Mladic placed in UN detention unit

Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was placed in a UN detention unit Tuesday to await trial on genocide charges, 16 years after he was indicted in the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the worst massacre of civilians in Europe since World War II.

War crimes suspect swept out of Belgrade jail in secret after extradition appeal denied

Bosnian Serb army commander General Radko Mladic in 1993 and in Belgrade after he was arrested on May 26, 2011. (Reuters)

Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was placed in a UN detention unit Tuesday to await trial on genocide charges, 16 years after he was indicted in the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the worst massacre of civilians in Europe since World War II.

War crimes tribunal spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said tribunal staff were handing Mladic his indictment and explaining the rules and procedures to him before placing him in an isolation cell for the night. She said isolation is standard for new arrivals at the prison.

Mladic also was being given a list of defence lawyers who could help him through the initial proceedings of the war crimes court. He was to be examined by a doctor and receive any treatment he may need before the end of the day, Jelacic said.

It was unclear when Mladic will appear in court for an initial appearance, but it must be within a few days.

A helicopter-escorted convoy of police vehicles with flashing blue lights pulled into the compound of the U.N. detention unit outside The Hague shortly after leaving Rotterdam airport.

A Serbian government jet delivered Mladic hours after judges in Belgrade rejected his appeal to delay his extradition on grounds of ill health, and the Serbian justice minister authorized his handover to UN officials in The Hague.

Mladic at Srebrenica: a boy remembers

The footage horrified the world: a grinning Ratko Mladic patting a young Muslim boy on the head in 1995 and assuring him everyone in the Srebrenica area would be safe — just hours before overseeing the murder of 8,000 men and boys.

The boy in the video is now a 24-year-old man. He recalls the sunny day he met the Bosnian Serb military commander who gave him chocolate, and who now faces genocide charges.

"I didn't know what was going on, or who Ratko Mladic was," Izudin Alic told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Alic was among thousands of Bosnian Muslims who sought protection from UN troops at Srebrenica. Alic said that as he met with Mladic, soldiers were killing his father in the nearby woods.

—Associated Press

Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said Mladic faces "the most serious crimes against humanity and the most serious violations of the international humanitarian law."

"By handing over Mladic to The Hague, Serbia has fulfilled its international and moral obligation," the minister said.

Mladic attorney Milos Saljic visited his client in his jail cell in the early afternoon and said the ex-general was crying and very emotional during what he called a farewell visit by his wife and sister. They brought him a big suitcase with clothing he will need in The Hague, Saljic said.

Earlier in the day, Mladic was allowed out of his cell to visit the grave of his daughter who committed suicide during Bosnia's bloody war.

The 69-year-old former Bosnian Serb general accused of some of the worst horrors of the 1992-95 war made the early morning visit under tight security, accompanied by several armoured vehicles, said Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor, Bruno Vekaric.

At the grave, he left a lit candle and a small white bouquet of flowers with a red rose in the middle.

"We didn't announce his visit to the grave because it is his private thing and because it represented a security risk," Vekaric said. "The whole operation lasted for exactly 22 minutes and passed without a glitch. He was at the grave for a few minutes."

Europe's most wanted war crimes fugitive was arrested Thursday in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run. Mladic is charged by the tribunal for atrocities committed by his Serb troops during the war, including the notorious Srebrenica massacre that left 8,000 Muslim men and boys dead.

His 23-year-old daughter Ana committed suicide in 1994 with her father's pistol. Media reports at the time said she ended her life because of depression caused by her father's role in the war. Mladic has always claimed she was killed by his wartime enemies.

On Tuesday, Mladic visited the red marble grave containing a cross at a graveyard on a hill in a Belgrade suburb.

Srebrenica widow, mother angered by visit

Kadira Gabeljic, whose husband and two sons were killed in the Srebrenica slaughter, reacted with disbelief and anger at Mladic's visit to his daughter's grave, saying she almost fainted at the news.

A bouquet laid by Ratko Mladic, jailed war crimes suspect, stands next to the grave of his daughter Ana at a cemetery in Belgrade, Serbia, on Tuesday. (Marko Drobnjakovic/Associated Press)

"He was allowed to do it, and I am still searching for my children for the past 16 years — ever since Srebrenica happened," she said. She has only recovered some of the remains of her children, she said.

"My husband had been found, but what about my children?" she asked. "I will wait for years. I might even die before their complete remains are found."

Mladic attorney appealed Mladic's extradition on the ground that he is not mentally and physically fit to stand trial and has asked for a team of doctors to examine Mladic, who is said to have suffered at least two strokes.

But the prosecutor accused Mladic of using delaying tactics and said nothing should prevent his extradition to tribunal.

"Doctors are saying he's capable of standing trial," Vekaric said Tuesday, adding that Mladic will get proper medical checkups once he arrives to the UN tribunal's detention unit in The Hague.

On Monday, Serbian President Boris Tadic rejected speculation that authorities had known of Mladic's hiding place and delayed his arrest to coincide with a visit by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The rumours have persisted because Mladic was found living not far from the capital, Belgrade, with relatives who share his last name.

"Any such comment makes no sense," Tadic said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The truth is that we arrested Ratko Mladic the moment we discovered him." 

The president also said it's time for the European Union to do its part by boosting his nation's efforts to join the bloc, arguing the arrest of Mladic proves it is serious about rejoining the international fold. 

"I simply ask the EU to fulfil its part," he said. "We fulfilled our part and we will continue to do so."

The EU had repeatedly said that Serbia could begin pre-membership talks only after it arrested the wartime Bosnian Serb commander. Some EU nations have already said Serbia needs to do more, including arresting its last fugitive, Goran Hadzic, who led Croatian Serb rebels during the 1991-95 war.

Tadic said Hadzic will be arrested as soon as possible.