Closing in on the ‘Butcher of Srebrenica’

Serbian police surround the family apartment of Ratko Mladic

Closing in on the ‘Butcher of Srebrenica’

Serbia stepped up its hunt for fugitive war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, even as European Union officials reiterated this week that the country’s sought-after EU membership is contingent on the arrest of the former Bosnian Serb general. Indeed, the fact that Mladic—wanted by the UN’s Hague-based tribunal for allegedly masterminding atrocities against Bosnian Muslims during the Bosnian war—remains at large, prompted the European Council of Ministers on Monday to delay a discussion about signing a preliminary trade agreement reached with Belgrade last year.

In the Serbian capital, elite anti-terrorist units were dispatched to put pressure on Mladic’s support network, carrying out an extensive raid on the home of his son, Darko. The Hague tribunal, which gained traction with the arrest of former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic in July, has pledged to remain open until Mladic, who is believed to be holed up in Serbia, is brought to trial. Aside from Croatian Serb Goran Hadzic, his is the lone name on the court’s wanted list. Dubbed “the Butcher of Srebrenica” for allegedly directing the slaughter of 7,500 unarmed men and boys in that eastern Bosnian town, Mladic was indicted in 1995 on counts that include genocide.

But he still enjoys hero status among many Serbs, and military collusion has in the past been blamed for keeping him hidden. As the political will to apprehend him appears to be strengthening, so do the voices of his supporters. The FBI has reportedly questioned several U.S. citizens of Serb origin about a rash of death threats against war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic. A spokesman from Vukcevic’s office said the “basic circle” of suspects has been pinpointed. “Every time there is an intensive action to locate Mladic, threatening letters are sent,” he said.