offered me articles about energy therapies and radiation protection and, later on, about meditation." But there were three things about the doctor that struck Kojic as odd.

First there was the problem with his medical diploma. When asked to present it Dabic said that it was with his ex-wife in the faraway United States, that she had kept it as revenge for his having left her, and that she refused to return it.

And then there was the dialect, which, as Kojic recalls, was not a Belgrade dialect. But Dabic had an explanation for that, too. He told Kojic that he was from the Croatian Krajina region, which had been populated mainly by Serbian minorities until 1995. "But I really became suspicious when my visitor refused to give me any information about the hospitals where he had worked," Kojic adds.

Despite his doubts, however, Kojic apparently chose not to probe any further.

Never Really in Hiding

In retrospect, the transformation seemed almost perfect. This Dr. Dabic -- whose real name was Radovan Karadzic and who was, in fact, a trained psychiatrist -- took his chances when he changed his identity. After working in his field, Karadzic entered politics and, in 1992, became the leader of the Serbs in the Bosnian war -- responsible for ethnic cleansing, horrific concentration camps and the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians.

Karadzic, a.k.a. Dabic, never really went into hiding. For 12 years, he lived among his fellow Serbs, treating patients as a neuropsychiatrist, writing articles for professional journals, publishing books under his real name and giving talks to select audiences throughout Serbia.

But now that the presumed war criminal is behind bars and the hunt for the former president of the Bosnian Serbs has ended, the rest of the world remains puzzled over how he could have managed to conceal himself for more than a decade.

If this guru of alternative medicine was unable to produce a diploma in the offices of Zdrav Zivot, wouldn't a call to the Serbian medical association have sufficed? Serbian Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic admitted last week that a Dr. Dabic was never registered with that organization.

A search on the Internet could also have set off alarms. According to the fake resume Dabic published on a relatively obscure Web site, he was born "in the small Serbian village of Kovaci, near Kraljevo," later moving to Belgrade and eventually attending medical school at Lomonosov University in Moscow. Kovaci is in southern Serbia, not in the Croatian Krajina region.

But no one seemed to have noticed anything unusual about Dabic, not even in the Belgrade medical practices with which he was affiliated, of which there were at least three. One of them was the Nova Vita private clinic in Rakovica, a Belgrade suburb, where clinic director Milomir Kandic confirmed that Dabic, who practiced there almost once a week last year, made a competent impression. At another private clinic in Belgrade's Slavija Center, Dabic's patients included celebrities in the Serbian sports and entertainment world. The "doctor" even managed to cure a well-known politician's back pain.

No one at these clinics noticed anything. Those who encountered him say that the former Serb leader even changed his once-powerful and deep voice, which they say sounded frail, like the voice of an old man.

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