His Daughter Killed Herself. Why Mladic Didn't Do the Same

'I didn't want them to say we are family of suicides'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2017 12:03 PM CST
Ratko Mladic Vowed to Kill Himself, but Couldn't Do It
Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial.   (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool)

Former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic will spend the rest of his life in prison following his conviction on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. That he's alive to head to prison contrasts with the imagined end he spoke of to his officers during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war. He vowed to commit suicide rather than be arrested and tried, and the Guardian reports that during his 14 years as a fugitive, he had a "duffel bag of guns" with him so that he could make good on his promise. After his May 26, 2011, arrest, he reportedly said "I was not psychologically able to [kill myself], and I didn't want them to say we are family of suicides." More on the "butcher of Bosnia":

  • Ana: The latter is a reference to his daughter Ana, who used Mladic's own gun to shoot herself in February 2014, in the Guardian's telling, after being forced to choose between loyalty to her father and the doctor she loved (this is debated). In 2011, Foreign Policy visited her grave, as Mladic did in secret while a fugitive. A friend says he "worshiped his daughter," and after he was caught he was allowed to go to her grave once before being extradited to the Hague.

  • He'll appeal: Mladic made clear what he thought of the court proceedings at the Hague right before the verdict was read, screaming "this is all lies, you are all liars," which prompted his removal from the room. He plans to appeal, and Reuters explains what his legal team will argue: That Bosnian Serbs were "victims" of a 1992 referendum in which Bosnia's Muslims and Croats voted for independence, a move the Serbs had resisted. They will claim Serbs went to war in "self-defense."
  • But here's one description of what he did: The Washington Post writes, "Mladic handed out sweets and offered reassuring words to the town's Muslim children." Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief political correspondent, describes video of Mladic handing out that candy as "one of the most chilling pieces of video I've ever seen in my life." Hours later, thousands of men and boys were executed there in the July 11, 1995, Srebrenica massacre, the worst massacre in Europe since WWII.
  • Amanpour reflects: "As a young reporter, Bosnia is where I found my voice," she writes. "This was a deliberate slaughter of civilians—not a war between two armies. The goal of the Bosnian Serbs was to terrorize and kill and ethnically cleanse these civilians ... It was a completely unlevel playing field, right down to the fact that they were perched on the mountains surrounding Sarajevo, shelling and sniping the mostly Muslim residents of Sarajevo, Srebrenica, and other besieged cities that nestled in the valleys below. Nothing was off limits: bread lines, water points, hospitals, schools."

  • And yet he has his defenders: Reuters last week visited Mladic's hometown of Bozanovici, a "dying village" of roughly 20 people who still regard him a hero. What one cousin hoped would pass: "I would be happiest if he died before the judgment. We would then raise a large monument for him in the village and write the truth. All this that is happening is not the truth. It is a lie. The general is not guilty."
  • Timeline of his life: Al Jazeera offers an easy-to-navigate primer on his life and the judgement, noting, for instance, that Mladic headed the army during the 1,460-day siege of Sarajevo, the longest modern-day siege of a capital city.
  • His time in hiding specifically: In 2013 the Guardian used interviews with relatives, court transcripts, and testimony from Serbian and international investigators to compile a picture of Mladic's years in hiding. "While evading his pursuers for so long burnished his folk-hero image among nationalists as a Serbian Scarlet Pimpernel, the reality was more mundane and brutal. He stayed free by trusting fewer and fewer people, living in increasing isolation and squalor, ensuring silence with the threat of force."
(More Ratko Mladic stories.)

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