Former Chief of the Bosnian Serb Army, Ratko Mladic, has been arrested and is accused of genocide, and crimes against humanity. American President Barack Obama, now meeting with world leaders at the G8 summit in France, hailed the arrest. Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom William Hague called the arrest a “Historic moment” for the West Balkans and “Belated justice for his victims,” which he said included tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims following the break-up of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. British Defense Secretary Liam Fox also welcomed the arrest, saying it’s a chance for Serbia to “close a very unhappy chapter in their history”. Ratko Mladic is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Yugoslavia was a region with a history of ethnic intolerance, conflict, and related atrocities. It partitioned in the 1990s into several regions. Following the Slovenian and Croatian breakaway in 1991 from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the multiethnic (Muslim Bosnians, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats) Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina sought independence, but their ambitions were blocked by Bosnian Serb political representatives who had just established their own republic: Republika Srpska. In Reaction to the Socialist Republic’s declaration of independence, Bosnian Serb forces, supported by the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic and the Yugoslav People’s Army, attacked the proposed new independent Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, securing Serbian territory. War broke out throughout Bosnia, and the Bosnian Serb forces, utilized ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian people, particularly in eastern Bosnia.
Ethnic cleansing in these instances usually meant the killing and sometimes cruel torture of opposition people, especially the men and boys. Serb soldiers extended the ethnic cleansing to non-Serbs living within their boundaries; most well remembered of the mass executions was the Srebrenica massacre in July of 1995. It is important to note that many Serbs also were targeted with atrocities during that war.
General Ratko Mladic, now in custody, was known and feared for his brutality. The massacre in Srebrenica was the culmination of years of barbarism that included the taking of Sarajevo in 1992. During four years, 10,000 people, including 1,500 children were murdered. Mladic’s view of warfare condoned the practice of artillery and rifle fire on civilians. Women were raped as a weapon of war. No one was safe at home, in school, or in hospitals from deliberate attack. News reports today contain the information that Ratko Mladic has been captured after many years of exile. Ratko Mladic is not considered a criminal by the majority of Serbians. He is seen as a beloved warrior. Serbian nationalists idolize Mladic, and some are furious with the government for turning him over to world authorities.
Mladic was a Chief of Staff of the Army of the Bosnian Serb Army – Republika Srpska – during those heinous years, 1992 until 1995. At that time Slobodan Milosevic was President of The Socialist Republic of Serbia and Republic of Serbia, and also the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, from its inception in 1990. Milosevic was charged with crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but died in his prison cell awaiting trial.
Serbia, until the arrest on May 26th, was under suspicion of protecting Mladic, and that suspicion was blocking Serbia’s hopes to join the European Union. United Nations war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz was preparing to make a report critical of Serbia, the report to be given next month, hinging on lack of Serbian cooperation in the pursuit of Mladic and others.
Now Serbian President Serbian President Boris Tadic is thrilled with the arrest. He said, “We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live.”