Authorities in Serbia on May 26 announced the capture of Ratko Mladic, ending a 16-year manhunt for the former military commander of the self-declared Serb Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladic faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is most infamous for ordering the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in 1995. Extradition proceedings to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague are to begin immediately.
Mladic was one of the two remaining at-large war criminals sought by the ICTY, along with Goran Hadzic. His arrest clears one of the last remaining hurdles to Serbia’s accession to the European Union. “Mladic’s arrest has closed a difficult period of history,” said Serbian President Boris Tadic. “We have removed the tarnish from Serbia, all of its citizens and the Serb people wherever they may live.”
The former Bosnian Serb general was apprehended in a co-ordinated operation conducted by Serbia’s Security and Information Agency (BIA) and a special police unit, Tadic said. He confirmed that the arrest took place on Serbian territory but declined to give details. Local media reports said the arrest took place in the village of Lazarevo near Zrenjanin, 75 kilometers from Belgrade. He is said to have been living in the house of an impoverished cousin, and going by the name Milorad Komadic.
Despite overwhelming international approval of the arrest—including statements from European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, British Prime Minister David Cameron and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh-Rasmussen—a poll earlier this year showed 52% of Serbians against Mladic’s extradition, Belgrade Radio B92 reported.
In December, the First Municipal Court in Belgrade acquitted 10 men suspected of helping Mladic evade arrest. In September, ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz called on Serbia and other governments to increase efforts to find and arrest Mladic. Brammertz said failure to arrest Mladic would send war criminals the message that if they avoid capture long enough, the world will cease to care about bringing them to justice. Brammertz said authorities must work quickly to arrest Mladic, since the ICTY is scheduled to be shut down in three years. (Southeast European Times, Jurist, May 26)