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.
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Architect of Srebrenica
The Bosnian-born Mladic rose to prominence in the early 1990s as the chief implementer of a “Greater Serbia” policy designed to rid large swaths of Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia, of non-Serbs. His authority and notoriety peaked in 1995, when he became the architect of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre where Serb forces overran a small UN “safe haven." Some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were tracked and killed.Skip to next paragraph
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A 10th anniversary commemoration of Srebrenica showed TV footage of Mladic, with the general standing in front of a large crowd of unarmed civilians in the town, controlled by Serb forces, as Dutch UN peacekeepers withdraw. He patted the head of one young boy and said, "Don't be afraid. Take it easy. Thirty buses are coming ... to deliver you ... . No one will hurt you."
Yet in footage from Belgrade TV that aired later that day, a heavily breathing Mladic states, "... we are giving this town to the Serbian people. The moment has finally come for us after the 19th century rebellion against the Turks, to take our revenge on them ... ."
Considering genocide charge
On Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported that Mladic was cooperative as Yugoslav tribunal officials took him into custody. The Associated Press report said that tribunal registrar John Hocking spoke to Mladic through an interpreter and the two men understood each other clearly. Other witnesses described Mladic as talkative.
Mr. Hocking told AP there were no medical problems preventing Mladic from being placed in a Scheveningen cell. Mladic’s lawyer in Belgrade has said the military leader is physically unable to stand trial. Tribunal medical officials will examine Mladic before he is arraigned Friday.
Along with fellow inmate Radovan Karadzic, Mladic will be housed near Vujadin Popovic, a lieutenant colonel under Mladic who was sentenced to life in prison last year for Srebrenica crimes. He is awaiting appeal.
A sensitive legal issue arising in recent days is whether the tribunal prosecution should establish the charge of “genocide” against Mladic. In April 2005, the tribunal’s appeal’s chamber found that Srebrenica did constitute genocide in a case against Serb Gen. Radislav Krstic, the first such finding since Nuremberg. Yet some court-watchers argue a legal verdict on genocide may be too open-ended.
"The Mladic indictment charges genocide (difficult to prove and open to endless technical legal arguments) and numerous war crimes throughout the Balkan conflict," wrote former war crimes judge Geoffrey Robertson in the British daily Independent. "It should be replaced by just one charge, the crime against humanity constituted by his command responsibility for ordering the worst war crime since the Japanese death marches of POWs at the end of the Second World War, namely the slaughter of more than 7,000 prisoners of war – the Muslim men and boys killed at Srebrenica."
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