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Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic Arrested
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Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic Arrested

May 26th 2011 Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic has finally been arrested after sixteen years in hiding. He was indicted for war crimes and genocide in 1995 and has more or less been on the run ever since.

This has big implications for modern Serbia but here is a brief overview of Mladic and his history.

The list of charges against Mladic includes some of the most reprehensible acts of violence and bloodshed since WWII. While other continents (Africa particularly) have seen more than their fair share of "ethnic cleansing" it has been long thought that that kind of thing could not happen could not happen in Europe ever again.

The Siege of Sarajevo Two particular situations particularly highlight the atrocities that followed the disintegration of the post war Jugoslavia (held together by the power of the communist dictator Tito until his death). One is the shelling of the ancient city of Sarajevo, with the actions of snipers on rooftops shooting down innocent civilians trying to survive and the other is the massacre of around 7,500 men and women in the town of Srebrenica.

These acts both had the hand of Mladic on them as the controlling general. All in the name of removing the parts of Bosnia with a large Serbian population from Bosnian control.

The siege was the longest siege in modern warfare, from 1992 to 1996 forces of the Bosnian Serb army and the Jugoslav Army . The city was completely surrounded and it is estimated that at least 10,000 people died, including at least 1,500 children. Two Serb generals Stanislav Galic and Dragomir Milosevic were both given long prison sentences for their participation but Ratko Mladic evaded justice.

The Massacre of Srebrenica

The most horrific crime that Mladic is accused of though has to be the massacre at Srebrenica. This took place in the Summer of 1995 when Bosnian Serb troops took over the town which was supposedly under the protection of the United Nations. In the UN's defence it was a relatively small and lightly armed contingent of Dutch troops that was assigned to this task but it will surely go down in history as one of the UN's most ignominious moments.

Following the take over as many men and boys as could be found were collected together and forcibly marched out into the countryside where they were shot and buried in mass graves. There are harrowing accounts from the few survivors including one man who only survived because he was trapped beneath his dead cousin's body and was able to escape after several hours when the Serbs were distracted elsewhere, shooting other people.

What Does This Mean to Modern Serbia

It is generally assumed that Serbian forces were well aware of Ratko Mladic's whereabouts immediately after the end of the conflicts in the area but the political situation was not right for him to be detained. How much the present government of Serbia under President Tadic knew is only open to speculation but they probably were not aware of his hiding place.

Some reports say that he was arrested after a tip off to the authorities but whatever the circumstances the Serbians can only be somewhat relieved that finally he is in custody. It is widely assumed that he will be rapidly extradited to the Hague and the International Court their.

Why relieved? For some time Serbia has been looking more and more towards Europe and the European Community (EEC) in particular. Their wish to become members has been no secret but so has the fact that Mladic and his continuing freedom was a major barrier. It can only be good news if another, once wayward, state is welcomed into the fold and a greater united Europe must surely make the prospect of future internal strife far less likely.

The sad thing is that people like Ratko Mladic were responsible for turning neighbour against neighbour and were the cause of so much human misery.

Ratko Mladic arrested is one of the best headlines, I personally, have seen in a long time. The world should not be allowed to forget that sometimes it is too easy to slip into chaos and barbarism.


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