United Nations officials today welcomed the arrest of Serbian war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic, long sought for his role in the atrocities committed during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, hailing it as an important step in the fight against impunity.
Mr. Mladic, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, was arrested today in Serbia after evading capture for almost 16 years. He is awaiting transfer to The Hague, where he will stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
He faces numerous charges, including genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation, taking of hostages and inflicting terror on civilians, particularly in connection with massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the supposedly “safe haven” of Srebrenica in July 1995 in one of the most notorious events of the Balkan wars.
“This is a historic day for international justice,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during an event in Paris. “This arrest marks an important step in our collective fight against impunity as well as for the work of the ICTY.”
He commended President Boris Tadic and the Serbian authorities for their efforts in apprehending Mr. Mladic.
A separate statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson added that the arrest “sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity may try to evade justice but they will, in the end, be held accountable.”
The Prosecutor of the ICTY, Serge Brammertz, also highlighted the significant impact of today’s arrest for international justice.
“Ratko Mladic’s arrest clearly signals that the commitment to international criminal justice is entrenched. Today’s events show that people responsible for grave violations of international humanitarian law can no longer count on impunity,” he said in a statement.
“With the news of the arrest, we think first and foremost of the victims of the crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. These victims have endured unimaginable horrors – including the genocide in Srebrenica – and redress for their suffering is long overdue.
“Ratko Mladic’s arrest is also significant for all people in the former Yugoslavia. We believe that it can have a positive impact on reconciliation in the region,” Mr. Brammertz added.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay hailed the arrest, saying it will be “welcomed by many of the people raped, made homeless, and tortured during the war, as well as by the relatives of the many thousands who were killed by forces under his command, most notably in Srebrenica.”
“I hope that Mladiæ’s trial, along with that of Radovan Karadzic, and the recent ICTY convictions of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, as well as the dozens of earlier convictions, will help victims and their families see justice done and receive acknowledgement of their suffering,” Ms. Pillay stated in a news release.
The ICTY was tasked by the Security Council with trying those responsible for the worst war crimes and other breaches of international humanitarian law committed during the various conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
“The arrest of Mladic is a milestone in the Tribunal’s history and brings the institution closer to the successful completion of its mandate, with 160 out of 161 indicted persons having now been arrested,” the Tribunal stated in a news release.
With the arrest of Mr. Mladic, only one indictee – Goran Hadžic – now remains at large.