News / Europe

Mladic Arrest Tests Balkan's Will to Heal Wartime Wounds

Combination photo shows Bosnian Serb army commander General Radko Mladic in Pale dated May 7, 1993 and in Belgrade after he was arrested on May 26, 2011.
Combination photo shows Bosnian Serb army commander General Radko Mladic in Pale dated May 7, 1993 and in Belgrade after he was arrested on May 26, 2011.

Observers say the arrest of of Europe’s most-wanted war crimes suspect, Bosnian Serb military General Ratko Mladic, will help clear up international concerns about Serbia and support its reconciliation process. But while the legal process moves ahead, the country may have more difficulty letting go of the past.

Reporters at the press conference where Serbian President Boris Tadic broke the news of Mladic's detention questioned the timing of the announcement, suggesting it may not have been a coincidence the arrest happened during a visit by Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Policy chief. Ashton was in Belgrade to discuss Serbia's EU application. Tadic dismissed the speculation.

"We are not making calculations when and how to deliver," said President Tadic. "We are doing that because we truly believe this is in accordance with our law. This is because of our people, Serbs. This is because of moral dignity of our country and our people. But this is crucially important in terms of reconciliation between people that are living in the region of southeast Europe’s former Yugoslavia."

Growing Pressure

Serbia has been under intense pressure to arrest Mladic. The top prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia recently warned that a much more rigorous approach was needed to find Mladic. And the EU has tied Serbia’s membership to the detention of the military leader accused of orchestrating the genocide of nearly 8,000 Muslims men and boys in Srebrenica, a small Bosnian town on the border of Serbia. The 1995 massacre was Europe’s worst since World War II.

Refik Hodzic of the International Center for Transitional Justice in New York says the pressure appears to have worked.

“I don’t think we that we would see the arrest of Ratko Mladic had it not been for this," said Hodzic.

The tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands indicted Mladic in 1995 for the Srebrenica massacre and for atrocities committed during the three-year siege of the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.

Hodzic said prosecutors not only will be looking for evidence linking Mladic to those crimes, but for information on how the general evaded arrest for so long.

“There were various allegations both from the tribunal in The Hague and the media in the region that he was protected throughout the years by the Serbian military, by the state institutions," he said. "And a telling fact is that men from the community where he lived, where he was arrested, men said, ‘Well, we never noticed anything strange but an increased presence of the police in the last months and years.’”

The Serbian president said there will be an investigation into how Mladic was living freely for 15 years. The issue touches on deep divisions within Serbia about whether Mladic should be prosecuted. 

War Hero or Criminal?

A poll conducted for the government’s National Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal this month said 78 percent of those surveyed would not report Mladic to the authorities.

“Many Serbs, yes, do regard Ratko Mladic as some sort of hero," said James Ker-Lindsay, an expert with the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“They look to the events that took place in Bosnia and rather than seeing him as a military leader of an act of aggression rather view him as being the defender of the Bosnian Serb people," he said. "So in that sense, there is a certain degree of latent support for him.”

But he says Serbians are conflicted because they understand their country’s future has to be a part of Europe.

“It’s not about forgetting what took place in Bosnia or, indeed, the entire Western Balkans in the 1990s," said Ker-Lindsay. "But it’s about recognizing that Serbia’s got to atone for this, pay its price and move on. And people understand that Mladic is absolutely central to that process.”

Relatives of Srebrenica’s victims welcomed news of Mladic’s arrest but expressed some reservations. Kada Hotic, a member of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association, accused Serbia of knowingly hiding Mladic, who she called a “monster.”

She said even though the general is being handed over to justice, she is afraid his trial will end without a verdict, as happened in the case of Slobodan Milosevic. The former Yugoslav president died in his prison cell in 2006 before his war crimes trial concluded.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader during wartime, is currently on trial at The Hague. Even after Mladic's own trial begins, Hodzic said the Serbian government must tell the people it sent Mladic to prison because he committed genocide, not just because it is good for the country’s image.

“And until that happens, I think this sort of instability that exists will not go away because the nationalist narrative," Hodzic said. "The anger is there. The victims don’t see satisfaction through these trials because they are not followed by acknowledgment in the local community by the government.”

While Serbia's internal process of healing is uncertain, the country’s external relations are unclear, as well. One last Serbian fugitive is wanted in The Hague. The EU has yet to say whether Belgrade must also arrest political leader Goran Hadizc, or whether three out of four suspected war criminals is good enough.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid