Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Mladic Still Unfortunately at Large

Hague tribunal prosecutor says there are no indications the former Bosnian Serb army chief's surrender is being negotiated.
By Janet Anderson
A day after wild rumours started in Belgrade about the purported arrest of top war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic, the Hague tribunal’s chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, poured scorn on the reports.

“The false rumours… have absolutely no basis whatsoever,” Del Ponte said at a press briefing in The Hague on February 22.

“Mladic remains at large”, she continued, adding sotto voce, “unfortunately”.

The prosecutor also said that there was “no indication at all” that there were negotiations going on to secure the surrender of Mladic, who commanded the Bosnian Serb military during the war in Bosnia.

The spokesperson for the Hague prosecutor’s office, Florence Hartmann, went on to explain that February 21 was for them a day when “nothing happened…a usual day, the same as any other.”

Over the last few months, pressure has been steadily ratcheting up on Belgrade to arrest General Mladic.

He faces charges of genocide in relation to the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in 1995.

After Croatian general Ante Gotovina, also wanted on war crimes charges by the tribunal, was arrested at the end of last year, media attention again focused on Mladic and the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic.

Six people are still on the run from the tribunal, including Mladic and Karadzic.

Del Ponte has been on a semi-permanent tour of European capitals to keep a joint front bringing pressure to bear on Belgrade to surrender Mladic.

Serbia is at a delicate stage in negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union, the first stage towards potential membership.

At the briefing, Carla Del Ponte again spelled out the consequences if Mladic is not produced, “Serbia knows that negotiations may be suspended or may never conclude if Belgrade fails to cooperate fully with the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia]”.

In the Serbian capital, there has been a constant drip-feed of information about the arrest of Mladic associates and investigations into his support network, suggesting that the government is getting serious about his arrest.

But in The Hague, there is clear frustration from the prosecution officials that a man they describe as “within reach of the authorities” continues to be at large.

Janet Anderson is IWPR project manager in The Hague.