Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic: Birds of a feather

“Thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers’ eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson. These are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”

This is judge Fouad Riad’s description of what took place at Srebernica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in July 1995. Riad served for seven years on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. In February 2001, he and other judges ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was “genocide”.

Now, the long awaited and welcome news that the man known to have been directly responsible for the massacre has been found in hiding. 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.

Mladic had 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. Now 68, he was 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.

According to Croatia’s Zagreb newspaper Jutarnji List, Mladic had been living under the pseudonym Milorad Komadic. The paper reported that the secret operation to arrest him came after a tip-off that Komadic “possessed some identification marks of Ratko Mladic and was physically very similar to him.” After the Yugoslav wars Mladic had initially 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. Karadzic’s American lawyer said he had relayed the news of Mladic’s arrest when he had visited him in The Hague detention unit, where Mladic will be sent if extradited. Robinson said Karadzic expressed sorrow at Mladic’s “loss of freedom” and that he “looks forward to working with him to bring out the truth about what happened in Bosnia.”

It remains to be seen what lies Mladic will come up with in a vain attempt to cover his tracks. But, as Shakespeare well knew and wrote in The Merchant of Venice, “Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long.”

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