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President Boris Tadic of Serbia announced the arrest in Belgrade on Thursday, giving few details.


Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

Ratko Mladic in Belgrade in 1993.

PARIS — Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused of war crimes including masterminding the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, has been captured in Serbia after more than 15 years as one of the world’s most wanted fugitives.

 

Serbian news reports said that Mr. Mladic had been living under the name of Milorad Komadic and that he was captured in Vojvodina, the Serbian province north of Belgrade, after authorities received a tip that the man known as Komadic resembled Mr. Mladic and had identification documents with that name. Serbian police said he had been arrested in the village of Lazarevo.

The massacre at Srebrenica was the worst ethnically motivated mass murder on the Continent since World War II.

President Tadic said that Mr. Mladic would be turned over to the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague. “Extradition is happening,” he said. “This is the end of the search for Mladic. It’s not the end of the search for all those who helped Mladic and others to hide and whether people from the government were involved.”

In Belgrade, Bruno Vekaric, a prosecutor at the war crimes office, said Mr. Mladic’s transfer to The Hague would not be immediate. He will first attend a hearing at the Special Court where a judge will decide if all conditions are met for his surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Mr. Vekaric said, and will have three days to appeal the ruling.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and Mr. Mladic’s former boss, is being tried in The Hague on charges of genocide for his role in the Balkan bloodshed. Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 while his trial was under way.

The arrest removes one major stumbling block to Serbia’s long-sought accession to the European Union. Mr. Tadic stressed that “this is happening on the day Catherine Ashton is coming to Serbia,” referring to the European Union’s foreign policy chief. But it was not immediately clear how the Serbian public, which has been suspicious of the West’s demands for trials of Serbs in the Balkans wars of the 1990s, would react to news of the arrest.

Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the country’s Journalists’ Association, said she did not expect political unrest or rioting to break out, as might have been expected in earlier years when aggressive Serbian nationalists like Mr. Milosevic held more sway in the country. “The weight of evidence against Mladic is staggering,” Ms. Smajlovic said, “even if Serbs remain unconvinced that the Hague tribunal has been evenhanded in its approach to war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.”

In response to a question, Mr. Tadic said: “I do not expect that Serbia, because of this arrest, will be destabilized. Whoever tries to make any trouble will end up in court.” He said that the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted for war crimes, Goran Hadzic, “will be arrested — I promise it is going to happen.” Mr. Hadzic is sought in connection with massacres of Croats in Krajina, a majority-Serb section of Croatia that tried to break away in the 1990s.

Mr. Tadic added that three years ago, his government in Belgrade had created “an action team, and they delivered.”

The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic. Such a report would have effectively blocked Serbia from becoming an official candidate for membership in the European Union. The Netherlands, whose peacekeepers were overrun by Mr. Mladic’s troops at Srebrenica, has said that it would veto Serbia’s candidacy if Mr. Mladic remained at large.

Ms. Smajlovic said that the fact that Ms. Ashton was in Serbia for meetings on Thursday would “lead to suspicion that the arrest was timed to honor her and also to underline Serbia now has high expectations of rapid E.U. integration.”

However, the European Union’s struggles through economic crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere may present a new obstacle to that goal.

A lawyer for Mr. Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader now on trial in The Hague, said that the arrest of Mr. Mladic could have serious implications for that trial. The lawyer, Peter Robinson, said that the court may decide to try Mr. Mladic and Mr. Karadzic together.

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World News Up-dated :  Mosaic World News

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