In the wake of the arrest of Ratko Mladic, more survivors of the horrific events at Srebrenica have been telling their stories.
Fear of the Bosnian Serbs’ advance took hold well before the general’s forces captured the town. Thousands of civilians had fled to the UN peacekeepers’ base in nearby Potocari, hoping to find shelter.
Fadila Efendic was one of them. She remembers people were terrified of what the Serbs might do to them. It was while she was being held in a factory near the base, that she saw Mladic.
“He looked proud. He was a soldier who made decisions about who would live and who would die. He was the one who pronounced death sentences on our men and children. He ordered his soldiers to kill them all. If they really wanted him to face justice they’d have arrested him 16 years ago,” she says.
According to Fadila, shortly after she saw Mladic, Serb troops began separating men and youths from their families. Investigators spent years finding and trying to identify the remains of the thousands who were massacred. But many relatives are contemplating the prospect of never finding their bodies.
Kadira Gabeljic lost many relatives including her husband and two sons.. She says she has spent 16 years searching for them. Her husband’s body was found, but only the partial remains of her sons were discovered. Mesud and Meho were 16 and 21 when they were murdered.
“I will have to wait for years. I might even die before their complete remains are found”, she says.
Many wondered what had happened to Izudin Alic, now 24. Inadvertently, he became famous thanks to his encounter with Mladic in 1995.
He was the mysterious unidentified “boy in the video”. The images, millions found sickening: the general, surrounded by other soldiers, assuring the blond eight-year-old and other children they would be safe – just hours before allegedly overseeing mass murder.
“I remember that I got a chocolate bar. I went there together with other children and I took that chocolate bar from Ratko Mladic,” says Izudin.
The whereabouts of the boy in the video remained unknown for years. Some thought he was dead, others that he had emigrated. In fact his family still live in the Srebrenica area.
Izudin is glad Mladic has been arrested, but says it should have happened before. “He should not have been hiding, he should have surrendered a long time ago,” he says.
As Ratko Mladic delivered his reassuring messages to Srebrenica residents before the cameras, Izudin’s father was one of thousands of Muslim men who had fled before the Bosnian Serbs arrived.
His body was found later in one of the mass graves. He too had been caught and killed by the general’s troops.