AMSTERDAM – Radovan Karadzic's extradition to The Hague will reunite him with old comrades sharing the same prison — the same place where his one-time mentor, late ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, spent the last five years of his life.
He will also meet old enemies from the 1992-95 Bosnian war. But under lock and key, ethnic rivalries tend to fade, and guns are replaced by ping pong paddles and chess boards.
Karadzic — the former Bosnian Serb leader wanted for war crimes — was arrested Monday in a Belgrade suburb after more than 13 years in hiding, Serbian officials said. A judge on Tuesday ordered his transfer from Serbia to the tribunal; Karadzic has three days to appeal the ruling.
Once transferred to The Hague, Karadzic will be housed in the U.N. detention unit, a separate wing of a Dutch maximum security prison in the nearby seaside resort of Scheveningen.
It is a short commute by prison car to the court where he will stand trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Police on Tuesday cordoned off one lane of the busy street running past the high brick wall surrounding the detention unit to allow TV satellite trucks to park and train their cameras on the metal gates.
Vacationers on their way to the beach stopped and peered at the jail and the waiting media. Two cyclists dismounted outside the main entrance and photographed the door.
"The tribunal is very happy with this news and ready to welcome Radovan Karadzic in its detention unit as soon as possible. We are preparing for his arrival," said the tribunal's spokeswoman, Nerma Jelacic.
Among the 37 detainees Karadzic will encounter is Momcilo Krajisnik, a former speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament when Karadzic was president, who is appealing a 27-year sentence for mass murder and persecution.
He also will meet former enemies such as Rasim Delic, a Bosnian Muslim general on trial for murder, cruel treatment and rape of Bosnian Serbs and Croats.
Security at the prison underwent a thorough review by a panel of Swedish experts in 2006 after Milosevic's death from a heart attack and the suicide a week earlier of another key figure in the Balkan wars, the Bosnian Serb regional leader Milan Babic.
The review showed that life in the detention unit was far more relaxed than in normal prisons, and that inmates had few complaints about their treatment.
Suspects are held in individual cells measuring 17 by 10 feet, fitted with a shower, toilet, wash basin and desk. Milosevic, who defended himself against genocide charges, also had a separate office equipped with phones, computers, filing cabinets and facilities for confidential interviews.
Inmates receive the regular array of Dutch, German, Belgian and French television channels, as well as satellite reception in their own language. They can take courses in arts, languages or sciences.
They spend most of their time outside their rooms and share a gym, outdoor courtyard, library and a recreation room for darts, table tennis and board games. They have access to a doctor, nurse and psychiatrist and to a hospital in the adjoining Dutch prison.
Prisoners live in relative harmony and share their celebrations, said Naser Oric, the Bosnian Muslim commander who defended Srebrenica and who spent three years in Scheveningen before an appeals court acquitted him this month of all charges.
"We invited each other. We — Muslims from Bosnia and Kosovo — celebrated our religious holidays together with the Serbs and Croats. Croats also invited Serbs, Bosniaks and Albanians to celebrate Catholic holidays, and the Serbs again invited everybody for Serb Christmas," he told a Sarajevo television talk show last year.
The Swedish inspectors also reported that "there is no sign of ethnic antagonism here." They noted that the inmates are older, usually well educated, have some wealth and don't think of themselves as criminals.
Incarceration often is difficult for them because their alleged crimes "were earlier regarded as heroic deeds by their own ethnic group," the report said.