War crimes tribunal closes in on Mladic as aide surrenders

The net is is closing on Ratko Mladic, one of the most wanted Bosnia war crimes fugitives, after one of his close aides surrendered to the UN's international tribunal in the Hague.

Milan Gvero, 67, a general in the Bosnian-Serb army during the 1992-95 conflict, faces charges of murder, persecution and deportation of Bosnian Muslims. Analysts believe his detention has brought authorities a step closer to finding Mladic as Mr Gvero is thought to know the whereabouts of his wartime commander. Veterans of the war remember the pair as keen chess partners with the condition that Mr Gvero would ensure that he never defeated his senior officer.

Despite a series of high-profile search operations by Nato's stabilisation force in Bosnia, Mladic has evaded capture for nearly a decade.

He has been indicted over the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the supposed UN "safe haven" of Srebrenica in 1995.

Carla del Ponte, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, says he is in Serbia, but Belgrade denies it. Mr Gvero is the third relatively high-profile Serb to hand himself in to the Hague in recent months and Belgrade is hoping to win favour with the international community.

Mr Gvero, who arrived in the Netherlands on a Serbian government jet, stands accused - along with Radivoje Miletic, another Bosnian Serb army officer - of war crimes in Srebrenica and Zepa, in eastern Bosnia, in 1995. The two are being held responsible for deaths, persecution and eviction of tens of thousands in the two zones. The operation peaked when Mladic's men overran Srebrenica.

General Gvero came to prominence as a spokesman for the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) at the beginning of former Yugoslavia's war of disintegration in 1991. At the height of bombardment of the Croatian coastal town of Dubrovnik, General Gvero claimed that JNA had not caused "even a particle of dust to fall on the city".

There was a strong police presence as the Serbian government jet took off from Belgrade where the former general said goodbye to dozens of friends and relatives. His departure will be sweetened by a significant cash payment. It is an open secret in the Serb capital that the policy pursued by the conservative Prime Minister, Vojislav Kostunica, of persuasion rather than arrest for war crimes indictees is backed up by payouts of hundreds of thousands of euros to their relatives for "service to the homeland".

"General Gvero said that with this decision to surrender he wanted to fulfil his obligations to the state, his people and his family," the Serbian government said, commenting on his decision to surrender.

But Radovan Karadzic, the wartime Bosnian Serb leader, and Mladic remain the prize that the international community seek. The European Union has said Belgrade must step up co-operation with the tribunal if Brussels is to give approval at the end of March for a "feasibility study" on whether to forge closer ties. Their arrest and extradition are preconditions for Serbia to begin exploratory talks on accession to the EU. Meanwhile, the US continues to hold back millions in badly needed aid until it is satisfied Belgrade is co-operating with the tribunal.

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions