Ratko Mladic Caught Serbia Confirms Arrest of 'Butcher of Bosnia'

Europe's most sought-after war crimes suspect has been arrested in Serbia. Ex-General Ratko Mladic is accused of having orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 people died. EU officials expect him to be extradited to The Hague to stand trial.

AP

Serbian President Boris Tadic on Thursday confirmed the arrest of suspected war criminal Ratko Mladic. "On behalf of the Republic of Serbia, we announce that Ratko Mladic has been arrested," Tadic told reporters after convening a press conference. He said the arrest of the man believed to have been responsible for the Srebrenica massacre opened the door for reconciliation across the entire Balkan peninsula. With Mladic's detainment, Serbia has closed a difficult chapter in its history and relieved itself of a serious burden.

"We ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of the members of our nation wherever they live," Tadic said.

'An Important Step'

Mladic's arrest had been set as a condition for eventual Serbian membership in the European Union. Family members had long sought to convince the government and public that the former general had died. It is widely expected that EU membership procedures will now be expedited for Serbia following Thursday's development. President Tadic said he hoped a door to the EU would be opened.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday greeted the arrest and urged Serbia to quickly extradite the war crimes suspect. "This is an important step forward for Serbia and international justice," she said in a statement. "Full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal remains essential on Serbia's path towards EU membership."

Mladic was considered the most wanted war crimes suspect in Europe, and he had evaded capture for 15 years.

ID Questions

Initially there had been uncertainty over whether the detainee was Mladic. Officials with the Serbian Security Intelligence Agency arrested a man named Milorad Komadic on Thursday morning, who bore a remarkable resemblance to the former Bosnian-Serbian general, initial reports stated. Through DNA testing, they were later able to confirm his identity.

In the 1990s Mladic was military chief of the Bosnian Serbs, who tried to ethnically cleanse parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina to create a "Greater Serbia" of ethnic Serbians. He was wanted by the War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in connection with allegations that he committed genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity between 1992 and 1995. Officials in Serbia said Thursday that he would be extradited to the Netherlands, where he has been indicted by the Hague-based tribunal.

Arrest Followed Critical Report

For years, officials in the European Union as well as the war crimes tribunal complained that Serbia had not done enough to capture Mladic, who was ultimately found on Serbian soil. "The capture is Serbia's biggest obligation," read a report submitted this morning to the UN Security Council by UN war crimes chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, according to the BBC. "Until now efforts by Serbia to detain fugitives have not been sufficient."

The full report will be formally released next week. But on Thursday, President Tadic rejected the criticism.

"We have been cooperating with the Hague Tribunal fully from the beginning of the mandate of this government," he said. He also denied the arrest had been made because of international political pressure. "It is crystal clear that we did not calculate when we had to arrest Ratko," he said.

'Some of the Darkest Episodes'

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark greeted Mladic's arrest. "General Mladic played a key role in some of the darkest episodes of Balkan and European history," Rasmussen said in a statement. "Almost 16 years since his indictment for genocide and other war crimes, his arrest finally offers a chance for justice to be done."

The human rights organization Amnesty International also expressed relief over the arrest. "At last the people who suffered have hope that he will be brought to justice," Widney Brown, senior director of international law at the organization stated. But Amnesty also said additional war crimes suspects must also be found. "The Serbian authorities need to renew their efforts to arrest the remaining indicted suspect General Goran Hadzc believed to be at large in either Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina and bring him to justice."

The main allegation against Mladic, who has been dubbed "the Butcher of Bosnia," is that he orchestrated the Srebrenica massacre. The slaughter of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian enclave in July 1995 was the worst mass killing to occur in Europe since World War II.

Mladic is also accused of ordering sharp shooters to fire on civilians during the two-year siege of Sarajevo.

The arrest of the war crimes suspect could also impact the trial of his former boss, Radovan Karadzic, who was captured in July 2008 and is currently being tried in The Hague on genocide charges.

dsl -- with wires

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