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News 26 May 11

Mixed Reactions From Bosnia Following Mladic Arrest

While the arrest of Mladic has been criticised by some in the Bosnian Serb entity Republika Srpska, Bosnians in other parts of the country have hailed the news.

Drazen Remikovic, Eldin Hadzovic
Banja Luka, Sarajevo
 

Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik says that the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the wartime military leader of the Bosnian Serbs, represents the fulfillment of international obligations under the Dayton Peace Agreement.

In a press release from the Office of the President of the Republika Srpska, RS, Dodik said that the arrest of Mladic will not affect peace and stability in the entity, which, he said, has been leading the international fight to respond to war crimes.

"I express the hope that Ratko Mladic has a fair trial, guaranteed by all conventions on human rights," Dodik said in the press release.

Dodik added that RS “will never defend anyone who commited war crimes, regardless of their nationality. “I hope that Atif Dudakovic, Naser Oric, and other officials of the so-called Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will also meet justice soon, in order to build needed trust in Bosnia,” Dodik said.

Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia's central presidency, said that the arrest of Mladic was a good and significant sign not only for the victims, but for the whole region as well.

“Justice is slow, but inevitable. The arrest of Mladic gives hope that the truth will finally be revealed, as it is a stimulus for regional trust. We had a bad past, but we’re ready for the future together,” Izetbegovic said.

The Croat member of Bosnia’s Presidency, Zeljko Komsic, said that the arrest of Ratko Mladic proves that Serbian authorities knew where Mladic is all along, the same way they knew where Radovan Karadzic, wartime Bosnian Serb leader, was. He claimed that it is obvious that Mladic – and Karadzic as well – were used by Serbian authorities with their negotiations with European Union.

Komsic nevertheless welcomed the arrest, saying that he was glad because Mladic will “finally find himself in front of the court for terrible crimes committed in Bosnia, and especially for genocide in Srebrenica”.

“Although some people lost hope that Mladic will ever be arrested, or that the policy he stood for in the 1990s will meet justice, that didn’t happen,” Komsic said. “Unfortunately,” he added, “for the families and the victims this is too late.”
 
Rade Narancic, an electrical engineer from Banja Luka, Republika Srpska's de facto capital, said that he is horrified with the news that Mladic been arrested, saying that with this act, “official Serbia had touched bottom”.

“This information has poisoned me. Boris Tadic is the biggest traitor of the Serbian people in history of this people, ” Narancic told Balkan Insight.

He added that this is the biggest defeat of the Serbian people and that nothing will be the same after Mladic’s arrest.

Bojan Vlaski, a student from Banja Luka, told Balkan Insight that the arrest of Mladic is a bad news for the Republika Srpska and that the majority of the population and added that the citizens of this entity will accept Mladic’s arrest with disapproval.

“In the eyes of the people of Republika Srpska he is a hero, not a war criminal. With same eyes the other two peoples in Bosnia looking at their generals who took part in the war,” Vlaski told Balkan Insight.

The president of the veterans' organisation of Republika Srpska, Pantelija Curguz, also believes that the news of the arrest of Serbian General Ratko Mladic is depressing and shocking to the Serb people in the entity.

He noted that it is still shocking that the leadership of Serbia is doing nothing to prosecute criminals who committed "monstrous" crimes against the Serb people in Republic of Serbian, Kosovo, Croatia.

"I understand the obligation of Serbia in the legal sense and in accordance with international and domestic legal norms and regulations, but I don’t  understand that Serbia does nothing and does not engage in the same capacity and at the same level for the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against the Serb people," Curguz told reporters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Association of Detainees of Republika Srpska, Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, and former Bosnian Serb soldiers spoke of their  “bitterness” at the arrest.
 
Branislav Dukic, President of the Association of Detainees of Republika Srpska, said that he was disappointed to hear the news of Ratko Mladic's arrest, adding that Serbia stood on the side of those who had caused the fall of former Yugoslavia.

“Is it possible that Serbia has stood on the side of those who caused the fall of the country and that it does not take care of Serb victims, but rather extradites and arrests those who protected the Serb people?” Dukic asked.
 
Drazen Perendija, President of the Association of War Veterans of Republika Srpska, said that Serbia, which acted in haste to join the European Union, would not benefit from Mladic's arrest, adding that the arrest would not able it to reach its goal faster.
 
“General Mladic is my officer and military role model. I am not happy that he is arrested,” Perendija said.

Bosnians in the mainly Bosniak-Croat part of the country, meanwhile, have welcomed the arrest.

Murat Tahirovic, the president of the Union of the Former Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told Balkan Insight that the arrest of Mladic was “the first step towards justice”.

Zumra Sahomerovic, from the Association of Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves, said that the arrest of Mladic shows that “crimes do not expire and that they will face the justice in the end”.

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Background

Ratko Mladic

Timeline of events leading up to the arrest of Ratko Mladic.

War in Bosnia

Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.

Blog

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14 Jun 11

Crimes of War, Crimes of Peace

Dejan Anastasijevic

The reaction within Serbia to Mladic’s arrest is a perfect illustration of Belgrade’s struggle to bury its past without actually facing it, says Dejan Anastasijevic.