Michael Dobbs

Mladic waves at his victims

Ratko Mladic waved in our direction when he entered the courtroom this morning, flashing a defiant thumbs-up sign. Seated near me in the spectator section of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal were a couple of Muslim refugees from Bosnia, Jasmina Mujkanovic and Satko Mujagic. Caught by surprise by Mladic’s greeting, they waved back, with smiles ...

Ratko Mladic waved in our direction when he entered the courtroom this morning, flashing a defiant thumbs-up sign. Seated near me in the spectator section of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal were a couple of Muslim refugees from Bosnia, Jasmina Mujkanovic and Satko Mujagic. Caught by surprise by Mladic's greeting, they waved back, with smiles on their faces.

Like many of the spectators at today's proceedings, Satko and Jasmina suffered grievously at the hands of Mladic, during the three and a half year war in Bosnia. Jasmina lost her father in the infamous Omarska concentration camp. Satko was beaten and tortured at the same camp before eventually being released following a wave of international outrage over Bosnian Serb brutality. So why did he smile at his tormentor?

Ratko Mladic waved in our direction when he entered the courtroom this morning, flashing a defiant thumbs-up sign. Seated near me in the spectator section of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal were a couple of Muslim refugees from Bosnia, Jasmina Mujkanovic and Satko Mujagic. Caught by surprise by Mladic’s greeting, they waved back, with smiles on their faces.

Like many of the spectators at today’s proceedings, Satko and Jasmina suffered grievously at the hands of Mladic, during the three and a half year war in Bosnia. Jasmina lost her father in the infamous Omarska concentration camp. Satko was beaten and tortured at the same camp before eventually being released following a wave of international outrage over Bosnian Serb brutality. So why did he smile at his tormentor?

"I felt good that he was there," the former prisoner explained. (Watch the video above.) He wanted to send a message to Mladic that "I am glad that I can watch you from this side as a free man while you sit there defending yourself for what you did."

Now living in Holland, both Satko and Jasmina are originally from the town of Kozarac in northwestern Bosnia, which was taken over by the Serbs soon after the outbreak of war in March 1992. Several thousand Kozarac residents were killed in the first few weeks of the war, as Serbian paramilitaries terrorized the Muslim inhabitants, forcing many to flee and interning others in camps like Omarska.

After brushing away tears in memory of her father, Jasmina also said that she was "happy" to be in the courtroom to see Mladic finally face justice, after sixteen years on the run. "I wanted to see him. They finally got him and he is finally here. It is a good feeling to see him sitting there."

As she stared into Mladic’s face through the thick glass partition separating the spectator area from the rest of the courtroom, Jasmina detected no sign of remorse. She noticed that the man known to Muslims as "the butcher of Bosnia" seemed to nod approvingly as prosecutor Dermot Groome read out the long list of charges against him, including the massacre of at least 7,000 Muslim prisoners at Srebrenica. 

"He looked at me, but I just looked back, and I felt good because I am here. He is a bad man, and he is sitting where he belongs."

See video of Jasmina here:

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. Twitter: @michaeldobbs

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