Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic - the two notorious indictees of The Hague, the men for whose capture the US put 5 million Dollars award, the world’s most wanted men. In November 2004, the British defence officials, instead of military action, decided to put pressure on Serbia for the capture of these two men. Ever since, they are a political headache for Serbia. In May 2005, the EU called off talks on preparations for membership with Serbia as the latter failed to extradite them in time. Karadzic is at large since 10 years, Mladic since 5…
Radovan Karadzic: Psychiatrist, poet, politician
The life of Radovan Karadzic, who was twice indicted by The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity, began in a most usual way. He was born on 19th June 1945 in Petnjica near Savnik in Montenegro (central Montenegro). The one interesting thing to note about his family would be that his father was a Cetnik (Serbian nationalist guerrilla during the WWII) and was in prison for much of his son’s childhood.
In 1960, Karadzic moved to Sarajevo to pursue his studies in psychiatry. He worked in the Kosevo Hospital where his boss and his protector was a Bosniak. In 1971, he graduated in medicine. In 1983, he became the team psychologist for the famous Red Star Belgrade football club.
So far there is nothing exceptional but the usual course of life of a doctor. What turned Karadzic into a Serbian nationalist was his close relationship with Dobrica Cosic, writer and the 20th-century theorist of the Greater Serbia ideal. Karadzic, who had also ambitions in poetry, was deeply influenced by Cosic’s works. In turn, his protector encouraged him to enter into politics.
Karadzic, co-founder of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in Bosnia-Herzegovina, became its leader a year later. After the first multi-party elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the same year, SDS that won the majority of the Serbian votes did not hesitate to enter into a coalition government with Alija Izetbegovic’s Democratic Action Party (SDA) and Stjepan Kljuic’s Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).
However, Karadzic had a very different agenda: the creation of ethnically homogenous enclaves within Bosnia-Herzegovina and through every possible means, the unification of those territories with Serbia and thus the creation of a Greater Serbia. His most memorable quote probably is the following: “This what you are doing is not good. This is the path that you want to take Bosnia and Herzegovina on, the same highway of hell and death that Slovenia and Croatia went. Don't think that you won't take Bosnia and Herzegovina into hell and the Muslim people maybe into extinction. Because the Muslim people cannot defend themselves if there is war here”.
The first step of this ultimate goal came in October 1991 when various “Serb autonomous regions” (SAO) were created within Bosnia-Herzegovina, along with a separate Assembly to represent them. In November, within these SAOs a referendum was held in which the overwhelming majority of the Bosnian Serbs voted in favour of staying within Yugoslavia, which by now meant nothing but Serbian hegemony.
After the recognition of Bosnia’s independence on 6th April 1992, a separate Serb entity called Republika Srpska was created. On 13th May, Karadzic became the first President of Republika Srpska. Among others, he was also the commander of the army of the Bosnian Serb administration.
Being an outsider, Karadzic could definitely not understand the historical and social patterns of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was the mastermind of the propaganda campaigns, which described the Bosniaks as bloodthirsty Islamic fundamentalists. One allegation that cannot be more false if one reads the history of Bosnia-Herzegovina in depth.
In 1995, Radovan Karadzic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Croats in Serb-held territories in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is held responsible, among others, for the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo - respectively the worst massacre since the Second World War and the longest siege of the history of modern warfare.
In 1996, he was forced to step down as president of Republika Srpska. Ever since, he is a fugitive. The fact that he defies the Tribunal and that he has succeeded to remain at large for years make him a local hero among the Bosnian Serbs. At every crucial event, his posters or his name -along with those of Ratko Mladic- may appear, e.g. the unionist demonstrations in Montenegro during the pre-referendum campaigns last May.
General Ratko Mladic: “A Few Good Men”
Ratko Mladic was born on 12th March 1943 in Bozinovici (Bosnia-Herzegovina) in the then Independent State of Croatia (NDZ), the Nazi-puppet state of Ante Pavelic. His father, who was a Partizan, was killed by Ustashe (Croat fascists) during a massive raid in 1945.
In 1961, Mladic entered the Military Industry School in Zemun; then went on respectively to the Military Academy and Officers Academy. Four years later, he graduated at the top of his class and got his first post as officer in Skopje, as the youngest officer of his unit.
From 1965 onwards, Mladic’s ascendance in military ranks continued. During the summer of 1991, he was promoted to two crucial regions: first as the Assistant Commandant of the Pristina Corps, then as the Commander of the 9th Corps of the Yugoslav Army (JNA) in Knin. Mladic was the main supplier of weaponry destined to rebel Serbs in Croatia’s Knin area.
On 4th October 1991, Mladic was promoted to General Major; on 24th April 1992, to General Lieutenant-Colonel. On 2nd May 1992, allegedly acting under instructions coming from Belgrade, Mladic and his men blockaded the city of Sarajevo, thus starting the four-year siege of the capital.
After the creation of the “Rump Yugoslavia” on 27th April 1992, and following the retreat of the JNA, an Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) was founded on 12th May. Ratko Mladic became the Commander of the Main Staff of this army - a post that he would hold until November 1996.
In 1994, relations between Mladic, who was a highly popular figure, and Karadzic began to cool. Karadzic considered Mladic as being too ambitious and arrogant while according to Mladic, Karadzic was nothing more than an opportunist and war profiteer. From August onwards, Mladic got gradually rid of Karadzic’s political tutelage to become the incontestable warlord of the Bosnian Serb side.
In March 1995, Karadzic issued his notorious Directive 7 which read: “Complete the physical separation of Srebrenica from Zepa as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals in the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica”. To which a thoughtful Mladic replied: “People are not little stones or keys in someone's pocket that can be moved from one place to another just like that... Therefore, we cannot precisely arrange for only Serbs to stay in one part of the country while removing others painlessly. I do not know how Mr [Momcilo] Krajisnik [the number two of Republika Srpska after Karadzic] and Mr Karadzic will explain that to the world. That is genocide”.
During the summer of 1995, the two so-called UN “safe havens”, Srebrenica and Zepa were “cleansed” by General Mladic’s men. According to estimations, during the Srebrenica massacre, 23.000 women, children and elderly people were deported to the Bosniak-held territories while more than 8000 men between 12-77 years old were exterminated.
The day that Ratko Mladic entered the city of Srebrenica, he stated: “Here we are in Srebrenica on 11th July 1995. On the eve of yet another great Serb holiday. We present this city to the Serbian people as a gift. Finally, the time has come to take revenge on the Turks”. Actually, this quote shows how confused the Serbs’ mind was at that time (and for some still is): still beating the Ottoman Empire that no longer exists and qualifying their Slav brethren of Turks just because they are Muslims.
During the Croat offensive known under the code name of Operation Oluja (Storm) in August 1995, the quarrel between Karadzic and Mladic reached its peak. Karadzic tried to dismiss Mladic as the two key Serb towns in western Bosnia fell to Croat forces. However, the popularity of Mladic forced the hand of Karadzic at the end.
In July 1995, Ratko Mladic was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide. Ratko Mladic is a figure whom the well-known Balkan expert Misha Glenny describes as “the most ruthless exterminator of the war”. On 8th November 1996, he was dismissed from his post although until November 2005 he continued to receive a pension.
After the war, Ratko Mladic, under the protection of Slobodan Milosevic, began to live an open and luxurious life in Belgrade. However, the tide was turned against him when Milosevic was arrested in 2001. Consequently, Mladic took flight and remained at large to this day. According to rumours, Mladic suffers from bad health and had already two serious strokes.
The article was originally published by Axis Information & Analysis