Friday, 24 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Top Serbian War Crimes Suspect Caught

Thursday, 26 May 2011 10:12 By Marlise Simons and Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times News Service | Report

Paris - Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused of war crimes including masterminding the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, has been captured in Serbia after more than 15 years as one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.

President Boris Tadic of Serbia announced the arrest in Belgrade on Thursday, giving few details.

Serbian news reports said that Mr. Mladic had been living under the name of Milorad Komadic and that he was captured in Vojvodina, the Serbian province north of Belgrade, after authorities received a tip that the man known as Komadic resembled Mr. Mladic and had identification documents with that name. Serbian police said he had been arrested in the village of Lazarevo.

The massacre at Srebrenica was the worst ethnically motivated mass murder on the Continent since World War II.

President Tadic said that Mr. Mladic would be turned over to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. “Extradition is happening,” he said. “This is the end of the search for Mladic. It’s not the end of the search for all those who helped Mladic and others to hide and whether people from the government were involved.”

In Belgrade, Bruno Vekaric, a prosecutor at the war crimes office, said Mr. Mladic’s transfer to The Hague would not be immediate. He will first attend a hearing at the Special Court where a judge will decide if all conditions are met for his surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Mr. Vekaric said, and will have three days to appeal the ruling.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and Mr. Mladic’s former boss, is being tried in The Hague on charges of genocide for his role in the Balkan bloodshed. Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 while his trial was under way.

The arrest removes one major stumbling block to Serbia’s long-sought accession to the European Union. Mr. Tadic stressed that “this is happening on the day Catherine Ashton is coming to Serbia,” referring to the European Union’s foreign policy chief. But it was not immediately clear how the Serbian public, which has been suspicious of the West’s demands for trials of Serbs in the Balkans wars of the 1990s, would react to news of the arrest.

Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the country’s Journalists’ Association, said she did not expect political unrest or rioting to break out, as might have been expected in earlier years when aggressive Serbian nationalists like Mr. Milosevic held more sway in the country. “The weight of evidence against Mladic is staggering,” Ms. Smajlovic said, “even if Serbs remain unconvinced that the Hague tribunal has been evenhanded in its approach to war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.”

In response to a question, Mr. Tadic said: “I do not expect that Serbia, because of this arrest, will be destabilized. Whoever tries to make any trouble will end up in court.” He said that the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted for war crimes, Goran Hadzic, “will be arrested — I promise it is going to happen.” Mr. Hadzic is sought in connection with massacres of Croats in Krajina, a majority-Serb section of Croatia that tried to break away in the 1990s.

Mr. Tadic added that three years ago, his government in Belgrade had created “an action team, and they delivered.”

The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic. Such a report would have effectively blocked Serbia from becoming an official candidate for membership in the European Union. The Netherlands, whose peacekeepers were overrun by Mr. Mladic’s troops at Srebrenica, has said that it would veto Serbia’s candidacy if Mr. Mladic remained at large.

Ms. Smajlovic said that the fact that Ms. Ashton was in Serbia for meetings on Thursday would “lead to suspicion that the arrest was timed to honor her and also to underline Serbia now has high expectations of rapid E.U. integration.”

However, the European Union’s struggles through economic crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere may present a new obstacle to that goal.

A lawyer for Mr. Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader now on trial in The Hague, said that the arrest of Mr. Mladic could have serious implications for that trial. The lawyer, Peter Robinson, said that the court may decide to try Mr. Mladic and Mr. Karadzic together.

On Thursday, Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the country’s Journalists’ Association, said she did not expect political unrest or rioting to break out, as might have been expected in earlier years when aggressive Serbian nationalists like Slobodan Milosevic held more sway in the country. “The weight of evidence against Mladic is staggering,” Ms. Smajlovic said, “even if Serbs remain unconvinced that the Hague tribunal has been evenhanded in its approach to war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.”

In response to a question, Mr. Tadic said: “I do not expect that Serbia, because of this arrest, will be destabilized. Whoever tries to make any trouble will end up in court.” He said that the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted for war crimes, Goran Hadzic, “will be arrested — I promise it is going to happen.” Mr. Hadzic is sought in connection with massacres of Croats in Krajina, a majority-Serb section of Croatia that tried to break away in the 1990s.

As evening descended on Belgrade, witnesses said the streets remained largely calm with a large police presence guarding government buildings and foreign embassies. They said that small groups of Mladic supporters gathered in Lazarevo near the house where Mr. Mladic was captured, near Republic Square in central Belgrade and in front of Mr. Mladic’s former residence in the capital.

Mr. Tadic added that three years ago, his government in Belgrade had created “an action team, and they delivered.”

Still, some Serbian officials reacted with anger, illustrating that Mr. Mladic remained a hero to a minority of Serbs and that the country was still struggling to come to terms with the past. Boris Aleksic, a spokesman for the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, said: “Serb traitors have arrested a Serb hero. This shameful arrest of a Serb general is a blow to our national interests and the state.”

The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic. Such a report would have further complicated Serbia’s attempt to become an official candidate for membership in the European Union. The Netherlands, whose peacekeepers were overrun by Mr. Mladic’s troops at Srebrenica, has said that it would veto Serbia’s candidacy if Mr. Mladic remained at large.

Ms. Smajlovic said that the fact that Ms. Ashton was in Serbia for meetings on Thursday would “lead to suspicion that the arrest was timed to honor her and also to underline Serbia now has high expectations of rapid E.U. integration.”

However, the European Union’s struggles through economic crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere may present a new obstacle to that goal, with the bloc’s drive to expand significantly slowed in recent months.

A lawyer for Mr. Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader now on trial in The Hague, said that the arrest of Mr. Mladic could have serious implications for that trial. The lawyer, Peter Robinson, said that the court may decide to try Mr. Mladic and Mr. Karadzic together.

In hiding since 1995, sometimes in plain sight at soccer matches and sometimes deep in the fabric of a secretive city, Mr. Mladic was widely believed for years to be protected by allies in the Serbian military and intelligence services. But he appeared to have spent the last few years with no more than a handful of loyalists to help him, investigators and some of his past associates have said. He was said to be living most recently in New Belgrade, a sprawling extension of the Serbian capital west across the Sava River from the main part of the city, and his diminished circumstances in recent years appeared to make him ripe for capture.

Mr. Mladic proved to be a wily foe — tough, resourceful and abetted by military-trained protectors, investigators said.

A burly man of 68 with a ruddy face and sharp blue eyes, Mr. Mladic was born in Bozanovici, a remote village in Bosnia. He was shaped by a childhood marked by poverty and the killing of his partisan father by soldiers of the Nazi puppet state in Croatia. He was a fast-rising star in the Yugoslav army; a father figure to his troops, he prided himself on leading from the front during military offensives, and was respected even among his enemies for his fearlessness.

In 1992, one month after a Bosnian majority voted to secede from Yugoslavia, Mr. Mladic’s forces began a three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo, killing 10,000 people, including 3,500 children. In July 1995, the men and boys of Srebrenica were led to killing fields where they were shot with their hands bound. The Bosnian war ended five months later.

That year, an international court in The Hague indicted Mr. Mladic twice, for war crimes in the Sarajevo siege and for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre.

Mr. Mladic certainly did not lie low for many years. Protected by Slobodan Milosevic, Mr. Mladic often visited the grave of his daughter, Ana, who was reportedly so distraght by reports abaout her father that she committed suicide with his favorite pistol in 1994. Surrouned by bodyguards, he attended a Chinese-Yugoslav soccer match at a Belgrade stadium in 2000. His photograph was prominently displayed in bars like the Crazy House in New Belgrade. He prayed at his brother’s funeral in 2001, wearing a jogging suit and sunglasses, with a young woman on his arm, according to the family priest.

Mr. Mladic’s arrest was welcomed by world leaders, including those gathered in Deauville, France, for the Group of Eight summit meeting. President Obama said in Deauville that the arrest marked an important day for the families of Mr. Mladic’s victims and that Mr. Mladic would now be made to answer for his actions in a court of law.

The White House also issued a statement hailing the arrest, and urged Serbia to transfer Mr. Mladic quickly to The Hague. Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser, said the arrest showed that war criminals ultimately would be brought to justice.

In Paris, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commended Serbia for the arrest.

“The apprehension of him after all of these years is a great day for justice in the international system, an end to impunity, a time for accountability,” she said in an interview with French television TF1.

She said she had previously discussed Mr. Mladic’s fugitive status with President Tadic. “This was a high priority for him and his government, to close that chapter so that Serbia can move on.”

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the host in Deauville, greeted the arrest as “very big news.” He said the Serbian government had taken a “courageous decision” that constituted “another step towards Serbia’s eventual integration into the European Union.”

The arrest was also praised, in more somber tones, by survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.

“I want to congratulate Europe and Tadic,” said Munira Subasic, head of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica. “I’m sorry for all the victims who are dead and cannot see this day.”

National leaders and human rights advocates underscored the message that Mr. Mladic’s arrest, even many years after the war in Bosnia, should be seen as a warning to other repressive political or military figures.

“After nearly two decades on the run, justice has finally caught up with the man who personified the brutality of the Balkan wars,” said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch. “His arrest today is a clear message to accused like Omar al-Bashir and potential accused like Muammar al-Qaddafi that justice never forgets.”

Ivan Vejvoda, vice president of the German Marshall Fund in Washington and longtime director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy in Belgrade, hailed the arrest of Mr. Mladic as not just a single event but the culmination of a process that dated back to the fall of Milosevic more than a decade ago. The progress that has been made since the election of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2001 had been obscured by the efforts to arrest and extradite Mr. Mladic, Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Milosevic.

“All Serbia has heard for years is, ‘That’s all well and good what you’re doing but until Mladic is in the dock we won’t really believe you,’ ” Mr. Vejvoda said. “The relief that is felt today is a burden taken off the back of this country.”

“One cannot underestimate the importance for the image of Serbia,” Mr. Vejvoda said. “The country has been shackled to this.”

But Mr. Vejvoda said Mr. Mladic’s arrest leaves Serbia at the beginning of a long road of reform, not at the end of one. “All the other challenges that a country that is post-communist, post-conflict and still has a lot of work to do in terms of its democratic reform process are still there,” he said. “We often said amongst ourselves that, paradoxically, this situation with Mladic is the easier part of the problems we faced.”

Marlise Simons reported from Paris and Dan Bilefsky from New York. Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Deauville, France; Doreen Carvajal contributed from Paris, J. David Goodman from New York and Nicholas Kulish from Cairo.


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Top Serbian War Crimes Suspect Caught

Thursday, 26 May 2011 10:12 By Marlise Simons and Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times News Service | Report

Paris - Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused of war crimes including masterminding the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, has been captured in Serbia after more than 15 years as one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.

President Boris Tadic of Serbia announced the arrest in Belgrade on Thursday, giving few details.

Serbian news reports said that Mr. Mladic had been living under the name of Milorad Komadic and that he was captured in Vojvodina, the Serbian province north of Belgrade, after authorities received a tip that the man known as Komadic resembled Mr. Mladic and had identification documents with that name. Serbian police said he had been arrested in the village of Lazarevo.

The massacre at Srebrenica was the worst ethnically motivated mass murder on the Continent since World War II.

President Tadic said that Mr. Mladic would be turned over to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. “Extradition is happening,” he said. “This is the end of the search for Mladic. It’s not the end of the search for all those who helped Mladic and others to hide and whether people from the government were involved.”

In Belgrade, Bruno Vekaric, a prosecutor at the war crimes office, said Mr. Mladic’s transfer to The Hague would not be immediate. He will first attend a hearing at the Special Court where a judge will decide if all conditions are met for his surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Mr. Vekaric said, and will have three days to appeal the ruling.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and Mr. Mladic’s former boss, is being tried in The Hague on charges of genocide for his role in the Balkan bloodshed. Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 while his trial was under way.

The arrest removes one major stumbling block to Serbia’s long-sought accession to the European Union. Mr. Tadic stressed that “this is happening on the day Catherine Ashton is coming to Serbia,” referring to the European Union’s foreign policy chief. But it was not immediately clear how the Serbian public, which has been suspicious of the West’s demands for trials of Serbs in the Balkans wars of the 1990s, would react to news of the arrest.

Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the country’s Journalists’ Association, said she did not expect political unrest or rioting to break out, as might have been expected in earlier years when aggressive Serbian nationalists like Mr. Milosevic held more sway in the country. “The weight of evidence against Mladic is staggering,” Ms. Smajlovic said, “even if Serbs remain unconvinced that the Hague tribunal has been evenhanded in its approach to war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.”

In response to a question, Mr. Tadic said: “I do not expect that Serbia, because of this arrest, will be destabilized. Whoever tries to make any trouble will end up in court.” He said that the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted for war crimes, Goran Hadzic, “will be arrested — I promise it is going to happen.” Mr. Hadzic is sought in connection with massacres of Croats in Krajina, a majority-Serb section of Croatia that tried to break away in the 1990s.

Mr. Tadic added that three years ago, his government in Belgrade had created “an action team, and they delivered.”

The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic. Such a report would have effectively blocked Serbia from becoming an official candidate for membership in the European Union. The Netherlands, whose peacekeepers were overrun by Mr. Mladic’s troops at Srebrenica, has said that it would veto Serbia’s candidacy if Mr. Mladic remained at large.

Ms. Smajlovic said that the fact that Ms. Ashton was in Serbia for meetings on Thursday would “lead to suspicion that the arrest was timed to honor her and also to underline Serbia now has high expectations of rapid E.U. integration.”

However, the European Union’s struggles through economic crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere may present a new obstacle to that goal.

A lawyer for Mr. Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader now on trial in The Hague, said that the arrest of Mr. Mladic could have serious implications for that trial. The lawyer, Peter Robinson, said that the court may decide to try Mr. Mladic and Mr. Karadzic together.

On Thursday, Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the country’s Journalists’ Association, said she did not expect political unrest or rioting to break out, as might have been expected in earlier years when aggressive Serbian nationalists like Slobodan Milosevic held more sway in the country. “The weight of evidence against Mladic is staggering,” Ms. Smajlovic said, “even if Serbs remain unconvinced that the Hague tribunal has been evenhanded in its approach to war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.”

In response to a question, Mr. Tadic said: “I do not expect that Serbia, because of this arrest, will be destabilized. Whoever tries to make any trouble will end up in court.” He said that the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted for war crimes, Goran Hadzic, “will be arrested — I promise it is going to happen.” Mr. Hadzic is sought in connection with massacres of Croats in Krajina, a majority-Serb section of Croatia that tried to break away in the 1990s.

As evening descended on Belgrade, witnesses said the streets remained largely calm with a large police presence guarding government buildings and foreign embassies. They said that small groups of Mladic supporters gathered in Lazarevo near the house where Mr. Mladic was captured, near Republic Square in central Belgrade and in front of Mr. Mladic’s former residence in the capital.

Mr. Tadic added that three years ago, his government in Belgrade had created “an action team, and they delivered.”

Still, some Serbian officials reacted with anger, illustrating that Mr. Mladic remained a hero to a minority of Serbs and that the country was still struggling to come to terms with the past. Boris Aleksic, a spokesman for the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, said: “Serb traitors have arrested a Serb hero. This shameful arrest of a Serb general is a blow to our national interests and the state.”

The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic. Such a report would have further complicated Serbia’s attempt to become an official candidate for membership in the European Union. The Netherlands, whose peacekeepers were overrun by Mr. Mladic’s troops at Srebrenica, has said that it would veto Serbia’s candidacy if Mr. Mladic remained at large.

Ms. Smajlovic said that the fact that Ms. Ashton was in Serbia for meetings on Thursday would “lead to suspicion that the arrest was timed to honor her and also to underline Serbia now has high expectations of rapid E.U. integration.”

However, the European Union’s struggles through economic crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere may present a new obstacle to that goal, with the bloc’s drive to expand significantly slowed in recent months.

A lawyer for Mr. Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader now on trial in The Hague, said that the arrest of Mr. Mladic could have serious implications for that trial. The lawyer, Peter Robinson, said that the court may decide to try Mr. Mladic and Mr. Karadzic together.

In hiding since 1995, sometimes in plain sight at soccer matches and sometimes deep in the fabric of a secretive city, Mr. Mladic was widely believed for years to be protected by allies in the Serbian military and intelligence services. But he appeared to have spent the last few years with no more than a handful of loyalists to help him, investigators and some of his past associates have said. He was said to be living most recently in New Belgrade, a sprawling extension of the Serbian capital west across the Sava River from the main part of the city, and his diminished circumstances in recent years appeared to make him ripe for capture.

Mr. Mladic proved to be a wily foe — tough, resourceful and abetted by military-trained protectors, investigators said.

A burly man of 68 with a ruddy face and sharp blue eyes, Mr. Mladic was born in Bozanovici, a remote village in Bosnia. He was shaped by a childhood marked by poverty and the killing of his partisan father by soldiers of the Nazi puppet state in Croatia. He was a fast-rising star in the Yugoslav army; a father figure to his troops, he prided himself on leading from the front during military offensives, and was respected even among his enemies for his fearlessness.

In 1992, one month after a Bosnian majority voted to secede from Yugoslavia, Mr. Mladic’s forces began a three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo, killing 10,000 people, including 3,500 children. In July 1995, the men and boys of Srebrenica were led to killing fields where they were shot with their hands bound. The Bosnian war ended five months later.

That year, an international court in The Hague indicted Mr. Mladic twice, for war crimes in the Sarajevo siege and for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre.

Mr. Mladic certainly did not lie low for many years. Protected by Slobodan Milosevic, Mr. Mladic often visited the grave of his daughter, Ana, who was reportedly so distraght by reports abaout her father that she committed suicide with his favorite pistol in 1994. Surrouned by bodyguards, he attended a Chinese-Yugoslav soccer match at a Belgrade stadium in 2000. His photograph was prominently displayed in bars like the Crazy House in New Belgrade. He prayed at his brother’s funeral in 2001, wearing a jogging suit and sunglasses, with a young woman on his arm, according to the family priest.

Mr. Mladic’s arrest was welcomed by world leaders, including those gathered in Deauville, France, for the Group of Eight summit meeting. President Obama said in Deauville that the arrest marked an important day for the families of Mr. Mladic’s victims and that Mr. Mladic would now be made to answer for his actions in a court of law.

The White House also issued a statement hailing the arrest, and urged Serbia to transfer Mr. Mladic quickly to The Hague. Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser, said the arrest showed that war criminals ultimately would be brought to justice.

In Paris, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton commended Serbia for the arrest.

“The apprehension of him after all of these years is a great day for justice in the international system, an end to impunity, a time for accountability,” she said in an interview with French television TF1.

She said she had previously discussed Mr. Mladic’s fugitive status with President Tadic. “This was a high priority for him and his government, to close that chapter so that Serbia can move on.”

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the host in Deauville, greeted the arrest as “very big news.” He said the Serbian government had taken a “courageous decision” that constituted “another step towards Serbia’s eventual integration into the European Union.”

The arrest was also praised, in more somber tones, by survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo.

“I want to congratulate Europe and Tadic,” said Munira Subasic, head of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica. “I’m sorry for all the victims who are dead and cannot see this day.”

National leaders and human rights advocates underscored the message that Mr. Mladic’s arrest, even many years after the war in Bosnia, should be seen as a warning to other repressive political or military figures.

“After nearly two decades on the run, justice has finally caught up with the man who personified the brutality of the Balkan wars,” said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch. “His arrest today is a clear message to accused like Omar al-Bashir and potential accused like Muammar al-Qaddafi that justice never forgets.”

Ivan Vejvoda, vice president of the German Marshall Fund in Washington and longtime director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy in Belgrade, hailed the arrest of Mr. Mladic as not just a single event but the culmination of a process that dated back to the fall of Milosevic more than a decade ago. The progress that has been made since the election of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in 2001 had been obscured by the efforts to arrest and extradite Mr. Mladic, Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Milosevic.

“All Serbia has heard for years is, ‘That’s all well and good what you’re doing but until Mladic is in the dock we won’t really believe you,’ ” Mr. Vejvoda said. “The relief that is felt today is a burden taken off the back of this country.”

“One cannot underestimate the importance for the image of Serbia,” Mr. Vejvoda said. “The country has been shackled to this.”

But Mr. Vejvoda said Mr. Mladic’s arrest leaves Serbia at the beginning of a long road of reform, not at the end of one. “All the other challenges that a country that is post-communist, post-conflict and still has a lot of work to do in terms of its democratic reform process are still there,” he said. “We often said amongst ourselves that, paradoxically, this situation with Mladic is the easier part of the problems we faced.”

Marlise Simons reported from Paris and Dan Bilefsky from New York. Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Deauville, France; Doreen Carvajal contributed from Paris, J. David Goodman from New York and Nicholas Kulish from Cairo.


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