Ratko Mladic, "God of Genocide," arrested

(PHOTOS / REUTERS. At left, in 1993: Bosnian Serb army Commander General Ratko Mladic (L) salutes.)

The self-proclaimed "God of genocide" in Srebrenica, the Serbian ethnic general Ratko Mladic was arrested today in a small village eighty kilometers from Belgrade.

Mladic sheltered there with a relative, and lived under a false name. For years on end he hid like a house-mouse, and was arrested with a similar meekness.

Old, docile, with one hand crippled, the formerly ferocious warlord lived peaceably and invisibly in a house that had been searched repeatedly by the Serbian police. This long-wanted war criminal and exceedingly successful fugitive from justice had a 10 million euro award on his head.

And yet, recent polls say that, despite the suffering and ignominy he brought them, 51 percent of Serbian citizens would not have given him up to the international war tribunal in the Hague. No, not for any money. Serbian stubbornness has gone beyond the period of Mladic's bloodstained hero-worship. Nowadays the Serbs have grown indifferent to Mladic while actively resenting the European Union, whose economic disorders have made Serbian life miserable.

And yet it appears that somebody did betray Mladic for the reward: someone among his circle of close friends. Some years ago, an entire group of people, who were all accused of actively sheltering Mladic, were released from a Serbian court through lack of evidence.

(Above, Mladic (C) arrives at special court in Belgrad, May 26, 2011. Bosnian Serb wartime general Mladic was arrested in Lazarevo in the early hours on Thursday after years on the run from international genocide charges.)

After his arrest, only a few drunken people gathered before his hideout, and also in downtown Belgrade: the usual hooligan nationalist bands. Mladic was taken to the special court of war crimes in Belgrade to be interrogated. But this effort was interrupted because of the former general's "difficult psychological and physical condition."

Mladic seems to have been babbling, but he managed to say, according to his lawyer, that he does not recognize the war tribunal in Hague, and will not plead guilty or innocent. He was armed with two pistols when he was arrested, but he gave himself peacefully.

Who will pick up the 10 million euro reward? How much prosperity did Ratko Mladic cost Serbia over these 16 years? These money issues are the big questions in Serbian press. Although the police said they will not take a penny, they did their regular job.

As a further financial twist, the state still owes the general his regular pension, which he never received (as a fugitive). Handsome lump-sums have paid by and to the other citizens of the state -- mainly, blood money for his victims.

And what about the dead? Do they have a price? Gone without a name, many of them still without graves since their bodies, dismembered and scattered all over the territory are still being sought. The silence of the ghosts is loud as ever in this moment of joy and victory.

More recently, European pressure has intensified from the Hague tribunal; on June 6 the Serbian government faced a grim report from Serbia by Serge Brammertz, citing them for non-cooperation with the United Nations. Europe is experiencing many difficulties, but Serbia, like a tin can tied to a cat's tail, suffers them even more so.

The primary obstacle to Serbia's European harmonization is and was, of course, the genocidal war criminal Ratko Mladic.

We citizens of Serbia all knew that Mladic was hiding among us in Serbia; don't ask me why, but we never believed the many tales spread about his death or his exile. Given his modest rural circumstances, he was concealed more discreetly than the Pakistanis hid Osama bin Laden -- but the parallels there are obvious. Mladic had his protectors in the covert wing of the government, and the Serbian government is traditionally an enterprise in which everything is covert, and yet everybody knows. Ask them not why they turned him in, but why they delayed until today.

A couple of years ago, Radovan Karadzic, the mastermind of the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, was arrested in downtown Belgrade. Dr. Karadzic had been hiding under a long beard as a New Age quack guru. Witnessing this travesty on television, my aged father said: Ratko Mkadic is a soldier! He will never do a thing like that! He will rather commit suicide than humiliate himself in that manner or get arrested by police! Mladic will never go to The Hague!

The same myth of fearless valor was running for the late president of Serbia, Milosevic who actually was arrested and died in The Hague. Milosevic was a close collaborator with the Bosnian Serb warlords, Karadzic and Mladic, in surpressing the Muslim population of Bosnia.

This demon dream team of Balkan genocide: Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic, were all destined for The Hague. They were playing chess with one another in the anteroom of justice, waiting for a sentence longer than their lives. Only death could bring them peace and liberation. Radovan Karadzic sent immediately from the Hague a message to arrested Mladic: I am sorry this happened, but I will help you out, we will work together for the truth!

Some years ago I wrote a book on genocide in Srebrenica, the largest single war crime in Europe after World War II. My first question, after analyzing the design of crime was: how did they manage to exterminate eight thousand people in a couple of days? How could they hide thousands of bodies from the international community, from the people present there, from the bereaved families?

After the recent capture of Osama Bin Laden, Ratko Mladic was the fugitive number one in the world. The US president Obama said he was happy Serbia perfomed its duty. The world press is giving all the credits to the pro-European government of president Boris Tadic, and his determined policy to pull Serbia away from the criminal past.

Today in Serbia even the radical right wing opposition is officially pro-European. No one in or near power aspires to dirty their hands with the Balkan wars; that brings no benefit. Modern Serbia has a cult of tennis stars rather than warlords. These Millennial adults have won some credibility, since they impress the outside world, without any taint of the distant 1990s.

The mothers of Srebrenica victims declared themselves contented with this turn of events. They expected it many years ago; but better later than never. These women have learned to be deeply suspicious of the tribunal in The Hague; the international lawyers there declared their prize mementos and personal evidence to be bulky and useless; unfit for a modern court proceeding. So much for their cherished mementos of their dead, their hoarded proofs that the vanished dead had really lived, that they were murdered.

A moment of justice is commonly liberating for the offended as well as the criminals. But the moment of truth even more so. There is no justice without truth. The arrest of Ratko Mladic and his adamant transfer to the Hague tribunal will be a litmus test for this universal and ancient motto. And for our globalized world of crime and punishment.

Jasmina Tesanovic: blog, Twitter.


    1. How’s that justice? What is justice? As far as I was aware, there’s just us (thanks Terry Pratchett!).
      If we’re gonna let our morals be sated by bloodlust, how does that make us any better than the war criminals we pursue?

  1. Great text. Thanks.
    Evil men will get caught when they’re not of use anymore.
    Hard not to get cynic.

  2. [sarcasm]
    How come Serbia did not emulate the 2009 Nobel Peace Price Winner and executed Mladic on the spot instead of capturing him?
    [end sarcasm]

    1. Well, partly because a lot of people there view him as a hero and partly because it’s harder to get away with just splatting people that you don’t like in Europe. But I’d still be very willing to try a cultural exchange and send The Leader Of The Free Worldâ„¢ to Serbia for a couple of years.

      1. “Because a lot of people there view him as a hero”.
        That one doesn’t stick – One could say the same about Bin Laden’s popularity in Pakistan.

        1. Well, Ratko Mladic is a Serb who was arrested by Serbs in Serbia, and Osama bin Laden was a Saudi Arabian killed by Americans in Pakistan, but other than that – identical circumstances. Radovan Karadžić’s whereabouts was Europe’s biggest open secret for years before it became politically expedient to bring him in.

        2. What the moderator said – what precise evidence beyond Western media-sourced speculation do you have that bin Laden every enjoyed broad popularity in Pakistan?

          That aside, I agree with the general point re: double standards and international war criminals – Kissinger for one ought to be standing trial in the Hague, among so many other American perpetrators.

          1. Kissinger, yes. Another Nobel laureate that would have a lot of explanation to do…
            Mind you I didn’t say Bin Laden enjoyed broad popularity, I merely compared his with Mladic. They might have little nowadays. But how do you access Mladic’s popularity? Half the Serbs saying they wouldn’t hand him over to The Hague, is that an indicator? Or the few hundred that showed their disapproval last night?
            It is hard evaluate in both cases, I can testify what I have heard people say over and over again in Belgrade for the last 10 years, but not in Pakistan. I’ve heard a lot of Serbs say that Mladic is a hero (more than one would already count as a lot to me in this case, but this was hundreds). Even more Serbs have said that they think Maldic is an assassin but they don’t recognize the ICC.
            In Pakistan (and the middle East for that matter), my preferred source is a colleague I met in the late 90’s whose opinions I generally trust: Robert Fisk. He is party of the western-media abstract entity you mention, surely, but so am I and as so I make clear distinctions between some western-media and other western media. But again, I never made a case Osama had substantial popular support everywhere. I suspect he doesn’t. Just like Mladic nowadays.

  3. So, this dude kills thousands of Muslims and he’s a war criminal, and America’s been in the business of killing Muslims for a few years now, why arent our former leaders up on charges in the Hague? Conversely, perversely, this guy only killed 8 thousand, the US is up to over 100,000 between irag and Afghanistan, is a European Muslim’s life worth more than an Arab Muslim’s life?

    1. I know you know, but it’s never too much to remember:
      The US refused to sign the International Criminal Court agreement. Clinton chickened out, Bush slammed it, Obama is being diplomatic about it.
      The US actually voted against the original treaty in 2000 together with China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar and Yemen.
      Therefore your former leaders cannot be up on charges in The Hague. Funny considering they seem very resolved on sending alien nationals over.

  4. I must take issue with the number of 51% wouldn’t turn him in for any money. That poll was not formulated very well, as there was no option for “I would turn him in for no money”, or something equivalent to that. It is entirely possible that many Serbs answered “No” as they did not think it would be moral to accept money for his arrest.

  5. I’m visiting relatives in Holland right now. Yesterday we went on a road trip and visited the Hague, where I insisted on snapping a picture of Peace Palace, the main building of the International Criminal Court.

    As we were driving by the prison near Scheveningen, there was a media frenzy outside the gate. It was then that the radio announced that Mladic had been caught and was on his way there. How nice: My first visit to the Hague, and justice is being prepared.

  6. This is just part of a policy change in Serbia. Mladic is the price they pay. They want to become an EU member candidate before the Croats get in a position (i.e. membership) where they can block Serbia.
    Serbia just serves Mladic’s head on a plate to Lady Ashton (High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) visiting there this week.

  7. Oh, and justice can not possibly be achieved. You’d have to do it 8000 times to the few hundred people that did the deed.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    Three lefts do.

  8. Thanks Ms. TeÅ¡anović for being the one to post this. You might be interested to know there’s show here in FoAM, the photo museum here in Amsterdam, called “Antiphotojournalism”:


    The ethnic cleansing in Bosnia is prominently featured in it, as do a set of soldiers’ private photos, developed at some drugstore or photo lab.

    Franjo Tudjman of Croatia ought to have shared a cell with Milosevic, but death by cancer is better than nothing.

    I imagine someone got tired of their “Serbian hero” bragging about some atrocity or another, or his mobbed-up former comrades-in-arms hanging around enforcing local silence. “Keep the money, give it to Muslim widows and orphans, who cares, just get the fucker out of here.”

    Trying Mladic and throwing him in international jail for the rest of his life is the most a civilized world can do. But I’d happily pay for someone to install in his cell speakers and an iPod loaded with the vilest and cheesiest turbo-folk songs on endless replay.

  9. Let’s refrain from sesationalistic titles please. Gen. Mladić is without a doubt guilty of genocide in Srebrenica and other atrocities, but “God of Genocide” is a bit severe. Especially, in the context of 20th century history. Keep in mind that unballanced and inflamatory writing has helped lit a fuse of Bankan Powder Keg back in end of 1980ies. If it is to be respected, justice needs to be administerd soberly.

    Just one more fact to put the mood of general Serbian population in perspective, far greather number of people gathered in Belgrade to protest against new city ordinance forbiding sale of alcohol after 10PM then for arrest of Gen. Mladić.


  10. Ok, I am from Serbia and fan of BB. Now,

    Most of us are thrilled that Mladic is arrested. Yes he killed 8000 Muslims, but along with that, people are questioning why wasn’t anyone brought to justice for killing 3500 Serbs near Srebrenica (bratunac), just before massacre in Srebrenica. Muslims killed 3500 serbs, than serbs killed 8000 muslims on that place. It was savage war. But I think that everybody deserve justice.

  11. War criminals have a built-in justification for their actions. In my journey to the Balkans in ’97, many of the Serbs, Croats and Muslims I met expressed outrage over the crimes committed against their own ethnic group, but few would ever name any of their own as guilty.

    In response to Croatian war atrocities President Franjo Tudjman personally told me that his own soldiers “could not control their feelings of revenge, their wishes to retaliate.”

    The day before I interviewed Tudjman, a deal was announced where ten Bosnian Croat war crimes suspects “voluntarily” surrender to The Hague. This announcement is followed by the release of a $40 million credit to Croatia by the IMF.

    But where is the victims’ share of that?

    Those who receive no justice, seek revenge.

  12. Well if he qualifies as a genocidalist for killing 8000 muslims, I guess Bush and Obama qualify since they killed half a million Iraqis ” by accident “…. More Theatre…

  13. Thanks for a fascinating post, but two objections:

    “Nowadays the Serbs have grown indifferent to Mladic while actively resenting the European Union, whose economic disorders have made Serbian life miserable.”

    Let’s be clear: Serbia’s wars made Serbian life miserable. When you start wars against neighboring countries, you become a pariah. That’s why the peoples of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo wanted no part of any union with Serbia.

    “The mothers of Srebrenica victims declared themselves contented with this turn of events.”

    Not according to the accounts I’ve read. They are bitter because of the motivation behind the arrest, the intervening years, and the mess that is now Bosnia. Relatives of murder victims almost never experience closure (see A Grief Like No Other from the Atlantic Monthly, 1993), never mind all the other crimes.

  14. You know, Mladic is a crazy, crazy, evil peasant idiot who suddenly found himself in a power position. There is no way this man should`ve been protected and hid by his fellow serbians (difference to serbs).
    However!: the rest of the world has ludicrously found it`s scapegoat in the people of serbia. Most of them indifferent and/or opposed to the nationalist, fundamental, homophobe racist rants of the right wing and, as any person with common sense would be, ashamed by the evil deeds committed by men such as Mr Mladic.
    After the Bosnia War, there is no-one who could claim to be less bad than the others. Rape, murder, sadism, pain, torture and mindless ongoing of atrocities were the daily program (Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains, and each ethnicity had one of it`s own. Snipers were placed onto those mountains and boy, were they busy. By all means: there is no was to recognise one`s ethnicity and religion through a sniper scope. But, nonetheless, shots were fired. The point here is that there were lots of drunk so-called soldiers on those mountains and had power over life and death of the bosnian citizens.)
    Somewhere in the middle of the conflict, the international community had to decide who to help. Obviously. Not only did they not understand the nature of the conflict, but instead they used it for their own means. While the Russians always were very fond of the Serbs (same lettering, same christian variation to believe in…), the international community took the other side. The reason for this is still to be disclosed.
    I (myself born in Sarajevo, aged 8 at the beginning of the war, none of the ethnicities in conflict) very strongly want to distance myself of saying “the serbs are innocent in this war” or “the serbs didn`t commit the deeds they are accused of”. For that would be untrue. So would be “only the serbs are guilty” or “only serbs are to be accused and trialed”.
    The media echo to arrests of war criminals in the former Yugoslavia seems to vary quite a bit, depending on who`s arrested. A thing that I, personally, cannot comprehend. Cheers and talk of victory, revenge and joy as Karadzic and Mladic get arrested, while Ante Gotovina gets sentenced to 24 years, dutifully and quietly escorted to the penitentiary.
    It is no surprise the Serbian polls show 51% of them wouldn`t have delivered Mladic. It is not only a homemade problem. This bullied, economically seen third-world scapegoat country has yet to recover from bombardments, the Kosovo-cut and ongoing media discreditation, without being further humiliated by Mr Obama and Mrs Merkel “The Serbian people did their duty and have made a significant step towards consideration to the EU.” This is pure blind cynicism and has nothing to do with reality or objectivness. Croatia was taken into consideration long before Mr Gotovina was taken into custody.
    Anyway. Good they got the monster. Ms Tesanovic, thanks fot the text. I rest my case.

  15. Good job!

    I still wonder what Zoran ĐinÄ‘ić could have accomplished if he hadn’t been assassinated. He seemed to be a Serbian politician with so much promise.

  16. Amazing how a murderous scumbag like Mladic can look so much like Benny Hill. But then, Hitler copped Chaplin’s mustache so maybe it all adds up.

  17. There are a lot of mentions in the comments about the International Criminal Court in the Hague. However, we should all be aware that there is a separate court specifically for the former Yugoslavia. Ratko Mladic will be tried by the ICTY, The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This is in the Hague, and it is an international criminal court, but not THE ICC. ICTY is an ad-hoc court, a court formed by the UN Security Council to address a specific need, like Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. The ICC is a separate treaty-based judicial body that will not try Ratko Mladic because there is already a court in place for that purpose. Both courts share the same prison in Scheviningen, The Hague, where Mladic will reside while his case is prosecuted.

  18. As long as the free press doesn’t associate ‘men and boys’ with either ‘civilians’ or ‘soldiers’. Being a jew and my best friend and armenian, we are both grimly amused at how far the politically correct media and the ICTY will bend or ignore relevant information to get what they want, regardless of reality. The slaughter in the balkans which all four sides (yes, four, can you figure out which was the fourth side?) partook, pales into relative insignificance compared to the millions that have died because of direct western action. Still, they can sleep peacefully in their beds and feel good because the right kind of war criminal has been brought to justice.

  19. Could you please provide a source for his proclaiming himself “God of genocide”?

  20. When Kissinger, Bush Jr, etc, stand trial for war crimes, then we can talk about justice done. Not to mention Alija Izetbegovic and Naser Oric.

    Curious how “we” only recognize sovereignty when it suits us. Kosovo independent? Sure, the poor poor Albanians! Serb Republic independent? No way, the brutal evil Serbs!

  21. Now they only need to catch George Bush and his crew who had a boner for Iraq and have killed over 100,000 people as a result, injured millions and traumatized tens of millions, to finally make this world a better place.

    There are plenty more examples where that came from.

    The USA currently holds the title of GOD OF GENOCIDE. Please retract your title about this amateur in comparison!

  22. regarding the “God of Genocide” phrase:
    When Ratko Mladic was giving orders to his soldiers he would say: consider that these orders come from God
    Given that he ordered a genocide…
    Ok, there are possiibly others qualified for this title, I agree, genocide is not monotheistic!

  23. Thanks, Jasmina! Who was responsible for blowing up the Sarajevo library, in which almost all the Bosnian medieval texts had been collected? Was that Mladic?

  24. Jasmina, you state above that Ratko Mladic is a ‘self-proclaimed “God of genocide”‘.

    I cannot find any record of Ratko Mladic ever having referred to himself as such. In the interest of good journalism, can you please revise the sentence to be factually correct, or provide proof in this discussion that this event actually took place?

  25. Of course, if Ratko Mladic did publicly call himself the ‘God of genocide’, then this upcoming trial in the Hague should turn out to be the shortest in history.

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