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Photo Gallery: The Long Shadow of Ratko Mladic

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Portrait of a Man Possessed A Search for the Real Ratko Mladic

He stands accused of some of the worst crimes known to criminal law. But former Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic doesn't think he has to answer for anything -- not even for the wartime suicide of his daughter. There are many in Serbia who would agree.
Von Erich Follath

To succumb to this kind of hobby in the way that he did, you have to be a bit of a dictator. But you also must be a bit of a lackey. You need to know those under your protection. And you can't have qualms if one of your underlings dies or be too sensitive when you get stung.

Ratko Mladic knows all that only too well. He knows all about living and dying, about willing and unwilling victims, about pests and how to control them. Mladic is the perfect beekeeper.

For once, everyone can agree -- be they the general's all-forgiving friends or his sworn enemies -- that no-one knows more about how to build up cells or how to look after a complex collective. He is a beekeeper par excellence who pursued his hobby with passion, enthusiasm and dedication from early childhood right up to his final days of freedom. He usually gave the honey away or sometimes sold it in small quantities. Anyone with an opportunity to try his honey should leap at it, so say the connoisseurs. It is lovingly made, supremely pure, top-quality honey. Balkan organics, made by Mladic.

On all other matters, however, opinions are divided on Mladic.

The former supreme commander of the Bosnian Serbs is still seen as a hero by a narrow majority in Belgrade; they see him as a patriot whose ruthless military campaigns were driven only by national pride, dignity and a desire for revenge for what his people saw as injustice. More than two thirds of his fellow countrymen say that they would not have revealed his whereabouts had they known of his hideout, thereby willingly impeding his transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

A Murderous Frenzy

Croats, Kosovars and Bosnian Muslims in particular see him very differently -- as the devil incarnate. Most people in the West, too, see Mladic as the man responsible for the worst massacre of civilians in Europe since World War II. The man who laid siege to Sarajevo, where over 10,000 people died in more than three and a half years of constant fire. The Butcher of Srebrenica, whose henchmen killed over 8,000 men and boys aged between 11 and 77 in a murderous frenzy.

Two counts of genocide, sowing terror, taking hostages, committing crimes against humanity -- he stands accused of the most severe crimes known to criminal law, collected by United Nations lawyers in case IT-09-92. No one in Europe has been accused of such heinous acts since the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders.

The first charge against Mladic dates from 1995; meaning he was on the run for almost 16 years, making him one of the world's "Most Wanted" men for almost as long as Osama bin Laden was. As with the top terrorist, a reward in the double-digit millions was offered for the retired general. And both were only able to evade their international pursuers so successfully because they were shielded at the highest levels in politics, the military and the secret services.

Mladic's life underground had long been far more adventurous, varied and absurd than bin Laden's was. But in his final days of freedom, as with the terrorist overlord, he was reduced to minimal contact with the outside world, and relied on help from family in his small, dark hideout: an austere cell, the semi-derelict shed of a farmhouse.

Difficult to Address

But that is where the parallels end. Bin Laden was killed in a targeted assassination by US soldiers in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in early May and his body is said to have been disposed of in the Indian Ocean, thwarting any chance of his going to court for his crimes. Mladic, on the other hand, was captured by a Serbian Special Forces Unit on May 26 in Lazarevo and was handed over to the international tribunal five days later. The case against him is ongoing. The defendant's appearances in The Hague in June and July have already shown just how difficult it will be to address his atrocities.

The general's physical decline was obvious at the first hearing in June. There was no sign of the brawny giant with the rosy complexion, bristling with vitality, that people remember from the civil war. He was now a wan, stooping, gray-haired man who looks older than his 68 years. Yet when he raised his voice, the tone was the same -- rough and arrogant. He curtly demanded to be addressed as "General." These were "monstrous" accusations being leveled against him, he said, and added that he didn't recognize the court's jurisdiction. It was the performance of an obstinate man.

At another hearing, Mladic provoked outright scandal with his insulting exchange with Dutch judge Alphons Orie.

- Mr. Mladic, would you please be so kind to focus your attention on the chamber and remove your cap, please.
- I'm cold on my head. Let me put my cap on.
- Remove your cap, please.
- (Mladic reluctantly removes the gray cap from his head.) You want to impose (my defense on me) …
- I do not want to impose anything. We refer to the matter of assignment of counsel.
- No, no, no, don't read it to me, not a single word. I'm not going to listen to this.
- We're not going to discuss you. I hereby instruct you not to interrupt me anymore and to wait until I give you an opportunity to speak.
- You're not a court. Who are you? You're not allowing me to breathe.
- Mr. Mladic, the court orders that you be removed from the courtroom. I order you to be removed from the courtroom. … If the accused fails to enter a plea at the initial or any further appearance, enter a plea of not guilty on the accused's behalf.

Mladic repeatedly stared down those present in the courtroom. If they so much as raised a finger in his direction, he responded with derogatory gestures of his own.

"He hasn't understood a thing and didn't show a hint of remorse," said a tearful Munira Subaši, who had made the journey to the courtroom with some others from Srebrenica. She said she'll never forget that hot summer day in 1995 when she last saw General Mladic and had begged on her knees for him to spare her 18-year-old son. "Allah can't help you now, but I can. Don't worry, dear lady. Nothing will happen to him," Mladic assured her. He didn't keep his word. Her son was taken away and never seen again. Mrs. Subaši couldn't even bury him. No bones, no successful DNA identification, no personal headstone.

'Charismatic Murderer'

"Hollywood could not have found a more convincing war villain," Richard Holbrooke, the American negotiator who died in 2010, wrote of Mladic in his report on Bosnia. "He was, I thought, one of those lethal combinations that history thrusts up occasionally -- a charismatic murderer."

Darko Mladic, his son, sees things radically different. He works in Belgrade as a computer scientist and still holds his father up as an idol. Whenever possible, he took the peaceful option, but otherwise defended his county with bravery and honor, he says of his father. Such a loving family man couldn't possibly have ordered the atrocities he is accused of.

In that case, why couldn't the general, who so loved to play God, prevent his daughter from going against him and committing suicide? How was it that he could so love the animal kingdom yet condemn his fellow humans to genocide? And if, as American magazine Newsweek claimed, he really is a "monster", then how did he become one?

There are two well-defined groups of people in Ratko Mladic's worldview and life story: the man's wicked persecutors and his idealist saviors. The bad guys' role is played by the Germans. He wasn't yet two years old when the Nazi-allied Croatian Ustaše killed his father somewhere in Herzegovina, close to Sarajevo, in 1945. Then, in 1991, German politicians destroyed "his" Yugoslavia by recognizing the treacherous Croatia before going on to ally themselves "with the Muslims" because of their "hatred for the Serbs."

A Visit to the Mladic Family

The good guy role belonged to Prince Lazar and his fighters, who, in 1389 sacrificed themselves in his view for Serbia and Christendom at the Battle of Kosovo -- an almighty deed which is still prevalent as a national myth for the majority of his countrymen to this day. For him, though, it has always been much more than that: It has served as a guideline for revenge, a way to restore the "honor" of his people. It has been his mission.

What a strange coincidence, then, that the lines between heroism and hatred should intersect at the general's final hiding place, in Lazarevo, 86 kilometers north of Belgrade, which was founded at the beginning of the 19th century by German-speaking Danube Swabians, ethnic Germans who had settled in the area historically, and where three months ago he was dragged from his cousin's house at five in the morning and placed in handcuffs.

The air over the province of Vojvodina is searingly hot. The landscape is flat and monotonous, as if a huge steamroller has been unleashed on it. Birds twitter in the abundant plum trees. Bees buzz. This idyll on the edge of Europe seems lost in time.

The yellow sign by the side of provincial road 7 - 1 has been sprayed in black paint by someone who has crossed through the name of the town and replaced it with a new one: Mladicevo. Three-thousand inhabitants, two bars and a hint of globalization. The bar on the left is painted orange and serves up folk music and slivovitz plum brandy. The bar on the right is painted red, plays Lady Gaga songs and has sun umbrellas advertising Beck's beer. The general store next door is run by a woman from Shanghai. While the men barricade themselves hostilely behind their beers, as if urgently shielding themselves against invading forces, the Chinese woman willingly tells me the way to the Mladic house.

Past the graveyard with the weathered gravestones of all the Müllers and Schneiders, past the doll's-house post office, down the main street -- neatly planned by the German settlers -- and then right into Karadži St. (no, it isn't named for Radovan, that other alleged mass-murderer, but rather for Vuk Karadži, a Serbian bard held in high regard by Goethe). There you find house no. 2, non-descript, its yellow plaster flaking off. It is the home of Branko Mladic. A scrap-ready Golf is parked in the weed-ridden front garden. A rusty rake leans against the wall of the shed.

Cousins of a War Criminal

Like so many of the properties here, this land too had once belonged to Danube Swabians. As Hitler's forces advanced into the region, some of the Lazarevo Germans were encouraged to play the role of the master race against the Serbs. When the Banat was recaptured by Tito's troops and the Red Army in late 1944, they were subjected to collective punishment. They were driven out and their homes were confiscated. The Mladic clan was among those who moved to the area from Bosnia and were able to settle into these ethnically cleansed lands. Four houses in Lazarevo belong to cousins of the war criminal.

Branko Mladic, 59, in whose house the notorious criminal was arrested, comes rattling home on his tractor late in the evening. "Congratulations, you've come to the right place," Ratko said according to official records, before willingly handing over his ID papers and two guns.

He has enormous hands that look as if they could crush raw potatoes: a hero of labor, as though he jumped out of a socialist idealist painting. He is a man of few words, and no friend to strangers. When journalists descended on the village the day after the arrest, he drove them all away. And the mistrustful bachelor is only willing to speak now because the sister of one of his neighbors has put in a good word and is herself acting as the interpreter. And because the hens have been fed and the stress of the day is slowly wearing away and we are sitting casually on the steps in front of the house: This is a chat, not an interview.

- Do you like your cousin?
- Almost all Serbs revere Ratko Mladic.
- You don't think he was party to war crimes?
- This was war. There were atrocities on all sides. The Muslims committed them too. But the world only talks about Serbian atrocities. Those supposedly instigated by Ratko.
- Your cousin was on the run for 16 years and was arrested in your house. How long did he live here? How long did you hide him for?
- I can't say. I was questioned for five hours before I was released…
- …on condition of silence? Otherwise the government would have to concede who had protected Ratko Mladic?
- They treated me well, but, yes, there were conditions.
- Was Ratko Mladic bed-ridden when he lived in your house?
- He had a heart attack two months before he was arrested here.
- And you looked after him? Alone, or with help from doctors and the church?
- No comment. But I will say this: Ratko called me a few days ago from The Hague . I think The Hague is very good for his health and he comes across as being very combative. He wanted papers…
- What papers?
- No, that's really enough of my stories for now. I've got to go to bed. I've got to be out very early again in the morning.

He might have spent two months in Lazarevo, a friend of Branko Mladic's who witnessed the conversation on the steps outside the house and therefore trusts us, tells us later. His cousin was mostly hidden in the shed. Everyone, it seemed, had helped to hide him.

Without getting anything in return?

"It was a matter of honor. But Branko kept giving us gifts at that time. Jars which his cousin had brought to Lazarevo. Jars full of honey, delicious honey."

Perhaps it is because he lost his father at such a young age or perhaps because his mother was unable to cope and he grew up with his uncle Mile that Ratko Mladic has always held the family up as something holy, almost as important to him as the holy Serbian nation itself. A relative who still lives in the backwater of Kalinovik, near Sarajevo, says he was an "exemplary, polite child."

Idolized by His Troops

The only opportunity to rapidly attain a position of standing, Ratko figured, was in the military. He finished top of his class at the Officers Academy in Belgrade in 1965 and proceeded to climb the ranks. At the time, President Josip Broz Tito was holding multi-ethnic Yugoslavia together with an iron fist. Nationalist undertones only gained a following in the 1980s after the communist dictator's death.

In May 1992, just after Bosnia had declared independence in a referendum boycotted by the Serbs but supported by a majority of the Muslims living there, Mladic was made the regional commander of the Serbs, who were organizing themselves into the "Republika Srpska." With the support of Belgrade, Mladic initiated the siege of Sarajevo. He was idolized by his troops. He was not one of those generals who got rich through war, who drank and screwed around and who relied on their rank for authority. He would crawl through the mud with his soldiers. Once, it is said, when he came across sopping wet, shivering soldiers, he got out of his all-terrain vehicle, poured water over his uniform and marched with them to the next base.

Mladic was a soldier of conviction, a man with a mission. A crusader for his country and Orthodox Christianity. The Serbs were only defending themselves in a war that had been forced upon them and were setting right a historic injustice, he claimed. "Does anyone think it is fun fighting a war? If I had my way, I would outlaw all weapons, even toy guns for children," he once said.

He was needed on the front, but he would go to see his family in Belgrade whenever he could. There the fighter with the cold, steely blue eyes would show his softer side. He had a loyal wife whom he tenderly called the pet name "Bosa" and he pampered his son Darko. Ana, his daughter, was the family darling, loved more than anyone. Mladic seemed to get almost as much satisfaction from his daughter coming home with top marks from her medical studies as he did from gradually choking off resistance in Sarajevo and ethnically "cleansing" the region. Or even from the most recent nuptial flight of his queen bees.

A Family Tragedy

Ljiljana Bulatovi, 71, a long-time confidante of the family and devotee of the general, reveals that on weekends with the family, Ratko would sometimes suggest a game of Battleship in the kitchen. The man of the house would sometimes even cheat in his daughter's favor and bring about his own demise -- H 4, yes, hit, submarine sunk: war-games in an idyllic domestic setting. But political discussions or any sort of argument about victims of the real war were taboo. Ana played along. Until February 1994.

She had fallen in love with a fellow student and went to a convention in Moscow with him and a group of other medical students. Her father was against the trip. But her mother talked him into it, and Ana and her new boyfriend Goran got to spend some romantic days together in the Russian capital.

But they kept seeing terrible TV news footage from Sarajevo of the crimes of Ratko Mladic. Goran -- like Ana, just 24 years old -- had been brought up in a family of human rights activists and he took his beloved to task. He explained that she had to confront her father about the atrocities or their relationship had no future. They argued. Ana cried and imagined there were dark forces at work denigrating her father. But she wanted to spend her life with Goran. She wanted to have children with him. She ended up promising her boyfriend that she would talk to her father.

Links to Ana

Goran M. -- he insists we do not use his full name because he still fears the long arm of Ratko Mladic and his comrades in arms to this day -- will never forget what happened next. He was working as a doctor in a Belgrade hospital. Hardly anyone knew about his links to Ana. When you see Goran in a café in the pedestrian zone of Belgrade's Skadarlija district today, sun-tanned and athletic, it's not difficult to understand why the young woman fell for him. It's also easy to see how hard it will always be for him to forget the conflict that took place. Goran remembers the conversation as follows:

- Ana, have you spoken to your father about Sarajevo ?
- I wanted to. I've planned to twice…
- And what stopped you?
- He was being so nice again. The whole family was together and it was only a short visit from the front. He'd brought a present with him…
- So you didn't manage to. You're never going to manage to. You can't accept the fact that you have been raised by a war criminal.
- Stop, please.
- I won't stop. I can't live with you if that's the case. You've obviously made your decision.
- Wait. I've told dad I can't complete my studies and that I want to go and work as a nurse on the front so I can draw my own conclusions. But he just laughed and said: "Come on, my little angel…"
- You wouldn't dare to. You never will.

The evening ended with them arguing. It would be the last time Goran saw his Ana. The following night she committed the ultimate act which her father would not be able to confront; she did so to punish, destroy and humiliate him and also left a legacy for her lover. She took Ratko Mladic's favorite pistol out of the cabinet where he kept three weapons. It was his proudest possession, an award for his success at the military academy. Her father had sworn that the weapon would only first be fired in joy when Ana gave him a grandchild.

She took the gun and shot herself in the head; there was no suicide note but it was an unambiguous message to her family all the same: It would stay with him for life.

In Disarray

Naturally, the General couldn't accept that his angel had committed suicide; it must have been murder, he concluded resolutely once he had dashed back to his family, even though there was no corroborating evidence. He went to the morgue and tearfully removed a lock of Ana's hair. He brought her make-up case with him to make her beautiful once more with rouge and eye-shadow and prepared her for a new life perhaps one hundred years hence. He only stopped once he had stood by her broken body and seen that this wasn't going to happen. Ljiljana Bulatovi was also invited to bid the deceased farewell along with the family's closest friends a week after the burial. She spoke of a father in deep mourning who confirmed that his daughter was in disarray after her trip to Moscow.

On her last evening, she had complained of severe headaches and spoken of wanting to work as a nurse on the front and finishing her studies later. "My diligent daughter, diligent as a worker bee, a quitter? That's a good one," he is said to have joked.

But Ratko Mladic wouldn't be Ratko Mladic if he couldn't work a legend about himself into his own mourning. That night he claims to have woken up drenched with sweat and immediately knew that something bad had happened. He contacted all command posts, but there was nothing special to report. And then came the call from Belgrade. His son Darko related the terrible news. And in spite of the searing pain the news caused him, his reaction was as business. "Where? At home? Don't touch anything until I get there…."

Bulatovi remembers that there were three photographs of the deceased at the ceremony. In two of them she was with other family members and in the third -- the most recent, only just taken, and in which Ana looked particularly pretty and happy -- she was with a man that nobody knew, who was, "probably a friend from Moscow."

'Up to Your Knees in Blood'

The General continued to work as supreme commander. But he reduced his social contacts to a minimum and snubbed the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadži, for failing to attend his daughter's wedding. In battle he became more ruthless, more inhumane; Muslims were now objects fit only for destruction. Even the brutal politician by his side found it sinister; Karadži, a professional psychiatrist, said the General had "lost his mind" and become "a psychopath."

Mladic was raging; he was a self-appointed avenger. He would avenge any wrong which had been done to the Serbs and which, in his view, was still being done; he would avenge his father by fighting the "long arm of the German conqueror in the Balkans." With every killing, perhaps he would also avenge his own dead daughter. When, in July 1995, he reached Potoari, a village that 28,000 Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica had fled to, eye-witness Nedžida Sadikovi claims that, giddy with joy, he called out to his troops: "Many boys and men! This is going to be a party. You will be up to your knees in blood."

Mladic could still play the charmer when the cameras were on him. In his headquarters north-east of Sarajevo, he wined and dined SPIEGEL correspondent Renate Flottau. He answered her critical questions and his protests were muted when she spoke of human rights abuses: "Borders have always been drawn with blood."

Mladic's reliable instincts detected decisive weaknesses in the United Nations peacekeeping troops who had declared Srebrenica a "safe haven" but whose remit didn't allow them to shoot at the enemy. He took hostages and spent so much time roaring at them and reassuring them that the Dutch commanders, intent on saving their own skin, just handing over their wards to him. For Mladic, that meant the slaughter could begin. He even raised a glass with Commander Thom Karremans, who said: "I always say I am a piano player. Don't shoot the piano player!"

The Search for Ratko Mladic

Many were intimidated by him. But there are also those who are convinced that what he was doing was right. To this day, Bulatovi considers Mladic to be an unhailed peacemaker, a sort of Balkan Mahatma Gandhi. The affection is mutual and so unconditional that he has entrusted her with his secret Srebrenica diaries, or so claims the self-assured lady in her modest suit. She deliberated with him over the Serbian lawyer he had chosen; he is now represented by compatriot Branko Luki. But she is sure, she says, taking a final sip of tea before carefully putting the white, folded, lace handkerchief back in her purse, that The Hague is a done deal. "He won't get a fair trial. The world has ganged up on us Serbs and our military leaders," she says.

After the UN's failure in Srebrenica in July 1995 and another horrific grenade attack on the marketplace in Sarajevo, NATO bombed Serbia. On Nov. 21, 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords were signed by all warring parties following American-led negotiations. It made the division of Bosnia permanent and confirmed a status quo that the Serbs were happy with; the Republika Srpska remained autonomous.

Mladic didn't go to Dayton and played no role in the peace agreement. One might conclude that he had been left high and dry by his friend, the Serbian warmonger and president Slobodan Miloševic. But it only looked that way. The General had nothing to fear. The arrest warrant from The Hague, issued on July 25, 1995, would not be enforced and Mladic's network of friends and protectors clearly went right to the top.

Though his wanted poster hung in airports and at border-crossings, Mladic lived for years in his house in Belgrade's diplomatic district, completely unmolested. The manhunt sometimes took grotesque turns. Europe's most wanted sat in the VIP box at the Partizan stadium for a football match between Serbia and China; he was often seen eating fish with friends at the rowing club restaurant on the Danube. And he continued to draw his military pension for years.

Lots of Leads, Not Much Progress

The farce only began to come to an end when Zoran Djindji won the 2001 elections and Miloševic was sent to The Hague. Djindji, who sought to steer Serbia in the direction of the West, wanted to be rid of Mladic too and instructed his military to arrest him, demonstrating a zeal which probably led to his own violent death. Members of a special unit loyal to the former regime staked him out on March 12, 2003 and shot him to death.

Rumors that even French and Russian intelligence services protected Mladic at one point refuse to go away. The former chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, complains in her memoirs of a lack of co-operation from the CIA. At one point, she received leaked secret information that Mladic was staying, "…in an army holiday camp near Valjevo and was pursuing his beekeeping hobby."

Six months after the obdurate and controversial investigator left her post after eight years in office late in 2007, her successor was able to celebrate a breakthrough: Karadži was caught and transferred to The Hague. The psychiatrist had grown a beard and had made a new life for himself under a false identity as an esoteric healer. As for Mladic, it was the same old story: lots of leads but not much progress.

But politics had him cornered. The new Serbian President Boris Tadi understood that his economically underdeveloped country only had a future within the EU, but Brussels made accession negotiations contingent upon Mladic's arrest and transfer to The Hague. Mladic had to go into hiding in late 2008.

There were few upon whom Mladic could completely rely on at that point -- his family and the Serbian Orthodox Church. After authorities searched his house in Belgrade's diplomatic district several times, he was forced to break off contact with his wife and son. Cancer which required chemotherapy is said to have forced him to spend several weeks in the hospital; he was treated under a false name by a doctor friend in Belgrade. He left the capital as soon as he was back on his feet. He set off for the Banat, to his trusted clergy and with their help found the perfect hiding place: the St. Melanie Monastery near Zrenjanin. The General, so used to bossing men around, now lived amongst nuns and adhered to their rules.

A Sarcophagus in the Crypt

Yes, we occasionally welcomed paying guests, a surly nun later told SPIEGEL, but she claimed never to have seen Ratko Mladic. The convent's mother superior was not to be spoken to. But one of the monastery delivery men wandering in and out of the premises was willing to admit: "Of course he was here. The nuns prayed for him as his health got worse and worse. They even talked about arranging an honorary grave with a sarcophagus for him in the crypt." But then the patient recovered and is even said to have gone hunting in the area.

By late 2010, the pressure on the Orthodox clergy had clearly become too much: Mladic had to go. He stayed local, going to live with relatives. It was fewer than 10 kilometers from the convent to his nephew's house. It is still unclear whether his pursuers had already tailed him to Zrenjanin or whether they first tracked him down in Lazarevo thanks to a tip-off.

But we do know that Mladic had a final wish before being transferred to The Hague: to be allowed to visit his daughter's grave one last time. The butcher who showed so little mercy to others was granted mercy in a humane gesture. He took leave of Ana at the Topider woodland cemetery in Belgrade for what would presumably be the last time. Under close supervision, he was allowed to plant a small rose bush in front of the black granite headstone. The red flowers blossomed resplendently and, in full bloom, look positively immortal.

Srebrenica today is a stricken place. The majority of the population are Serbs, but a few hundred Bosnian Muslims -- mostly women -- have returned. There are almost no young families. But there are signs of new beginnings: A small mosque is being built, there is a newly opened bar called Acapulco, houses have been rebuilt on the edge of town with EU money. But it all feels very temporary, as if people don't yet dare to believe in the future.

How to Stop Hating

Just outside the town is the factory building the men were herded into back then. "United Nations" is written on the dilapidated walls. Someone has crossed out the second word and changed it to "United Nothing." A number is engraved on a stone over the graves at the memorial of white columns. It has three dots after it: 8372… Everyone understands what that means: There might be more victims' remains found.

"Everyone who did this and everyone who failed to prevent this from happening should come here," says the Bosniak Hasan Nuhanovi who worked as an interpreter for the Dutch UN officers back then. They told him that he could stay as he had a job with the world body but that his family couldn't, that they would sadly have to leave the UN quarters. "I translated that for them. We knew it was their death sentence." Hasan would like to know how not to go on hating. He hasn't yet figured it out.

Some may be happy with the progress being made by the Yugoslav Tribunal in The Hague: One hundred and sixty one arrest warrants were issued and all 161 alleged perpetrators have been handed over, most recently the leader of the Croatian Serbs Goran Hadži six weeks ago. But in The Hague, they refrain from any feelings of triumphalism for obvious reasons. To date, mostly small fish have been convicted. And there are tricky trials ahead, with all the sparring between experienced lawyers and recalcitrant defendants to be expected.

Even after the division of Yugoslavia into Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo, major tensions between the peoples of the Balkans remain. The Kosovars and Serbs continue to spill blood in border disputes. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ethnic balance seems more delicately poised than ever. The dream of "Yugoslavs" getting along with each other is history.

Jam or Honey?

Or is it? Has it failed completely? Everywhere?

Yugoslavia does still exist -- in a prison in Scheveningen. There, where the prisoners of the Yugoslav Tribunal sit and where you can smell the salt of the nearby sea as you walk around the prison yard just as you could on the Dalmatian coast they once fought over, the guards say there is no problem. The men who incited their people to go to war against each other are perfectly civilized towards one another. They play cards. They even pooled together to buy a gift for the widow of one of their deceased fellow prisoners, as the writer Slavenka Drakuli discovered in her research. They get along.

We don't yet know how Ratko Mladic will blend in there. Like all other prisoners, he can ask for satellite TV, which includes channels from the Balkans, in his comfortable cell. He can tick whether he wants marmalade or honey with breakfast, which likely isn't too difficult a decision for Mladic, ever the beekeeper.

For now he is keeping his social contact to a minimum. He stays away from the evenings the other prisoners spend together. He wants to work on his defense. Nor will the irony have escaped his notice that once again a German is meddling in his fate: Christoph Flügge, 64, a former secretary of state for justice from Berlin, is one of the judges in the proceedings.

The only people the alleged mass-murdering family man will currently see are his wife and son. But maybe when solitude creeps up on him in his cell he will ask his fellow inmates for a game of Battleship. And then wipe them all off the map: the Croatian cruisers, the Slovenian fighting ships and especially those particularly bothersome Bosnian Muslim submarines. He'll want to win, he'll want to show them all, Ratko the avenger.

Defendant Mladic will probably also do a lot more thinking about his colonies of bees. And Ana. His queen who turned her stinger upon herself. And against him, the father.

Translated from the German by Desmond Tumulty