Just after 11:00 (GMT) this morning, rumours began to circulate on the Internet that fugitive Ratko Mladic had been captured by Serbian forces. Initial reports stressed that the man captured was “strongly believed” to be Mladic but that DNA tests would need to be completed in order to formally confirm his identity. The man arrested today was said to resemble Mladic strongly but was later described to be aging, exhausted, and balding.
From Military to Genocide
Ratko Mladic is a Bosnian Serb who was born in the village of Bozinovici in southeastern Bosnia-Herzegovina. He became a military officer in the Yugoslav army and rose through the ranks during the war that broke out as Yugoslavia began to disintegrate in 1991. Following the outbreak of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in April 1992, the Bosnian Serb army was established and Mladic was transferred to the army at the request of Slobodan Milosevic. By June 1994, Mladic was promoted to rank of Colonel General of the Bosnian Serb army and he began to direct a vicious campaign against the opponents of the Bosnian Serbs.
As commander-in-chief of the Bosnian Serb army, Mladic was widely seen to be responsible for the 46-month siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 boys and men at Srebrenica. Under his command, the Bosnian Serb army conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing, rape, the slaughter of prisoners of war, and the bombing of civilians.
In August 1995, the Eugene Register-Guard ran an article entitled “Serb Leader Ordered ‘Feast’ of Blood” which included eyewitness testimony of the Srebrenica massacre:
On or about July 12, he announced the “feast” of blood, according to Nedzida Sadikovic, who said she was present at the event.
According to her account, Mladic exclaimed, “There are so many,” as he spotted the large number of men and boys in the crowd of several thousand refugees. “It is going to be a ‘meze’ (a long, delectable feast). There will be blood up to your knees,” Sadikovic, 42, remembered him saying.
“Beautiful. Keep the good ones over there. Enjoy them,” he told his troops, according to Sadikovic.
In July 1995, Ratko Mladic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This was expanded upon in November 1995 to include the crimes committed in Srebrenica in July 1995.
Ratko Mladic remained a fugitive until this morning despite several sightings of him over the years.
At 1 PM today, Serbian time, Serbian President Boris Tadic announced, first in Serbian and then in English, that Ratko Mladic had in fact been arrested. He stated that the arrest was a result of the full cooperation of Serbia with the Hague tribunal (ICTY) and noted that he had always believed in his strategy of bringing war criminals to justice.
This was an interesting statement to make, as many people believe that Serbia has always known where Mladic was and only arrested him today as a bargaining tool in their bid to gain inclusion into the European Union. In fact, Bosnian politician Zeljko Komsic went on record today to say exactly that, in a speech at which he expressed his pleasure that Mladic had been arrested but stated that it was too late for his victims.
It is no coincidence that today is the day that Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, was to meet Serbian President Boris Tadic and the head of the Serbian negotiation team, Borko Stefanovic, in Belgrade.
During his press announcement this morning, Serbian President Boris Tadic went on to highlight that all crimes must be investigated and all war criminals must be brought to justice. He called for an independent investigation by mandate of the UN Security Council into the allegations of organ trafficking in Kosovo during the Kosovo war in 1999, as reported by Dick Marty. It is notable that Tadic referred to Kosovo as Serbia’s autonomous province, reiterating Serbia’s refusal to recognise the independence of Kosovo.