War crimes fugitive Mladic still blocks EU hopes
|1 September 2008 – Issue : 797|
Thirteen years after he allegedly disappeared after facing charges of being a war criminal, former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic – a hero to some of his countrymen – still dominates headlines, even as he remains an obstacle to Serbia joining the European Union.
Fugitive Mladic has been close to being arrested many times, the government said, even as it insisted they are still trying to find him, despite reports he has been seen sipping coffee in Belgrade and under the protection of his friends.
Government officials said the recent arrest of another prominent war crimes fugitive, Radovan Karadzic, proves Serbia is serious about getting Mladic too, but he’s been more elusive than Adolf Eichmann, the former Nazi hunted down in Argentina after World War II and the failure to apprehend Mladic is tarnishing Serbia’s image and hindering its international aspirations.
The headlines remain: Mladic is in Serbia. Mladic is in Russia. Mladic negotiates surrender. Mladic would rather kill himself than surrender. Such contradictory headlines have been the norm since the former Bosnian Serb military chief’s protector, Slobodan Milosevic, fell as Serbia’s ruler in 2000.
On August 25, a Bosnian newspaper quoted security sources as saying Mladic’s arrest was “imminent.” Serbian, Montenegrin, Bosnian and Croatian intelligence officials had met in Belgrade to prepare his capture, Dnevni Avaz reported. The next day, Serbia’s top security officials – the director of the national security and intelligence agency, a war crimes prosecutor’s spokesman and the national police chief – denied claims Mladic was located and all but arrested.
For Mladic, 66, arrest would mean facing United Nations war crimes charges, including genocide, notably for the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. The mood of anticipation was fomented by the July arrest of his political supremo, Bosnian Serb war-time leader Karadzic and seen as a sign of resolve by Serbia’s new government to overcome the war crimes issue. But it is unclear whether the arrest of Karadzic was the result of a serious operation or a fluke.
He had changed his appearance but lived openly in Belgrade as a doctor-healer, wrote books, went to restaurants and took synthesiser classes.