Bosnia War Crimes Fugitive Ratko Mladic Arrested

May 26, 2011



This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

From Belgrade today comes word that Europe's most-wanted war crimes fugitive has been arrested. Serb General Ratko Mladic faces genocide charges. He's been on the run since the Bosnia war ended in 1995.

NPR's Sylvia Poggioli joins us now with more.

Hey, Sylvia.


KELLY: So, how did they get him, and are they sure it's him?

POGGIOLI: Well, up to now, we've - we just heard a press conference from Serbian President Boris Tadic, where he said he would - he confirmed that it's Ratko Mladic. They say that DNA tests show that it was definitely him. He would not give many details, saying they still have to work it out a lot, what exactly happened.

What we know is that he was arrested on Serb territory in the northern Serbian town of Zrenjanin. But we expect to hear more details later. What Tadic said was that this was an extremely important day for Serbia. He said we have cleared our name, and we - it is a good - it is - we have finally - this page of our history has been closed, and now all doors of our membership towards the European Union are open.

If you remember, the EU had conditioned Serbia's membership bid on the arrest of Ratko Mladic.

KELLY: Now, Ratko Mladic, as we mentioned, has been wanted on charges of genocide. Remind us what exactly his role was during the war in Bosnia.

POGGIOLI: Well, he led the Bosnian-Serb forces throughout the war from 1992 to 1995. He is most - best-known for the most infamous crime, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, which was the massacre at the small town of Srebrenica in 1995, with some 7,500, maybe 8,000 men and young boys were massacred.

We have a lot of TV images of Ratko Mladic entering the village of Srebrenica, which had been declared a U.N. safe haven by the United Nations peacekeepers, but they did not provide enough peacekeepers to really protect the town.

And he came in, and there are pictures of him - horrible, chilling pictures of him caressing the face of a little, frightened boy, promising nothing will happen, as he sent all the women and children away in buses and then, you know, the TV cameras disappeared, and then the massacre happened over the next few days. He is definitely accused of that, and there's a paper trail at the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, where a lot of evidence has already been gathered and been presented in other trials that really points the finger at Mladic as the architect of that massacre.

KELLY: And will he now face trial in the Hague at the International War Crimes Tribunal there?

POGGIOLI: The Serbian president, Boris Tadic, says - the words he said are the extradition is underway. It is definite - likely he will - when the other Serb - Serb leader Karadzic was arrested in 2008, it took a day or two before he was sent to Hague. But then he was sent - you know, almost immediately. The case will probably be the same.

Of course, Mladic now has more popularity, odd to say, among die-hard nationalists in Serbia. When Karadzic was arrested, there wasn't much of a reaction. There's likely to be more of a reaction in die-hard, nationalist Serb circles over Mladic's arrest. So I think that they'll probably try to get him to the Hague as fast as possible.

KELLY: OK. Thank you, Sylvia.

POGGIOLI: Thank you.

KELLY: That's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, updating us on the news today out of Serbia: War crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic has been arrested. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.