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War crimes suspect Ratko Mladic can be extradited, judge rules

The decision clears the way for Ratko Mladic to be sent to the war crimes tribunal at The Hague to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. His son says the 69-year-old suspect is 'very, very frail.'

May 27, 2011|By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times
  • The Bosnian Serb former army chief Ratko Mladic is shown on February 15, 1994, left, and on Friday, right. Mladic, accused of leading the killing of an estimated 8,000 people in Bosnia, was arrested in Serbia on Thursday after more than a decade of hiding.
The Bosnian Serb former army chief Ratko Mladic is shown on February 15,… (AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Belgrade, Serbia — A judge ruled Friday that captured war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic is fit for extradition to The Hague to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Mladic now has three days to appeal the decision.

Mladic's son, Darko, told reporters that his father was "very, very frail," with the right half of his body numbed. He called for independent medical experts to examine his 69-year-old father.

Photos: Ratko Mladic

The arrest of Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of overseeing Europe's worst massacre since World War II, is a milestone in Serbia's effort to end long years as a pariah, even as it renews disturbing questions about how he evaded capture for more than 15 years.

Mladic commanded military forces that seized the town of Srebrenica, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and butchered an estimated 8,000 Muslim men and boys, an atrocity now held up as a symbol of the brutality of the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The capture of Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect removes the single biggest stumbling block in Bosnian neighbor Serbia's campaign to join the European Union, a potent symbol of modernity and prosperity for the countries that gained independence in the breakup of the Yugoslav federation.

Mladic's arrest came amid news of a sharply critical report by the chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal accusing Serbia of halfhearted efforts in its hunt for Mladic.

And many wonder how such a notorious figure managed to evade capture for so long. His arrest early Thursday, in a town barely 50 miles north of Belgrade, is likely to raise uncomfortable questions about whether he was sheltered by Serbia nationalists or elements of its security forces. Mladic remains a hero to some in Serbia who see their country as an unfair target of blame for its role in an ethnic conflict that killed an estimated 100,000 people.

But analysts say many more Serbians appear intent on putting the past behind them, and EU membership is regarded as the key step in that process.

Photos: Ratko Mladic

henry.chu@latimes.com

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