Ratko Mladic: Serbian judge clears way for long-awaited war crimes trial
A Serbian judge approved on Friday the extradition of Ratko Mladic, the last of the three most-wanted suspects in the brutal Bosnian war in the 1990s.
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For years, international prosecutors and leaders have left Belgrade with assurances that Mr. Mladic is about to be captured. Now, 15 years after his indictment for war crimes, a Serbian judge ruled that Mladic was medically fit to be extradited to face trial at the Hague, despite his lawyer’s objections and likely appeal.
Mladic’s arrest by Serb authorities makes him the last of a Serb triumvirate to be captured for trial that includes former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
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Together the three men helped ignite orgies of ethnic hate and killing in the Balkans. Coming immediately after the heady fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Soviet sphere of influence in 1989, sometimes called “the end of history,” Mladic played a direct role in opening a darker side of human history.
For a Europe that swore “never again” after the gas chambers of Auschwitz and the official demonization of Jews, the chaos and ethnic cleansing Mladic helped unleash in the Balkans was an enormous test for Western values and resolve.
That test often proved too much, analysts say. In his “heyday,” Mladic, who was born in Bosnia in 1943, confounded US and European diplomats and leaders for years with endless negotiations and deals that were rarely kept. His military acts, as recorded in trials at the Hague, include directing the siege of Sarajevo, ethnic cleansing, the organized terror of civilians, and the killing of at least 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, a word now synonymous with massacre.
“Mladic was handpicked for the role. He distinguished himself in ethnic cleansing in Croatia, he was a guy who was ready to fight,” says Marko Attila Hoare, an expert on Bosnia at Kingston University in Britain. “Mladic was groomed … and created by the Milosevic regime and gained more autonomy as the war went on and eventually led to Srebrenica. Mladic was the architect of Srebrenica.”
While Mr. Karadizic, who was arrested two years ago while hiding in Belgrade (he was disguised with a flowing beard as a new age healer), was the flamboyant face and articulator of Serb nationalism, Mladic was the doer.