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Ratko Mladic's whirlwind week: From war crimes fugitive to Hague inmate

Ratko Mladic is set to be arraigned Friday at the UN tribunal at The Hague on 11 charges of war crimes for commanding Bosnian Serb forces during the Balkan wars.

By Staff writer / June 1, 2011

A participant holds a photo of former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic during a rally to protest against the arrest of Mladic in front of the Serbian embassy in Moscow on June 1.

Sergei Karpukhi/Reuters

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Paris

Ratko Mladic is set to be arraigned Friday before the UN tribunal at The Hague as the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb military figure of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

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Charges against Mr. Mladic include genocide, persecution, extermination, and murder. The indictment submitted today was revised from 15 to 11 charges to “mirror” those of his Bosnian Serb counterpart and political boss, Radovan Karadzic, who was caught in Belgrade two years ago.

Mladic’s arrest after 16 years at large, his speedy extradition from Serbia, and his placement in isolation last night at Scheveningen Prison at The Hague ends a whirlwind that started less than a week ago.

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“Mladic is the most culpable figure to be prosecuted. He was the commander, had command responsibility, and gave direct orders. He is on video giving direct orders at Srebrenica. He wasn’t a guy behind a desk at Banja Luka or Pale [the Bosnian Serb headquarters], but he was on the scene ordering the shots. So he needs to be prosecuted," says Michael Scharf, war crimes specialist at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, cofounder of the Public International Law and Policy Group, and a former legal official at the US State Department.

"At the time when I was in the State Department when [Secretary of State Lawrence] Eagleburger made his famous naming names speech, the 10 people most wanted, it went: Milosevic, Karadzic, and Mladic was third. That’s why he needs to be prosecuted for this tribunal to be seen as successful. That, and he is still seen as a hero in Serbia," he says.

Mladic's significance to The Hague

Mladic's transfer leaves only 1 of 161 tribunal indictees not apprehended. Goran Hadzic, a Croatian-Serb accused of driving non-Serbs from their homes in Eastern Slavonia early in the 1992-1995 war, remains at large.

Tribunal chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said today that Mladic’s trial is of importance due to the general’s “power and position … the most powerful military figure in Bosnia during the war,” who was part of crimes that “shocked the conscience” and that “must be answered.”

Mr. Brammertz said the “full significance” of Mladic’s transfer to The Hague is “difficult to fully express,” and that “we must not forget that victims of the war have been waiting for justice.” The tribunal, set up in 1993, has been undergoing reductions and appeals are to be ended by 2014.

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