Mladic, Ratko (b. 1943)

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MLADIĆ, RATKO (b. 1943)


Bosnian Serb general and accused war criminal.

Ratko Mladić, a Bosnian Serb, is the son of a partisan fighter killed when Mladić was two. Then occupied by the Axis, Bosnia-Herzegovina was administered by a Nazi puppet regime, the Independent State of Croatia, which attempted the genocide of the Serbs; some three hundred thousand of them perished on its territory. Many fled to the ranks of Tito's (Josip Broz, 1892–1980) communist-led partisans, and Bosnian Serbs achieved a formidable postwar presence in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, and in the Yugoslav People's Army (YPA), which Mladić chose to enter as a career soldier. Noted for his organizing skills, in 1991 he was chief of staff to the Army Corps based at Knin, in Croatia's Krajina, an area where Serb nationalist insurgency was waxing strong as Croatia moved toward independence. Mladić gave substantial material and moral support to the self-styled Serb Army of the Krajina, apparently without authorization from his military superiors.

In April 1992 the Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia disappeared from the map. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) came into being, comprising only two of the six former communist republics, Serbia and Montenegro, with Slobodan Milošević (1941–2006) as president. One of his first acts was to promote Mladić to the rank of general in the Army of Yugoslavia, as the YPA was now restyled. Full-scale war broke out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, at which point the Army of Yugoslavia split to form the Army of Republika Srpska, more usually referred to as the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA). Mladić became military commander of the BSA at Milošević's insistence, but notionally he owed his appointment to a new political chief, Radovan Karadžić (b. 1945). On 27 March 1992, the Bosnian Serbs proclaimed an independent Republika Srpska (Serb Republic) within Bosnia-Herzegovina, and rejected the internationally recognized authority of the Sarajevo government. Karadžić was president of the new entity, with its representative assembly at Pale, twenty kilometers from Sarajevo. Milošević in this way represented the conflict in Bosnia as a civil war to which Belgrade was not party—the BSA was supposedly made up of fifty to eighty thousand troops of Bosnian origin, and therefore was not characterized as an invasion force. The United States and some European countries chose to swallow this nonsensical fiction for inglorious reasons of their own, with horrifying consequences.

The massive firepower of the BSA overwhelmed the Bosnian army loyal to Sarajevo, crippled by a Western embargo on the supply of arms. By 2 May 1992 Sarajevo was under close siege, and the Serbs controlled 70 percent of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a situation that remained unchanged until the last days of the war. Mladić's troops waged war against a people and a culture, in active collusion with paramilitaries from Serbia, in a sustained campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Muslim intelligentsia was targeted for elimination, and Serb forces carried out the wholesale destruction of all Islamic artifacts, from mosques to books. The Western media reported detention camps (some of them killing centers), mass rape, and the butchering of helpless civilians. Mladić was utterly contemptuous of international condemnation. As the war turned against him he revealed a streak of erratic wildness by threatening to bomb Western capitals, while his forces shot down NATO planes and took United Nations personnel as hostages, none of which advanced the Serbs' cause either militarily or politically. Mladić's worst crimes were committed in July 1995, when combined Croatian and Bosnian offensives were rolling the Serbs back. The Serbs retaliated by taking the UN "safe areas" of Ž epa and Srebrenica, and at Srebrenica massacred seven thousand Muslims. For this atrocity, Mladić was indicted as a war criminal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Charged with two counts of genocide and thirteen other heinous crimes against international law, Mladić is still at large as of 2006. When the Dayton Agreements finally brought peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina in December 1995, he fled to Serbia, and lived openly in Belgrade under the protection of Milošević.SincethefallofMilošević he has remained in hiding, an important pawn in the endgame of the Balkan wars. The chief prosecutor at The Hague, Carla del Ponte (b. 1947), views the failure to capture Mladić as evidence of the bad faith of the government in Belgrade, although it is more likely he is being sheltered by elements of the military and security police operating outside the law. The threat of economic sanctions by the United States, which shares del Ponte's view that Mladić's capture is of the first importance in settling accounts with the Milošević's military subordinates in Bosnia surrendered themselves in 2004. Mladić is very unlikely to follow them willingly, but in 2006 the net around him seemed to be slowly closing.

See alsoBosnia-Herzegovina; Crime and Justice; Karadžić, Radovan; Milošević, Slobodan; Sarajevo; Serbia; Srebrenica; Yugoslavia.


Bulatović regime, may partly explain whý, Ljiljana. General Mladić. Belgrade, Serbia, 1996.

O'Shea, Brendan. Perception and Reality in the Modern Yugoslav Conflict: Myth, Falsehood, and Deceit 1991–1995. New York, 2005. Has a great deal of interest to say about the character and conduct of Mladić, in the context of a survey of the war in Bosnia written by someone close to events.

Leslie Benson