- By Michael Dobbs
Michael Dobbs is a prize-winning foreign correspondent and author. Currently serving as a Goldfarb fellow at the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dobbs is following legal proceedings in The Hague. He has traveled to Srebrenica, Sarajevo and Belgrade, interviewed Mladic’s victims and associates, and is posting documents, video recordings, and intercepted phone calls that shed light on Mladic's personality.
Ratko Mladic was an archival packrat, documenting his own life meticulously through diaries, videos, and photographs. Many of these records are now in the hands of Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, to be used in his genocide trial, which adjourned today until August 21. The materials provide unique insights into not just Mladic: the war criminal, but Mladic: the family man — a loving husband, doting granddad, and grieving father.
At the top of this post, you will find a photograph of Mladic with his beloved daughter, Ana, taken from a video recorded in October 1993, at the height of the war in Bosnia. A medical student, Ana killed herself with her father’s pistol five months later on March 23, 1994. The following two photographs show Mladic weeping over her coffin at the funeral in Belgrade, and being consoled by his wife, Bosiljka. I have described the Ana suicide, and the devastating impact that it had on Mladic, in a previous post.
I apologize for the poor quality of these photographs, due to the fact that they are all screenshots taken from the original video aired on Bosnian television, now available on Youtube here, here, here, here, and here. My purpose in posting these snapshots here is to give you a sense of another side to the Mladic personality, and to document his movements following the end of the Bosnia war in 1995. Remember that throughout this time, he was under indictment by the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which had issued an international warrant for his arrest.
As the date indicates, the next snapshot was taken on March 12, 1997, on Mladic’s 55th birthday. It was taken in a military barracks at Crna Rijeka, not far from Mladic’s wartime military headquarters at Han Pijesak. Loud applause greeted the former Bosnian Serb commander as he arrived at the barracks accompanied by heavily armed bodyguards. During this period, NATO forces controlled all of Bosnia, but displayed no interest in enforcing the arrest warrant for Mladic.
The next photograph shows the Mladic house at Blagoja Parovica 117A in the wealthy Belgrade suburb of Kosutnjak, where he lived quietly until July 2002, when the Yugoslav Parliament finally passed a law authorizing his extradition to The Hague. He frequently invited guests around to his Belgrade house, attended soccer games, and ate out at nearby restaurants.
One of the big events at the Kosutnjak house was the wedding of his son, Darko, in 1997 to a Macedonian girl, Biljana Stojcevska. (Mladic was posted to Macedonia as a military officer prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.) In the next photograph, you can see Mladic introducing his daughter-in-law to members of his family.
The guests at the wedding included Momcilo Perisic, chief of staff of the Yugoslav army, (arriving, with flowers, below) indicating the high level of official protection that Mladic enjoyed at the time. Perisic was convicted last year to a 27-year prison term for crimes against humanity.
Another prominent guest was Gen. Zdravko Tolimir, Mladic’s closest aide during the Bosnian war, who is also on trial for genocide at The Hague. Among other charges, Tolimir is accused of helping to mastermind the July 1995 executions of around 7,000 Muslim prisoners in Srebrenica. The photograph below shows Tolimir shaking hands with Mladic and his wife:
Mladic’s first grand-child, Anastasija, was born in 2001, soon after the fall of the Milosevic regime, at a time of growing international demands for Mladic’s extradition to The Hague. But the new democratic government did not move against him immediately, as you can see from the following photograph, which shows him cooing over his new grand-daughter in the living room of the Kosutnjak house.
Mladic continued to enjoy the protection of the Yugoslav military until 2002. The final video shot was recorded in the military barracks of Stragari, near the town of Kragujevac. The ever-competitive Mladic is displaying his frustration at missing a shot in ping-pong.