Ratko Mladic arrested, Serbian president confirms


Ratko Mladic, pictured with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in 1994, has been arrested Ratko Mladic (left), pictured with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in 1994, has been arrested in Serbia. Photograph: Reuters

    Former Bosnian Serb commander wanted for war crimes, including Srebrenica massacre, to be extradited to UN tribunal

    Police in Serbia have arrested Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader wanted by the United Nations for war crimes committed during the Bosnian war, including the Srebrenica massacre.

    The detention of Mladic – who had let it be known that he would rather kill himself than be arrested – was confirmed by the Serbian president, Boris Tadic.

    “On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic,” Tadic told reporters.

    Mladic, who was arrested in Serbia, would be extradited to the United Nations war crimes tribunal, Tadic said. He did not specify when, but said “an extradition process is under way”.

    “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.

    Mladic has already been indicted by the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) over allegations of genocide and other war crimes during the Bosnian war.

    Mladic, now 68, is wanted as the commander of the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which killed more than 10,000 people, and for the massacre in July 1995 of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

    “Today we closed one chapter of our recent history that will help us one step closer to reconciliation in the region,” Tadic said.

    The president said he believed the arrest would facilitate his country’s entry into the European Union. Mladic’s extradition to Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague has been a condition of Serbia’s bid to join the EU.

    “I believe that the doors for Serbia to join the EU are open,” Tadic said.

    Serbia had been under intense pressure over Mladic. The chief UN war crimes prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, complained this month that authorities were not doing enough to capture him.

    Brammertz was scheduled to report in June to the UN security council about Serbian efforts to detain Mladic and other war crimes fugitives.

    The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, welcomed the arrest and said Mladic should be sent to the tribunal without delay.

    “This is an important step forward for Serbia and for international justice,” Ashton said in a statement.

    “We expect Ratko Mladic to be transferred to the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia without delay. Full co-operation with the ICTY remains essential on Serbia’s path towards EU membership.”

    An official from the Serbian interior ministry said Mladic was arrested after authorities received an anonymous tip. His identity was confirmed by DNA tests, the official said.

    US and Serbian authorities had offered rewards of up to $19m (£11m) for information leading to Mladic’s arrest.

    According to Croatia’s Zagreb newspaper Jutarnji List, Mladic was living under the pseudonym of Milorad Komadic. The paper reported that the secret operation to arrest him came after a tipoff that Komadic “possessed some identification marks of Ratko Mladic and was physically very similar to him”.

    Mladic had lived openly in Belgrade for a number of years but dropped out of sight after 2000. Before then there had been credible reports of Mladic dining in fashionable restaurants and attending football matches.

    Radovan Karadzic, the wartime political leader of the Bosnian Serbs, was arrested in 2008. Recent years have seen the surrender of a number of Mladic’s former allies to the war crimes court as Belgrade has come under increasing pressure to co-operate with it. Those detained have included Radivoje Miletic and Milan Gvero, both accused of involvement in so-called ethnic cleansing.

    The British foreign secretary, William Hague, congratulated the Serbian government for the arrest, which he called a “historic moment”.

    “Ratko Mladic stands accused of terrible crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and it is right that he will now be brought to face international justice. Today our thoughts are with the relatives of those killed during the siege of Sarajevo and genocide in Srebrenica,” Hague said.

    “Today should mark the beginning of a new chapter for the countries of the western Balkans.”

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