Media Calls In Experts And Former Adversaries To Evaluate Mladić Arrest

The modern media landscape is primed for major news developments like the arrest of Mladić. No longer is something just a development, it has to prompt a ‘breaking news’ announcement and all the bells and whistles that come along with it.

The unravelling of major news stories provide perfect material for back-to-back reports on the 24-hour news channels, encouraging reports to camera from outside non-descript buildings and reason to raid the archives for footage to loop over interviews with a seemingly endless list of commentators and experts.

Channel hopping in recent days has thrown up interesting analyses and reactions to the arrest. Commentators and experts all want to have their say. Authors, politicians, state leaders, NGOs, lecturers, Balkan regional ‘experts’ and former military commanders have all been cropping up on TV. 

As could be expected, their opinions often differ greatly dependent on the media reporting the story. Some talking heads seem to offer little in added value – apart from promoting their book or lecture tour – while others have obvious validity.

Lord Owen

In his role as EU Peace Envoy, Lord Owen came in to contact with Mladić on many occasions and can speak with first-hand experience. “I know this man very well,’ he told BBC News on Friday. “I spent hours, indeed days with him. He was actually, of all the people I have met, quite easily the most unpleasant. He was the one who would make extremely racist comments in my presence – and I objected to it very toughly – both about Croats and Muslims.

“He was intelligent, however, and a rather good strategic thinker. He was no fool. And that was one of the problems. Gradually he became ever more powerful. By the end, I think he was totally ignoring Milošević, Karadžić, the whole lot. It was effectively a military junta that was ruling from Pale. The politicians were dressed up to make them look as if they were decision makers.

Lord Owen doesn’t, however, see any problem with convicting Mladić once he gets to The Hague. “It has already come out from the trials of generals who served under him, we know that (Mladić) has taken criminal actions,’ Lord Owen told BBC News. “It’s really well documented, his involvement. Srebrenica was a horror but so was the constant indiscriminate shelling of Sarajevo. So I have no doubt that he will end up with some criminal charges put against him. Whether he is going to be successful on the genocide charge, I don’t know. I certainly would expect so, given some of the other judgements over Srebrenica.” 

Dr. Srdja Trifkovic

Russia Today (RT) quoted Serbian writer and historian Dr. Srdja Trifkovic in its report on Friday. Dr Trifkovic said he was surprised that Mladićwas arrested in a family home, as his close contacts had apparently been under surveillance by security services for years.

“This can mean two things: either that he was entirely left to his own devices and that there was no elaborate support group in the background helping him hide, or that the Serbian authorities have been conniving in his hiding, which I don’t believe to be the case,” he told Russia Today.

Dr Trifkovic believes the arrest of Mladićwill influence Karadžić’s case. “The prosecutors at The Hague will try to pit Karadžić against Mladić,’ he said. “I expect their long-term strategy will be to have one try to pin the blame on the other, and in the end they would be both worse off, which would be the best possible scenario for The Hague.”

Colonel Bob Stewart, former British Commander in Bosnia was another common talking head on Thursday and Friday. He has been especially bombastic in his comments, seemingly unafraid to allow his high emotions to be evident in his analysis of the situation. 

Speaking about the prospect of health fears delaying the extradition of Mladić to The Netherlands, the British MP told BBC News: “I’m concerned because I believe Mladić should move fast (to the Hague). If he is not very well, there are plenty of good doctors in the Hague. Let’s get him there. That’s where he should be and let’s get him there fast.

He is a damn sight more healthy than the 7,000-8,000 boys and men he allowed to be killed, because he was the commander in Srebrenica and the thousands he killed around Sarajevo, so I am afraid I have very little sympathy. He could have a doctor go with him, get him to the Hague. Send him in a military air ambulance. Serbia, get on with it.”

Another perspective came from Former Acting Bosnian President Ejup Ganić, who told BBC News: “Countries are usually punished (for genocide) but somehow Serbia has found a short cut to join the European nations by simply giving one of the architects of genocide. I think that it is good news overall but the point is, his movements were known all along. It was just a question of time when Serbia would decide to trade for Mladić.

In 2010 Ganić successfully blocked his extradition from the UK when he was accused of conspiracy to murder wounded soldiers and attack a medical convoy in 1992, in breach of the Geneva Convention.  Extradition from the UK did not go ahead because it was apparently felt he would not receive a fair trial in Belgrade and Ganić accused the Serbian government of conspiracy. Ganić denied the charges.

“Serbs committed genocide,’ he told BBC News. “The whole Serbian machinery is directed to say we all did similar things but that did not happen. This is the last attempt of Serbs to confuse the issue. Genocide happened in Srebrenica and many other places. Serbs have to pay for that before joining the civilised world.

In answer to a question about balancing the books only when all alleged war criminals from both sides are called to answer for their actions, he said claimed that Serbian acts were out of proportion to others. “The Serbs committed genocide,’ he repeated. “More Serbs in Bosnia died in traffic accidents than from the bullets of the Bosnian army. That is why you cannot equalise that. Accidents happen during the war but Milošević together with Mladić were architects of genocide.

“The easiest way to escape responsibility, for the international community, is to say there was shooting going off on all sides. That’s not true. At the Hague, Serbs receive 99% of all sentences. They were the aggressors.

Calling for a combined trial of Mladić and Karadžić, Ganić took his opportunity to again raise the issue of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity established as part of the Deyton Agreement. After the war, Ganić was briefly president of the Croat-Bosniak Federation, the other of the two Bosnian entities.

They will prove that Republika Srpska was formed by ethnic cleansing and genocide,’ he claimed. “The international community during peace talks in Deyton accepted that entity as it is. So we have a unique historical view of what happened. Serbia managed ethnic cleansing and genocide to conquer part of Bosnia and to create an entity.”

He ended his TV interview on a (relatively) positive note. “It is good to have Mladić and Karadžić at the Hague so you can see this fascism that happened in Europe at the beginning of the 21st century,’ he said. “But let’s look on the bright future. These people should be prosecuted. They should finish the rest of their lives in jail. I hope that Serbia will slowly face itself in the mirror and accept the unified guilt for what happened.”

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