After hiding for sixteen years Ratko Mladic may face the Hague

Following the break-up of Yugoslavia, there was a bitter war in which ethnic Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats fought for their own states. The individual armies embarked on the process of ‘ethnic cleansing’ – killing those from different ethnic backgrounds. The Bosnian War raged from 1992-95. The number of dead will never be confirmed, but the official toll – as of 2010 – puts the figure at just above 100,000.

This week saw the arrest of Ratko Mladic, one of the leaders of the Serb army. At the end of the war in 1995 he was indicted of war crimes including the Siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8000 Muslim men and boys were murdered. He also stands accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. During the sixteen years since his arrest warrant was issued a $10 million reward has been offered in return for information of his whereabouts but no-one came forward. Eventually he was arrested at his cousin’s house by the Serbian authorities.

There have been sightings of Mladic throughout the last decade and a half – leading many to believe that the Serbs have protected him from the international court because of strong domestic support. For many ethnic Serbs, their war leader is still a hero. However the arrest of Mladic was set as a prerequisite for talks that could enable Serbia to join the EU. Many feel that this is why he was finally arrested. For a few days following his arrest it was thought that his poor health would prevent him from standing trial at the Hague – where the International Criminal Court (ICC) sits. However after a brief hearing in Belgrade it was announced that he would be extradited. Whether justice is ever served remains to be seen, but at least it is a tiny step closer.

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