By Simon Tisdall (THE GUARDIAN, 23/07/08):
Radovan Karadzic’s arrest will inject fresh momentum into efforts to capture General Ratko Mladic, said Serb officials, political observers and Balkan experts yesterday.
But cornering Mladic, wanted for his role in the siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, could prove more hazardous than Karadzic’s detention.
That arrest was “a courageous decision by the government”, said a Serbian official, pointing out that Zoran Djindjic, a former pro-western prime minister, was assassinated in 2003 for handing Slobodan Milosevic over to The Hague. “Getting Mladic could be more dangerous than getting Karadzic. Probably he still has a friend or two,” said the official.
An elite Serbian paramilitary leader, Milorad Ulemek, was jailed for Djindjic’s murder last year. Serbia’s current prime minister, Mirko Cvetkovic, political heir to Djindjic, took power earlier this month with a promise to step up the hunt for war crimes suspects.
Mladic was possibly using false papers and an assumed identity to avoid detection, as Karadzic had done, the Serb official said. “There have been no sightings in the past five years or more. But obviously there is more optimism now that Mladic will be caught. He’s a fugitive. He will not be feeling very comfortable today.”
Since being charged with genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 1995, Mladic has reportedly been hidden by “rogue elements” in the Serbian military who fought alongside him.
He is believed to be living in Serbian territory and was last positively identified attending a football match in Belgrade in March 2000. But in recent years, the trail has gone cold.
Daniel Korski, a Balkans expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Karadzic’s arrest had “lanced the boil” in EU-Serbian relations and opened the way for Mladic’s capture. “The key question for the EU is how to send the right kind of signals – to give Serbia a pat on the back without suggesting they can forget about Mladic,” he said.
John Randall MP, the secretary of the British all-party parliamentary group for Serbia, said he was optimistic Mladic’s arrest would come soon.
“Those who are shielding him will be stepping up everything. But I think Mladic is likely to follow. My guess is people know where he is,” he said.