Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime general, has been captured after years on the run.
Commander of Bosnian Serb forces in the 1992-95 Bosnia war, Mladic was indicted by an international war crimes court in 1995 on genocide charges for the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and 43-month siege of Sarajevo.
Serbian President Boris Tadic confirmed the arrest of the warcrimes fugitive: “On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The extradition process is underway,” he told reporters in Belgrade.
Mladic, seen by many Serbs as a hero for his loyal and fearless service to the Serb cause, is expected to quickly be transferred to the Hague court to face a trial.
Tadic said Mladic was arrested in Serbia, which had long said it could not find him. “This removes a heavy burden from Serbia and closes a page of our unfortunate history,” he said. Tadic refused, however, to give details of the operation or circumstances which led to his arrest.
The former military leader of Serbs in Bosnia has been sought by the UN War Crimes Tribunal on genocide and war crimes charges and was the most prominent Bosnian war crimes suspect.
His capture has also been an outstanding requirement for Serbia’s membership of the European Union.
The EU’s head of foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, welcomed the arrest and called for Mladic to be brought to The Hague as soon as possible. “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 cooperation with the ICTY remains essential on Serbia’s path towards EU membership.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bild added praise for Tadic and said the arrest would help Serbia’s EU aspirations, calling the news “obviously highly important”.
He added: “We can start to close a tragic chapter in the history of Europe. I warmly congratulate President Tadic. I knew his determination to achieve this, and know how hard he worked for it. The European prospects of Serbia are now brighter than ever.“
Serbia president announces Mladic arrest