Bosnia finds little joy in Mladic arrest

May 27, 2011 - 2:43 PM
Bosnia Serbia Mladic

Bosnian Muslim woman Hatidza Mehmedovic touches the gravestone of her relative, victims of the Srebrenica massacre, at the Potocari memorial center near Srebrenica, Bosnia, Thursday, May 26, 2011. Ratko Mladic, the ruthless Bosnian Serb military leader charged with orchestrating Europe's worst massacre of civilians since World War II, was arrested before dawn at a relative's home in a tiny Serbian village on Thursday after a 16-year hunt for the architect of what a war-crimes judge called

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosniak Muslims expressed grim satisfaction Friday at Ratko Mladic's arrest on genocide charges but there was little public celebration — a sharp contrast to scenes after the 2008 capture of close Mladic ally Radovan Karadzic.

Photos of Mladic as a stooped man in a baseball cap have come as a shock to this country of four million, where images of a vital commander in a military uniform striding up muddy hillsides are ingrained in many minds.

Many Muslims feel Mladic will die before spending significant time in jail on charges he orchestrated the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 men and boys.

"Serbia got rid of an old man who can now legally get medical care with the best doctors and won't say anything in the court," said Sahin Music, 74, from the city of Tuzla. "Why would we celebrate that?

Three years ago, Sarajevans honked, sang chanted and called everyone they knew to break the news that Karadzic was arrested. Today, many Bosniak Muslims are disappointed by the lack of verdict in Karadzic's ongoing trial.

"I am not that happy," Sabaheta Fejzic, who lost her son and husband in the Srebrenica massacre. "I was disappointed so many times by the work of the Hague Tribunal."

Mothers and widows of men killed at Srebrenica massacre said Mladic appeared old and frail but had the same bloodthirsty look they saw as his soldiers killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town.

The women of the Sarajevo-based Mothers of Srebrenica association said Mladic's shrunken appearance following his arrest is deceptive.

"He might have aged and lost weight but the bloodthirsty look in his eyes is the same as the one he had in Srebrenica in 1995," said Sabra Kolenovic, who lost her husband and son. "He should be crossed out from the list of human beings," she said.

In Serb areas of Bosnia, the reaction was muted.

In the town of Pale, which once served as Mladic's command post, there were feelings of pity and sadness. There, Mladic remains a military hero — a bond felt more deeply among war veterans here than for any leader, even Karadzic.

"I feel sorry for Ratko Mladic," said Pale resident Milica Pavlovic. "He is our hero, but we arrest and imprison him. He defended the Serb people and they arrested him."

Some 2,000 Mladic supporters protested his arrest, cursing Serbian President Boris Tadic for agreeing to hand him over to war-crimes prosecutors.

The crowd carried Serbian flags and some wore parts of old military uniforms.

"It is hard for me just as it is hard for every Serb," said Novica Kapuran, 44. "I claim that Ratko Mladic is an honorable man and that he will prove it in The Hague."