Thursday, May 26, 2011

Arrest of Former Yugoslav General Ratko Mladic Linked to Serbian Admission to European Union

Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic arrested

Serbia announces the arrest of Ratko Mladic, Europe's most wanted man, accused of perpetrating war crimes in Bosnia

Last Modified: 26 May 2011 14:18

Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general wanted for alleged war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict, has been arrested, Serbia has announced.

"On behalf of the Republic of Serbia we announce that Ratko Mladic has been arrested," Boris Tadic, the country's president, said.

"Today we closed one chapter of our difficult history that will bring us one step closer to full reconciliation in the region.

"All criminals must face justice," he said.

Tadic said the 69-year-old would be extradited to the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague, but did not give a time frame.

Local media had first reported that a man who identified himself as Milorad Komadic had been detained and was believed to be Mladic.

According to Belgrade's B92 radio, he was arrested on Thursday in a village close to the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin.

An unnamed police official said the fugitive was found in a farmhouse owned by a relative, and had been co-operative during the arrest.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of Bosnia's three-person presidency, said the arrest was conducted in co-operation with Bosnian security agencies, but did not give further details.

Genocide charges

A spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, said she "strongly welcomed" the arrest - "an important step forward for Serbia and for international justice".

Ashton expects "Mladic to be transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) without delay", Michael Mann wrote on his Twitter account.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general, said the arrest "finally offers a chance for justice to be done".

Mladic is wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on charges of genocide during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict.

He was indicted in 1995 over the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys, and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, in which around 10,000 people died.

The UN indictment against Mladic says he was the operational mastermind behind the massacre, and also cites the establishment of camps and detention centres for Bosnian Muslims as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

His arrest has been seen as a precondition of Serbia joining the European Union.

Aljosa Milenkovic, a Belgrade journalist, told Al Jazeera that "politicians from the EU have repeated time and again that Mladic is the condition for Serbia's entry" to the bloc.

Better relations

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley, who reported on the Bosnian conflict, said the capture would lead to better relations between Serbia and Bosnia, their neighbour, and Croatia.

"This is one of the main [factors]. The fact that they weren't giving Mladic up before was a massive stumbling block, it was holding everything back.

"Now the Serbian government can say 'let's move on and make this a better region once more'.

"It will bring closure to an ugly part of their history."

Families of victims from the Srebrenica massacre have expressed their relief over the arrest.

"For us, this is really very important," Hajra Catic, head of the Srebrenica Women association, who lost her son and husband in the slaughter, said.

Prosecutors at the Hague have said they believed Mladic was hiding in Serbia under the protection of people who consider him a hero. He was last seen in Belgrade in 2006.

But Milenkovic said it was still unclear who was helping the fugitive to hide and whether further arrests would be made.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime political leader and Mladic's mentor, was captured in July 2008 and is currently on trial at the ICTY's headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Explainer: Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was the first body created to prosecute war crimes since 1945

Last Modified: 26 May 2011 12:04

More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the Srebrenica massacre

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is a United Nations court of law dealing with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s.

It was established in 1993, and since then has indicted 161 people said to have played roles in the bloody conflict.

Based in The Hague, it was the first international body for the prosecution of war crimes since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials held in the aftermath of World War Two.

The tribunal has jurisdiction over individuals responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after January 1, 1991.

Detentions, trials, and arrests

36 people have been arrested and are currently in custody.

27 people are currently on trial. Seventeen others, including former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, are at various stages of proceedings and dozens of others have been passed to courts in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia.

Following Ratko Mladic's arrest, only one person, Goran Hadzic, a Croatian Serb official, is now at large, indicted for planning the murder and deportations of hundreds of non-Serbs in the self-declared Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia.

Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic died in detention in March 2006, just months before a verdict was due in his four-year war crimes trial on 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity or other war crimes during the conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

Radislav Krstic, commander of the Bosnian Serb army's Drina Corps in 1995, was the first person convicted of genocide by the court, in a landmark verdict in August 2001. He was jailed for 46 years, but his sentence was later cut to 35, and the offence reduced to one of aiding and abetting genocide.

Former Bosnian Serb army commander Vidoje Blagojevic was also found guilty, in 2005, of aiding and abetting genocide, and sentenced to 18 years.

Milan Babic, ex-leader of the rebel Serbs in Croatia's Krajina region, was jailed for 13 years in 2004 for his role in the ethnic cleansing of almost 80,000 Croats in 1991. He was the first notable indictee to admit his guilt, and agreed to testify against Milosevic. He committed suicide in 2006.

His fellow Krajina Serb leader, Milan Martic, was jailed for 35 years in 2007 for his role in the same expulsions.

Momcilo Krajisnik, former head of the Bosnian Serb parliament, was sentenced to 27 years in prison for a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims and Croats, but acquitted of genocide.

Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic was convicted in 2003 by the ICTY for her part in the persecution of Bosnian Muslims in the war from 1992 to 1995, and is serving an 11-year sentence.

Vojislav Seselj, leader of Serbia's ultranationalist Radical Party, is currently on trial for charges including murder, torture and persecution of non-Serbs in a joint criminal enterprise with Milosevic to create a "Greater Serbia" including large parts of Bosnia and Croatia.

Ramush Haradinaj, a Kosovo Albanian who served as a regional commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) during a 1998-99 war with Serbian forces before becoming Kosovo's prime minister, was tried on charges of responsibility for torture, murder, rape and deportation. He was cleared of all war crimes charges and crimes against humanity last April.

Serbia announces the arrest of Ratko Mladic, Europe's most wanted man, sought for alleged war crimes in Bosnia.

Source: Agencies

Profile: Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic, the former head of the Bosnian-Serb army, was commander during the war that resulted in the break up of Yugoslavia

Last Modified: 26 May 2011 11:32

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, was indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in 1995 on charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Serbia announced his arrest on May 26, 2011.

"On behalf of the Republic of Serbia we announce that Ratko Mladic has been arrested," Boris Tadic, the country's president, said.

"Today we closed one chapter of our recent history that will bring us one step closer to full reconciliation in the region."

Mladic is alleged to have been involved in the Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims in July 1995, and the siege of Sarajevo, in which more than 12,000 civilians died.

Until his arrest, he one of two last fugitives wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTfY), along with Goran Hadzic, a former Croatian Serb leader, who is believed to be in hiding in Serbia.

The charges against Mladic include genocide, complicity in genocide, extermination and murder, deportation and inhumane acts, unlawfully inflicting terror upon civilians, cruel treatment, attacks on civilians and the taking of hostages.

Mladic was the military chief of Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb political leader, who was captured in Belgrade in July 2008.

During his time as chief of staff of the army of Republika Srpska, Mladic is also charged with the killing, deportation and forcible transfer of non-Serbs in support of "ethnic cleansing" campaigns in Bosnia in 1992 and 1993.

The former military leader's family sought to have Mladic declared officially dead in May 2010, claiming they had not seen him for seven years and that they wished to end the "harassment they are exposed to".

Srebrenica massacre

The Srebrenica massacre is portrayed as the single worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

In the five days after Bosnian Serb forces took control of the town, it was reported in the media that at least 8,000 Muslim men and boys, aged from 12 to 77, were murdered, after they were separated out for "interrogation for suspected war crimes" by the Serbs.

Mladic is accused of involvement in the torture, abuse, sexual violence and beatings of Bosnian Muslims, and of creating conditions in detention facilities "calculated to bring about the physical destruction of Bosnian Muslims".

He also faces charges over attempts to conceal the executions of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by reburying, in isolated locations, bodies exhumed from mass graves.

The indictment alleges that Mladic "was a member of a joint criminal enterprise whose objective was the elimination or permanent removal of Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat, or other non-Serb inhabitants from large areas of (Bosnia and Herzegovina)".

Military commander

Mladic was born in the village of Kalinovik, in Bosnia, then part of Yugoslavia, in 1942, and went on to become an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army. His father was killed by pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha troops in 1945.

As the country began to fall apart in 1991, he was posted to lead the Yugoslav army's 9th Corps against Croatian forces at Knin.

Later, he took command of the Yugoslav army's second military district, based in Sarajevo.

In May 1992, the Bosnian Serb assembly voted to create a Bosnian Serb army, appointing Mladic to the post of commander.

He was promoted to the rank of General Colonel in June 1994.

In March 1994, Mladic's daughter Ana, a medical student, shot herself with her father's pistol in Belgrade.

Mladic led Bosnian Serb troops throughout the 1992-1995 conflict.

At the end of the war, Mladic returned to Belgrade, where he went into hiding. Mladic was believed to be in or near the Serbian capital, under the protection of Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president, until Milosevic's arrest in 2001.

In 2004, it was reported that Mladic was being aided by Bosnian Serb military forces, while in 2008 Belgrade admitted he had been under military protection until mid-2002.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

EU foreign policy chief Ashton visiting Serbia and Kosovo

Wed, May 25 2011 23:13 CET
by The Sofia Echo staff

During visits to Belgrade and Pristina on May 26 and 27, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would reaffirm the commitment of the EU to the European prospects of both Serbia and Kosovo as well as support for the ongoing Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, facilitated by the EU, her office said.

"The EU has a clear commitment to the European perspective of the whole Western Balkans. We want to see the region progress on this path. Regional co-operation is essential for the European perspective. The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is fundamental for removing obstacles on the road towards the EU. We want to find practical solutions that can improve the lives of ordinary people. At the same time, we stand ready to help both Serbia and Kosovo to move forward," Ashton said ahead of her visit.

In Serbia on May 26, Ashton was scheduled to meet president Boris Tadic and the Serb representative in the EU facilitated Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Borko Stefanovic.

She was also scheduled to sign one of the two pending EU - Serbia Agreements with interior minister Ivica Dacic.

In Kosovo on May 25, Ashton will meet prime minister Hasim Thaci and the Kosovo representative in the dialogue Edita Tahiri, as well as first deputy prime minister Pacolli, foreign minister Enver Hoxhaj and the European affairs minister Vlora Citaku. Ashton will also visit the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX).

26. 05. 2011. 00:02h | Tamara Spaić

Positive report by European Commission

Recommendation for candidate status to Serbia even without arrest of Mladic

BRUSSELS – The European Commission shall recommend that Serbia is given the candidate status if it continues conducting reforms until September, diplomatic sources from Brussels say for ‘Blic’. Well informed sources from Belgrade confirmed this information. The green light to candidate status might be given even without arrest of the remaining two war crimes suspects looked for by the Hague Tribunal. The first draft report on Serbia is positive and it shall be finished until June 15.

The EU Diplomacy Chief Ms. Catherine Ashton ‘Recent visit by Jose Manuel Barroso, the EC President to Belgrade as well as today’s visit of Catherine Ashton, the EU Diplomacy Chief show that Serbia has Brussels’ support for getting of the candidate status and date for beginning of negotiations. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The actual stance of the EC is that Serbia should be given the green light if it fulfils the chief reform conditions’, a source close to Stefan Fuehle, the EU Enlargement Commissioner says for ‘Blic’.

‘The situation is rather transparent and the public messages are the same as those behind closed door’, Milica Delevic, Director of Government’s Office for European Integration says for ‘Blic’.

Cooperation between Serbia president Boris Tadic and the EU Diplomacy Chief Catherine Ashton is very important for giving of the candidate status to our country. That cooperation began during preparation of the resolution on Kosovo at the UN General Assembly last summer. Ashton is coming to Belgrade today to support EU integration by Serbia.

She shall first meet with Borislav Stefanovic, leader of Serbian team in negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. After that she shall meet with Serbia Deputy Prime Minister and also Police Minister Ivica Dacic with whom Ashton is to sign Agreement on security procedures for exchange and protection of secret data.

There is also an agreement which shall make possible participation of Serbian Army and Police in the EU peace-keeping missions. This agreement shall not be signed because Serbia Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic is presently absent due to taking part at ministerial meeting of the non-aligned in Bali.

Catherine Ashton shall finish her visit to Belgrade with meeting with President Tadic. She is expecting from him support to regional cooperation and positive influence of the Republic of Srpska President Milorad Dodik.

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