Serbia arrests elusive war criminal Ratko Mladic

[JURIST] Serbian authorities have captured [ICTY press release] Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive], it was announced Thursday, ending a 16-year manhunt for the former general colonel and commander of the army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladic was one of the two remaining at-large war criminals sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], along with Goran Hadzic. Mladic faces charges [amended indictment, PDF] of genocide and crimes against humanity, including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages. He is most infamous for ordering the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the massacre of Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archives]. Serbian president Boris Tadic announced the news today [B92 report] in a press conference [in Bosnian]:

Extradition proceedings for trial in The Hague, Netherlands could take a week [BBC Report]. Despite overwhelming international approval of the arrest, including statements [Telegraph report] from European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, British Prime Minister David Cameron and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh-Rasmussen [press release], a poll earlier this year [B92 report] showed 52 percent of Serbians against Mladic's extradition. Although the capture of outstanding war criminals was one of the final bars to Serbia joining the EU, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that the arrest will not automatically result in accession [Reuters].

In December, the First Municipal Court in Belgrade acquitted 10 men [JURIST report] suspected of helping Mladic evade arrest. In September, ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz [official profile] called on Serbia and other governments [JURIST report] 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 also emphasized the importance of seeking justice for Mladic's victims. Authorities must work quickly to arrest Mladic, Brammertz noted, since the ICTY is scheduled to be shut down in three years. Last May, Mladic's family filed a claim in the Belgrade District Court seeking to have him declared officially dead [JURIST report] in order to collect his state pension and sell his property. Earlier that month, the ICTY announced that the Office of the Prosecutor filed a motion to amend the indictment against Mladic [JURIST report] to include 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in order to help speed up court proceedings once Mladic is captured.

 

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