Mladic 'too frail to respond to questions' as court hearing begins

A frail Ratko Mladic appeared in a war crimes court last night. The former Bosnian Serb military commander was finally run to ground after a 16-year hunt for the man held responsible for Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War.

Hours after he was arrested at a relative's home at a tiny village in northern Serbia, Mladic, 69, escorted by four guards, walked slowly into a closed session at a Belgrade court in the first stage of the extradition process to The Hague to stand trial.

The judge cut short the questioning because the suspect's "poor physical state" left him unable to communicate, according to Mladic's lawyer.

Milos Saljic said Mladic asserts that he will not answer to the authority of the UN war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands. "He is aware that he is under arrest, he knows where he is and he said he does not recognise The Hague tribunal," Mr Saljic said. The questioning will continue today.

The arrest cleared the single most difficult block to Serbia joining the EU. The country had been treated as a pariah nation following its failure to capture the man wanted for the deaths of 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, but still hailed as a hero by many of his fellow countrymen for his combative role in the Balkans wars of the 1990s.

"We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live," President Boris Tadic said in a triumphant announcement. He said Serbia has begun the process of extraditing the former general to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he faces life in prison if convicted of genocide and other charges.

Although the fighting in the region ended in 1995, the shadows of atrocities which were committed in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia – that took up to 150,000 lives, mostly of non-Serbs – have prevented reconciliation, even though the country is in the hands of a generation of leaders who did not take part in the war.

Barack Obama said that Mladic must now answer to his victims in court. He said: "May the families of Mladic's victims find some solace in today's arrest and may this deepen the ties among the people of the region."

Hajra Catic, who heads the association, Mothers of Srebenica, told The Independent from the Bosnian town of Tuzla that "the arrest of Mladic means a lot for us. Nothing can bring back our husbands or sons, but it is good to see that the man who ordered our dear ones to be slaughtered is finally going to face justice".

Mladic is accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity, one of which being the worst atrocity in the Bosnian war, the massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys from the town of Srebrenica in July 1995. The charges also deal with the three-and-a-half year siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which left more than 10,000 dead during heavy and indiscriminate shelling of the city.

Along with the political leader of Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic became a symbol of the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war. Karadzic, who was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 and is now on trial at The Hague, expressed his "sorrow" at the arrest of Mladic.

However, many Serbs, particularly those who originated from Bosnia, believe that Mladic is a war hero.

A sign reading "Mladic Hero" was posted on the entrance of the village, as police vehicles guarded the house where Mladic was arrested. Officials said that he had two pistols but went quietly when security forces arrived at the house at 5.30am yesterday.

Despite rewards worth millions of pounds for his arrest, he was initially able to live openly in Serbia before going underground, as the authorities came under growing pressure to arrest him.

Serbian police yesterday banned all gatherings and raised security levels throughout the country in case of violent nationalist reaction to the arrest.

The nationalist Serbian Radical Party described the seizure of Mladic as "one of the hardest moments in Serbian history."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee