26 May Breaking News: Mladic Arrested
In Serbia, not surprisingly:
Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of overseeing the worst massacre in Europe since the end of World War II, has been arrested, Serbian authorities said Thursday.
Mladic is Europe’s most wanted war crimes suspect for his alleged role in the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the enclave of Srebrenica, an atrocity that came to symbolize the brutality of the Balkans conflict. The war crimes tribunal in The Hague wants to try Mladic on charges of genocide.
Serbian President Boris Tadic announced Mladic’s capture at a hastily called news conference in Belgrade, the nation’s capital, and said authorities were preparing his extradition.
The arrest comes after sustained criticism of Serbia for being too lackadaisical in tracking down Mladic, including a new report by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that reportedly castigates Belgrade’s efforts as insufficient.
He added that Mladic was arrested on Serbian soil but did not disclose other details of the operation.
There will be questions, however, as to how Mladic managed to remain at large for so long and whether elements of Serbian security forces knew of his whereabouts without bothering to act. Some Serbian nationalists consider Mladic a hero and believe their country to be the unfair target of censure for its wartime past by international authorities. The arrest could trigger street protests.
Mladic’s arrest is interesting from a number of angles. To begin with, it will no doubt have a significant impact on the Karadzic trial. Prosecutors have long wanted to try Mladic and Karadzic together, although I think the Karadzic trial is too far along to make joinder a realistic possibility. But who knows what the OTP will do.
A separate Mladic trial would also complicate the ICTY’s completion strategy, which calls for all judicial work to cease by the end of 2014. Given how long trials involving high-value suspects take at the ICTY, there is little chance that Mladic’s trial and appeal would end by 2015. So it looks like the Security Council will either have to keep the ICTY going longer than anticipated (which would not be the first time) or leave Mladic’s prosecution to the newly-created residual mechanism. The latter seems like an undesirable option — so my guess is that the ICTY judges and prosecutors will get to keep their jobs a bit longer.
Hat-Tip: Dov Jacobs at Spreading the Jam.