Some 18 war diaries purportedly written by Gen. Ratko Mladic, the No. 1 fugitive now at large from the Yugoslav wars and architect of the Srebrenica genocide, may be the most significant trove of evidence obtained in years by a tribunal in The Hague trying to create a record of the worst crimes in Europe since World War II.
Or it could be Serbia’s way of saying: We are never going to capture Mladic, so here are some of his (edited) diaries, instead.
The 3,000-plus pages linked to the Bosnian Serb commander were found in February in a wall at his former Belgrade apartment using high-tech cameras. Serbia shared them with The Hague tribunal, which ruled them authentic, admitting their use as evidence in the case of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, now on trial for war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
The diaries record meetings with Croat leaders who wanted an alliance with Serbs against Muslims in Bosnia early in the war, revelations that may affect other ongoing trials. But Mladic’s diaries make no mention of the infamous Srebrenica massacre – officially viewed as a genocide – whose 15th anniversary was July 11.
A ceremony marking the event included 60,000 people, a host of diplomats, and Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic. The White House was represented by Samantha Power of the National Security Council; President Obama called for Mladic’s arrest.
The Hague tribunal’s prosecutor, Sir Geoffrey Nice, who conducted the trial against former Serb President Slobodan Milosevic, finds it hard to believe Mladic kept detailed notes but said nothing of Srebrenica: “How can you kill 8,000 people without recording somehow the decision you have made?” he asks.
The contents of the diary trove are still being appraised. Some Balkan specialists are suspicious of the timing: “So we are discussing Mladic’s diaries, not the fact that he is at large,” observed a former court expert who spoke off the record.
Serbia’s European Union membership has hinged on Mladic’s deportation to The Hague.
Sir Geoffrey told the Monitor, “There’s no evidence the diaries are genuine, and they’ve had years to concoct them. Politically the drive is to get Serbia into Europe. The problem is they don’t have Mladic. The diaries look like a substitute for Mladic.”
The diaries, in Cyrillic hand, cover Mladic’s daily agenda during the 1992-95 war years, and have operational comments and notes on those who disagree with him.
What’s been released so far appears to deal more with the thinking of those Mladic meets than with his own views.
Mladic’s notes record meetings with three Croat leaders in 1992, who say things like “Muslims are the common enemy,” and, “Muslims do not have any ammunition, and we are not going to give them any.”
Later, the Croats would form an alliance with the Muslims. But such records add to the story of unofficial US efforts to circumvent a United Nations arms embargo and help Bosnian Muslims defend themselves from a storm of attacks on their homes and families