Ratko Mladic


The southern Slavic states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia begin to merge into a single nation following the First World War. But the legacy of a 400-year occupation by the Islamic Ottoman Empire and traditional tension between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians frustrate attempts for unity. Following the Second World War, Yugoslav communists led by Marshal Josip Broz Tito take control of the government, declaring the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia on 29 November 1945.

The veneer of Yugoslav stability begins to crumble when Tito dies on 4 May 1980. The prosperous northern states of Croatia and Slovenia start to agitate for autonomy. Macedonia and the Muslim majorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serbian province of Kosovo repeat the call. Serbia has political power under the federation and does not want change. The poorer southern state of Montenegro supports the centralised federation and backs Serbia. More background.

Mini biography

Born on 12 March 1943 in the municipality of Kalinovik in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Mladic's father is killed by the Croatian Ustase during the Second World War. Raised in poverty by his mother, Mladic pursues a military career in the Yugoslav People's Army.

1974 - Changes to the Yugoslav constitution loosen the grip of the federal government on the constituent republics, which become de facto sovereign states. Serb minorities living in Bosnia-Herzegovina claim they have been denied national rights, left unprotected and singled out for unfair treatment.

1988 - The Yugoslav Cabinet is unable to cope with a worsening economy and the rising push for autonomy from the republics and their provinces. The entire Cabinet resigns in October. In January 1989 the ruling League of Communists of Yugoslavia (LCY) votes to end its political monopoly, allowing multiparty elections across the federation.

1990 - The LCY relinquishes power at the federal level, splitting into separate party organisations in each of the republics.

In Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic helps found the Serbian Democratic Party (SDP) and becomes its president. The party is anticommunist, heavily influenced by the Christian Orthodox Church and advocates the introduction of a capitalist market system. It is supported by Slobodan Milosevic, the nationalist president of Serbia.

Multiparty elections held in Bosnia-Herzegovina in December return a tripartite coalition made up of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (PDA - 86 seats), the SDP (72 seats) and the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina (44 seats). PDA leader Alija Izetbegovic heads a joint presidency.

1991 - Mladic is appointed commander of the 9th Corps of the Yugoslav People's Army in Knin in Croatia.

Slovenia and Croatia unilaterally declare their independence in June. The federal government orders the Serb-dominated army to intervene. A 10-day war in Slovenia ends with a Serb defeat. Up to 100 die and hundreds are injured. The war in Croatia lasts seven months, ending in January 1992 with a cease-fire. About 20,000 die and hundreds of thousands are driven from their homes. Macedonia declares its independence in September 1991.

During the war in Croatia, Mladic works in close association with Slobodan Milosevic. He supplies arms to local Serb rebels and assists with their seizure of land.

Meanwhile, in Bosnia-Herzegovina several Serb enclaves declare their autonomy and their allegiance to the Serb-dominated federal government, leading to armed conflict between Serbs and non-Serbs.

Radovan Karadzic rejects proposals that Bosnia-Herzegovina follow the other republics and also become independent. He begins boycotting meetings of the presidency then withdraws the SDP from the coalition. At a closed referendum among Bosnian-Serbs held at the start of the following year, most vote to remain part of Yugoslavia.

1992 - A referendum on whether Bosnia-Herzegovina should secede from the federation is held from 29 February to 1 March. The Muslim and Croatian majority carry the vote. The country is proclaimed an independent republic on 3 March and recognised as such by the European Community (EC - now European Union), the US and the United Nations (UN).

The Bosnian-Serb minority, who boycotted the referendum, rebel.

On 4 April Bosnian President Izetbegovic announces a full mobilisation to quell the violence mounting around the country.

On 4-5 April thousands of Sarajevans of all ethnic backgrounds take to the streets to march for peace. When they descend on the SDP offices in the capital, Bosnian-Serb snipers open fire on the crowd, killing six people.

Bosnian-Serb militias now lay siege to Sarajevo. Their artillery, positioned in the surrounding hills, bomb the city's streets and marketplaces, while their snipers target the unlucky and unwary.

On 6 April Karadzic proclaims the independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, renamed Republika Srpska in May. Karadzic is president and supreme commander of the armed forces. The capital is located at Pale.

Republika Srpska encompasses about half the landmass of Bosnia-Herzegovina, horseshoeing around the remaining territory and bordering both Serbia and Croatia. It is not recognised by the UN.

Mladic takes command of the 80,000 Yugoslav Army troops stationed in the republic, a force which becomes in effect the Bosnian-Serb Army.

With the backing of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the Bosnian-Serb militias and Mladic's army units begin to occupy territory across Bosnia. After six weeks of fighting they control two-thirds of the state. The conflict soon spills into Croatia.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia will last for three years, causing devastation in those countries and deprivation in Serbia, which suffers from trade sanctions applied by the UN.

As the war escalates, the Serb forces attempt to expel the Muslim and Croat population from the Serb-held territories in an orchestrated program of "ethnic cleansing."

Muslims and Croats are either forced into exile as refugees, held as hostages for use in prisoner exchanges, or placed in concentration camps. Many are summarily executed. An estimated 20,000 Muslim women and girls are thrown into rape camps. Bosnian-Muslim and Bosnian-Croat political leaders are arrested, imprisoned and in many cases murdered. In the opening months of the war up to 100,000 or more people are killed. Hundreds of thousands are dispossessed.

Hostilities are further complicated in July when a group of Bosnian-Croats form a breakaway Croat state inside Bosnia, the Republic of Herceg-Bosna. Croatian-Serbs from the self-declared Republic of Serbian Krajina in neighbouring Croatia also enter the fray, forming an alliance with the Bosnian-Serbs.

1993 - At the start of the year Croatian forces attempt to seize territory in Bosnia. Bosnian-Muslims resist the incursion.

In June the UN Security Council passes a resolution to create six "safe areas" for Bosnian-Muslims - Bihac, Tuzla, Srebrenica, Zepa, Gorazde and Sarajevo. UN peacekeeping soldiers are deployed to defend the areas.

1994 - In March Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia reach an agreement to form a joint federation and end their hostilities. The Croatian and Bosnian-Muslim forces join in opposition to the Serbs, launching an offensive in April and May.

In December the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces a cease-fire in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the withdrawal of Serbian artillery. The cease-fire holds until March 1995.

Meanwhile, on 24 March 1994, Mladic's daughter Ana is found dead. She has died from a single gunshot wound to the head fired from her father's favourite pistol. Reports indicate she committed suicide after reading an article in a Serbian magazine that described her father as a murderer. Mladic believes she was killed.

The death of Ana is said to have a profound and disturbing affect on Mladic.

1995 - The Serb militias are brought to a standstill in Bosnia. To the west, they are overwhelmed by the Croatian Army and driven, along with almost the entire Serbian-Croat population, out of Croatia.

In May NATO launches air strikes against Serb targets after the Serb forces refuse to comply with a UN ultimatum to remove all heavy weapons from a 12-mile exclusion zone around Sarajevo. Joint Croatian-Bosnian operations and further air strikes in May, August and September eject Serbian forces from large areas of western Bosnia.

In the east, Bosnian-Serb militias led by Mladic and aided by Yugoslav Army troops take the UN "safe areas" of Srebrenica and Zepa in July. At Srebrenica over 40,000 Bosnian-Muslims who had sought safety there are expelled. Between 5,000 and 8,000 are executed, allegedly on Mladic's order. The atrocity intensifies the counter-offensive against the Bosnian-Serbs.

Now on the defensive, tensions between the Bosnian-Serb Army and the government of the Republika Srpska come to the surface. When army generals, led by Mladic, begin to ignore orders from the government, Karadzic attempts to have them reassigned from the battlefronts. The generals refuse to comply.

The siege of Sarajevo ends in mid-September when the Bosnian-Serbs agree to withdraw their heavy weapons. Approximately 10,000 people have been killed in Sarajevo during the siege, including about 1,500 children.

On 21 November Milosevic, Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman ratify the Dayton accord for peace in Bosnia. Karadzic is forced to accept the accord when Milosevic closes the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina and turns his back on the Bosnian-Serbs.

Under the accord, Bosnia-Herzegovina is divided into a Muslim-Croat federation and a Bosnian-Serb mini-state (the Republika Srpska) under a unified presidency but with separate governments. The trade sanctions against Serbia are lifted.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has cost up to 200,000 or more lives. As many as three million have been driven from their homes and tens of thousands are missing.

On 24 July Karadzic and Mladic are indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague on 16 counts, including genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes against civilians and places of worship, the siege of Sarajevo, and the taking of UN peacekeepers as hostages and human shields.

The indictment accuses them of being "criminally responsible for the unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery and inhumane treatment of civilians."

Copy of the indictment against Karadzic.

Copy of the indictment against Mladic.

They are charged separately on 14 November for the genocide at Srebrenica, which is described by one of the tribunal judges as having included events that were "truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history."

1996 - The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issues international arrest warrants for Karadzic and Mladic on 11 July.

Mladic is dismissed as commander of the Bosnian-Serb Army. He moves to a town in the Republika Srpska. Karadzic steps down as president of the Republika Srpska and as head of the Serbian Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 19 July.

1997 - Mladic crosses the border into Serbia, where the Milosevic administration provides a safe haven. He stays in military facilities at Rajac and Stragari and is attended by a permanent retinue of about 10 bodyguards, a driver and a cook. He also spends time at his family home in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

The SDP loses government in Republika Srpska at elections held in December, depriving Karadzic of a power base. Karadzic goes into hiding.

2000 - The SDP returns to power in Republika Srpska and becomes the largest single party in the Bosnian Parliament.

2001 - Slobodan Milosevic is arrested and imprisoned by the Serb Government on 1 April on charges of abuse of power and corruption. On 28 June he is extradited to The Hague to face the UN Criminal Tribunal for his role in the atrocities committed by Serbian forces during the Kosovo conflict.

Mladic's position within Serbia is now far less secure. He moves to a more strongly fortified army base near Valjevo.

2002 - Mladic goes underground when the Serbian Government agrees to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal. His support base shrinks to a number of highly trusted colleagues. He hides in flats and houses in and around Belgrade and is funded in part by a US$520 a month pension paid to his family by the army. Payment of the pension is later frozen.

Both Karadzic and Mladic have a price on their head, with the US Government offering a $5 million reward for information leading to their arrest or conviction.

According to Carla Del Ponte, the chief UN war crimes prosecutor in the trial against Slobodan Milosevic, the authorities in Belgrade are reluctant to arrest Mladic for fear of an armed conflict between the army and the police.

2003 - Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro move towards reconciliation on 10 September when the presidents of both countries apologise to one another for "all the evils" done by their countries in wars. The following month, during a visit to Sarajevo, the president of Serbia-Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, apologises for the abuses committed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

2004 - On 19 April, the Criminal Tribunal at The Hague confirms that the massacre at Srebrenica was an act of genocide. "The appeals chamber calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide," says the tribunal's president, Judge Theodor Meron.

"By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica ... They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. ...

"Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act."

On 11 June the Srebrenica Commission releases a report that establishes the "participation of (Bosnian-Serb) military and police units, including special units" in the massacre. The 42-page preliminary report also implicates Serbia in the massacre, noting that Serbian police units were ordered to participate.

Composed of Bosnian-Serb judges and lawyers, a victims' representative, and an international expert, the seven-member Srebrenica Commission was formed in 2003 by Bosnia's international administrator, Lord Ashdown, to investigate who was involved in the massacre and where victims' bodies are buried.

In July new information about Mladic comes to the surface, with a Belgrade newspaper reporting that he has told the Serbian Government through a mediator that he has no intention of surrendering to The Hague.

On 10 November, following its receipt and review of the final report of the Srebrenica Commission, the government of Republika Srpska issues an apology for the 1995 massacre.

"The report makes it clear that enormous crimes were committed in the area of Srebrenica in July 1995," the government says. "The Bosnian-Serb Government shares the pain of the families of the Srebrenica victims, is truly sorry and apologises for the tragedy." The government was determined to "face the truth about the recent conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina" and "take decisive steps to force all persons who committed war crimes to face justice."

On 14 November the Norwegian News Agency publishes a report stating that research done by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has concluded that about 103,000 people were killed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

According to the report, the researchers found that 55,261 civilians and 47,360 soldiers died as a direct result of the conflict. Of the civilians, about 38,000 were Muslims and Croats and about 16,700 were Serbs. Of the soldiers, about 28,000 were from the mostly Muslim Bosnian Government Army, about 14,000 were from the Bosnian-Serb forces, and about 6,000 were Bosnian-Croat troops.

The estimates exclude those who died from indirect causes such as starvation, cold and lack of medical care.

In June 2007 the Sarajevo Research and Documentation Centre reports that at least 97,207 people were killed during the war. Of this number, 39,684 were civilians and 57,523 military personnel, the report states. About 66% of the victims were Bosnian Muslims, 26% were Serbs and 8% were Croats. However, the figures in the report also exclude those who died from indirect causes.

2005 - On 7 March Carla Del Ponte says that authorities in Serbia know exactly where Mladic is and could organise his arrest and transfer in hours if they had the political will.

According to Del Ponte, Mladic is sheltering in Serbia under the protection of a group of former military loyalists. She is uncertain whether Radovan Karadzic is in Bosnia, Serbia or Montenegro, but is sure he is still in the region.

"I am asking Belgrade please go and arrest these accused who are not willing to voluntarily surrender," she says.

On 9 June the Bosnian daily newspaper 'Oslobodjenje' reports that the Bosnian-Serb Government has admitted that police from Serbia took part in the massacre at Srebrenica.

According to the paper, the admission is contained in the latest report by the Srebrenica Commission. "The Bosnian-Serb Interior Ministry in cooperation with the panel has confirmed the involvement in the Srebrenica massacre of joint forces of the Serbian Interior Ministry," the paper quotes the report as saying.

In October the Special Bosnian-Serb Government Working Group concludes that over 17,000 Bosnian-Serb soldiers, police and civilians took part in the events at Srebrenica, either directly or by assisting with planning, transport and communications.

Meanwhile, the newspaper 'Danas' reports that Mladic is hiding in a large town in central Serbia and that the Serbian Government knows where he is. The government denies the claim. The radio station B-92 reports that talks are taking place in Belgrade on conditions for Mladic's surrender. On 13 June 'The Washington Post' also reports that Mladic has been negotiating with the Serbian Government over his possible surrender.

The Serbian Government again denies the claim, with Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica stating on 16 June that "the Serbian authorities are not in touch with him (Mladic) and we are not negotiating with him."

Serbia President Boris Tadic calls on Mladic to surrender, saying that the fugitive "remains the prime obstacle for Serbia" in negotiations over admission to European Union.

In November the international community increases the pressure on Serbia to deliver Mladic to The Hague Tribunal. Following a meeting with the president of the tribunal president, Serbian Defence Minister Zoran Stankovic says he has been told that unless Mladic is in The Hague by the end of the year "we will be excommunicated from Euro-Atlantic integration."

Mladic leaves Belgrade, where he had been hiding since 2002, and moves to Ljuba, a village near the town of Sremska Mitrovica, about 60km northwest of Belgrade. He moves again in February 2006, this time to a house of his brother-in-law's family in the village of Mala Mostanica, about 30km southwest of Belgrade. Mladic leaves this retreat a month later after avoiding detection when it is raided by Serbian intelligence officers. From here he finds his way to the home of his cousin in the village of Lazarevo, 100 km northeast of Belgrade. He lives in almost total isolation.

2006 - On 18 January the Belgrade newspaper 'Glas Javnosti' reports that Mladic has been living in Russia since May 2005.

UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte rejects the report, saying "Mladic is in Serbia. Mladic is protected by the power of the army."

On 1 February Serbia's Supreme Defence Council admits that the Serbian military "had undeniably on occasion sheltered" Mladic until 2002 at "army compounds." Since 1 June 2002 Mladic has been assisted by retired officers from the Serbian and Bosnian-Serb military as well as some civilians, the council says, adding that his current whereabouts were unknown.

According to a report presented to the council, the Serbian military had conducted 27 searches for Mladic at army premises across the country since March 2003.

On 27 February the European Union tells Serbia that if Mladic is not handed over to The Hague Tribunal within a month negotiations over Serbia's admission to the union may be "disrupted". (The deadline is later extended to 30 April.)

At the same time, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also know as the World Court, begins hearings in a case of genocide that was brought against Yugoslavia by Bosnia-Herzegovina in March 1993.

The ICJ was set up after the Second World War to deal with disputes between states. The court has the authority to order Serbia-Montenegro (the successor state to Yugoslavia) to pay damages if it is found responsible for acts of genocide that occurred in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1992-95 conflict.

It is the first time a state has been brought to court to face a charge of genocide.

The 30 April deadline for the arrest and hand over of Mladic to The Hague Tribunal passes. There is still no sign of the fugitive. In response the European Union calls off membership talks with Serbia. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn says Serbia was not yet a suitable candidate for membership because its "security services and military intelligence have not been fully under the civilian democratic control of the Serbian Government."

Carla Del Ponte accuses Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of misleading her and Serb Deputy Prime Minister Mirolijub Labus resigns. Labus, who is also the head of the Serb negotiating team for EU membership, says he can no longer support his government's policies. Citing the ongoing failure to arrest Mladic, Labus says Serbia's security forces "did not do their job properly. ... They searched for Mladic everywhere except where he was hiding."

Meanwhile, on 21 May, Montenegro votes to split from the federation with Serbia. Montenegro formally declares its independence on 3 June. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is now complete.

On 1 July Serb Defence Minister Zoran Stankovic confirms that US and British intelligence agents have joined the hunt for Mladic.

2007 - On 26 February the ICJ hands down its ruling in the genocide case brought against Yugoslavia by Bosnia-Herzegovina. The court finds that while Serbia, the sole remaining successor of Yugoslavia, had not committed, incited or been complicit in genocide, it had failed to prevent what happened at Srebrenica despite its awareness of "a serious risk" of mass murder and its "known influence" over the Bosnian-Serb militia.

The court finds that "financial compensation is not the appropriate form of reparation." It calls instead for the arrest and delivery of Ratko Mladic to The Hague and a formal declaration from Serbia that it failed to prevent an act of genocide at Srebrenica.

Two days later the government of the Republika Srpska apologises to the victims of the war. "The government of the Republika Srpska expresses its deepest regret for the crimes committed against non-Serbs and condemns all persons who took part in the crimes," a statement from the government says.

At the start of June the EU drops its demand that Mladic be handed to The Hague before negotiations on Serbia's admission to the union proceed. The talks resume on 13 June.

Carla Del Ponte maintains that Mladic is in Serbia.

At the end of the same week Serb President Boris Tadic says that it his government's "goal" to apprehend Mladic by the end of the year.

2008 -In May 2008 the ICJ begins to hear a second charge of genocide filed against Serbia, this time by Croatia. A counter suit is filed by Serbia against Croatia in 2010. The ICJ rules against both suits in 2015, finding that neither side committed genocide against the other's populations.

At the start of July 2008 a new pro-Western government takes office in Serbia.

Radovan Karadzic's run from justice finally comes to an end on 21 July when he is arrested in Belgrade during a sweep by the Serbian security services.

Going under the name Dragan David Dabic, he is unrecognisable, looking like a New Age hippy or Slav mystic with long white hair, a top-knot, a full white beard and glasses. He has been living openly in Belgrade for two or three years.

Karadzic is transferred to a prison cell in The Hague on 30 July. He appears before the criminal tribunal for the first time the next day and is formally charged with one count of genocide, one count of complicity in genocide, four counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity.

2009 - Karadzic's trail begins on 26 October.

2010 - The Serbian parliament formally apologises for not doing all it could to prevent the massacre at Srebrenica.

On 28 October the Serbian Government raises the reward it is offering for information leading to the arrest of Mladic to 10 million euros (about US$14 million). Previously the reward had been set at one million euros.

2011 - Mladic is captured at the home of his cousin in the village of Lazarevo on 26 May. He is not disguised and puts up no resistance. He has aged considerably. His family claim he has suffered two heart attacks and three strokes while on the run.

On 31 May, Mladic is extradited to face trial at The Hague. Before leaving Serbia he is allowed to visit the grave of his daughter, Ana.

Mladic appears before the criminal tribunal for the first time on 3 June. He describes the 11 charges against him as "obnoxious" and asks for more time before entering a plea.

Mladic is removed from the second hearing of the tribunal, held on 4 July, after disrupting proceedings. The court enters pleas of not guilty on his behalf. The full trial is not expected to begin until 2012.

2012 - Mladic's trial begins on 16 May. "Four days ago marked two decades since Ratko Mladic became the commander of the army of Republika Srpska," prosecutor Dermot Groome says. "On that day, Mladic began his full participation in a criminal endeavour that was already in progress. On that day, he assumed the mantle of realising through military might the criminal goals of ethnically cleansing much of Bosnia. On that day he commenced his direct involvement in serious international crimes."

Prosecutors are expected to present testimony from more than 400 witnesses.

2014 - Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are reunited in January when Mladic is forced to appear as a witness for the defence in Karadzic's trial at The Hague. However, Mladic refuses to answer any questions on the grounds that he might prejudice his own case.

In April, after the prosecution has finished presenting its evidence, the tribunal finds Mladic "has a case to answer on all counts of the indictment" and orders the trial to continue.

The defence opens its case on 19 May.

2015 - The case for the prosecution is reopened in June to allow the presentation of new evidence from a mass grave discovered at Tomasica in northwest Bosnia in 2013. Prosecutors say the new evidence shows the involvement of Bosnian Serbs under Mladic's command in the murder and burial of Bosnian Muslims and Croats in the Prijedor region during 1992.

2016 - Closing statements for the defence and prosecution are presented to the tribunal in December. The prosecution calls for a life sentence. The defence calls for Mladic's acquittal. Verdicts on the 11 charges against Mladic are expected late in 2017.


No one emerged a victor of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. No one emerged a hero. Just about everyone was a victim, including the Bosnian-Serbs, who were lied to and manipulated by their leaders, and by Milosevic in Belgrade. And the victim's mentality remains, with the Bosnian-Serb leadership steadfastly denying complicity and responsibility, just as Karadzic and Mladic maintain their innocence.

Though of course it isn't quite that black and white. The atrocities committed were the worst seen in Europe since the Second World War, but not the worst ever seen in Yugoslavia. That happened 50 years earlier, during the regime of Croat fascist Ante Pavelic and his murderous Ustase storm troopers. The tally then was 300,000 to one million, including up to 30,000 Jews, up to 29,000 Gipsies, and between 300,000 and 600,000 Serbs.

That atrocity has contributed in no small part to the paranoia that informs much of the national psyche of the Bosnian-Serbs. And you can understand them, to a degree. In parts of Croatia, Pavelic is still regarded as a national hero.