Bosnia TV shows fugitive Mladic in home videos
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 11 June 2009
Bosnian state television has broadcast several video clips it says show war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic living freely in Serbia despite genocide charges filed against him by a UN tribunal in 1995.
The Sarajevo-based TV Federacije did not say where it got the video footage aired late Wednesday. But a Serbian official said it was part of the material that was impounded last December from Mladic's Belgrade home, and handed over to UN prosecutors.
The station said the home videos were taken over a period of years, one as recently as 2008. But Belgrade officials claimed Thursday that the most recent was filmed in 2001, when the former Bosnian Serb army commander was last seen in public before disappearing.
Mladic has been on the run since 1995 when the UN war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands, indicted him on genocide charges for allegedly orchestrating the massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica during Bosnia's 1992-95 war — the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.
Pro-Western leaders in Belgrade have insisted they do not know where Mladic is, although their recent investigation revealed that he had been hiding in different apartments in a new part of Belgrade as recently as 2006. His capture is a condition for Serbian progress toward membership in the European Union.
Some of the footage showed him singing popular Serbian folk songs and dancing at weddings and private parties, as well as receiving guests at his house in a Belgrade neighborhood, or cuddling his baby granddaughter.
A video dated September 2000 showed him at a wedding party of one of his bodyguards in a restaurant near Sarajevo that is located near the main NATO base in Bosnia. Another has him slowly walking on a snow-covered mountain path with a cane, looking significantly older than in other footage.
Another amateur video, apparently taken by someone from his family circle, shows him sitting in peaceful wooded surroundings of what the television said were Serbian Army military barracks.
The Serbian government official in charge of relations with the UN tribunal, Rasim Ljajic, said at an urgently called news conference that the footage was part of the material that was impounded last December from Mladic's Belgrade home, and handed over to UN prosecutors.
Olga Kavran, spokeswoman for the UN tribunal's prosecutor, confirmed that the prosecution possesses the same Mladic videos, but refused to comment on their context to avoid jeopardizing the search for the fugitive.
Ljajic alleged that the release of the videos was designed to "minimize a recent positive assessment about Serbia's cooperation with the Hague tribunal" by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz.
"This is no coincidence," he said. "The timing suggests it was not done with good intention," Ljajic added.
He was referring to Serbia's efforts to persuade the Netherlands to allow the implementation of a European Union deal with Serbia even though Mladic is not in jail.
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