Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic
Kill tally: Up to 200,000.
Background: The southern Slavic states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia begin to merge as 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: Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic.
Radovan Karadzic: Born on 19 June 1945 in Petnijca, a village near Savnik in the mountains of Montenegro. In 1960 he moves to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, where he studies medicine at the University of Sarajevo, graduating as a physician and psychiatrist. He also publishes poetry and books for children. In 1985 he is sentenced to three years imprisonment for embezzlement and fraud but never serves his time.
Ratko Mladic: Born on 12 March 1943 in the municipality of Kalinovik in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He pursues a military career in the Yugoslav People’s Army, rising to a command post.
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.
Meanwhile, Karadzic travels to the United States to spend a year in medical training at Columbia University in New York.
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, 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.
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 suppress the secessionists. 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 the president of Serb, Slobodan Milosevic. He supplies arms to local Serb rebels and assists with their seizure of land.
Meanwhile, in Bosnia-Herzegovina several Serb enclaves unilaterally declare their autonomy and their allegiance to the Serb-dominated federal government, leading to armed conflict between Serbs and non-Serbs.
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, which boycotted the referendum, repels.
On 4 April Bosnian President Izetbegovic announces a full mobilisation to quell the violence mounting around the country. Karadzic opposes the move.
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. The capital is located at Pale, about 10 km to the southeast of Sarajevo.
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 country. 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 and up to three million 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. They are resisted by the Bosnian-Muslims.
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 has committed suicide.
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. 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.
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.”
They are charged separately on 14 November for the genocide at Srebrenica, which is described in the indictment as “truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”
As the leader of the Bosnian-Serbs, Karadzic is also held responsible for the “ethnic cleansing” of tens of thousands of Muslims from Serb-held areas of Bosnia. As an indicted war criminal, he is banned from standing for parliament. He is also pressured to relinquish his existing government and party positions.
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. Karadzic steps down as president of the Republika Srpska and as head of the Serbian Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 19 July. He makes his last public appearance at the christening of his son at an Orthodox Monastery in Montenegro.
1997 – The SDP loses government in Republika Srpska at elections held in December, depriving Karadzic of a power base. Karadzic goes into hiding, reputedly in southeastern border-country of the Republika Srpska. He is believed to be surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards and protected by the police.
Other rumours have him living humbly, heavily disguised as an Orthodox priest, moving between the monasteries of Montenegro under the protection of the Orthodox Church and occasionally visiting his family in Pale. According to ‘The Observer’ newspaper, it has been estimated that Karadzic spends 80% of his time in church property.
It is also said that Karadzic only moves around at night and employs look-alikes to further confuse his pursers. The cost of his protection is estimated to be about US$200,000 per month, most of which is sourced from the criminal activities of his supporters, including extortion, embezzlement and other business fraud.
2000 – The SDP returns to power in Republika Srpska and becomes the largest single party in the Bosnian Parliament.
2002 – Mladic, who has continued to live openly in and around the Serbian capital of Belgrade, goes underground in Bosnia-Herzegovina when the Serbian Government agrees to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal. It is later reported that he is back in Belgrade, living under the protection of the Yugoslav military. He is funded in part by a US$520 a month pension paid to his family by the army.
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.
The NATO-led Stabilisation Force in Bosnia (SFOR) tries unsuccessfully to apprehend Karadzic in February, and again in March, raiding the small town of Celebici in the Republika Srpska, near the border with Montenegro. The area is considered to be Karadzic’s “base of operation”.