Latest Articles

Eurozine Review

Stop press: The world will not end!

In "Vagant", philosopher Alberto Toscano goes to the heart of today's fanaticisms; "Blätter" wonders where the rise and rise of a German Europe will lead; "Letras Libres" profiles Podemos; "Index" reveals how refugee stories are told; "La Revue nouvelle" slams the framing of the migrant as the ideal suspect; "A2" questions the scope of the Greek parliamentary revolt; in "Il Mulino", Nadia Urbinati sees right through the "Renzi sì, Renzi no" debate; and "Nova Istra" marks the long centenary of World War I. [ more ]

Eric Bonse

German Europe's ascendancy

Manuel Arias Maldonado

Podemos: Much more than just a marriage of minds

Pierre Coopman

Copenhagen, Paris, Syria, Nigeria, etc

Andrea Goldstein

Anti-Semitism in France

New Issues

Eurozine Review

Eurozine Review

Stop press: The world will not end!

In "Vagant", philosopher Alberto Toscano goes to the heart of today's fanaticisms; "Blätter" wonders where the rise and rise of a German Europe will lead; "Letras Libres" profiles Podemos; "Index" reveals how refugee stories are told; "La Revue nouvelle" slams the framing of the migrant as the ideal suspect; "A2" questions the scope of the Greek parliamentary revolt; in "Il Mulino", Nadia Urbinati sees right through the "Renzi sì, Renzi no" debate; and "Nova Istra" marks the long centenary of World War I.

Eurozine Review

Putting the aesthetics back into politics

Eurozine Review

The right to blaspheme

Eurozine Review

Everything is falling down, now

Eurozine Review

Dance mania and diplomatic parleying

My Eurozine

If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Share |

Who created Ratko Mladic?

What remains after a war criminal has been sent to The Hague

When Ratko Mladic faces the International Tribunal in the Hague, he is likely to use the defence of superior orders. But when he asks who it was who voted for Milosevic he has a point, comments Slavenka Drakulic. Will trading off Mladic for the EU allow Serbs to avoid the question of collective responsibility?

It was 5.30 in the morning on 26 May, but an elderly man in Lazarevo, Serbia, was already up and ready to leave the house. The previous evening he had gathered up his documents and medicines and placed them in a plastic bag. He knew that, where he was going, he wouldn't need them any more. He skipped breakfast and sat down to wait. When the police came, he didn't hide his identity and handed them his long expired ID card with his real name, Ratko Mladic, born 1942. Then he took out his wallet, had a last look at the photo of his family, and handed it over too. "You killed her," he said to a policeman, pointing at the photo of his 23-year old daughter Ana. "No, we didn't," the policeman answered calmly. "I know, I'm aware it wasn't you," Mladic said. "But I also know who did it and why." Then, while the policemen searched his modest dwelling, he talked about his mother Stana, his education in the military academy, his life before that. After a while they left the house, Mladic without handcuffs, and got into the police car waiting outside.

Related articles

Further articles on war criminals in The Hague, reconciliation in the Balkans, and collective guilt and responsibility:

Edin Hajdarpasic
The phantom of justice
Slavenka Drakulic
The false repentance of Biljana Plavsic
Slavenka Drakulic
Triumph of evil
Slavenka Drakulic
A few "easy" steps towards reconciliation
Nenad Dimitrijevic
The past, responsibility and the future
Drinka Gojovic
The future in a triangle: On guilt, truth and change

Read also the debate around Slavenka Draculic's article Why I have not returned to Belgrade:
Controversy: Debating denial

Articles on the Srebrenica massacre:
Srebrenica: Between denial and recognition
At least this is what an official witness from Lazarevo told the Serbian press. Apparently, Mladic knew not only the exact date but also the time when the police would come to pick him up. His arrest was anything but pure luck. According to the press, Mladic had made a deal with the authorities: he would give himself up provided that part of the 10 million euro bounty set up by the Serbian government went to his family, and that his arrest was discreet and that he was not handcuffed.

The first photos of him entering a courthouse in Belgrade show a gray-haired, slightly hunched, ordinary looking man with a baseball cap. During his time on the run he suffered at least two strokes and other health problems. All this after the suicide of his daughter Ana in 1994. It's said that she couldn't forgive her father for what he did in Bosnia; he has always believed that she was killed by his enemies.

At 69, he looks much older than his age, a shadow of the arrogant, cruel, cold-eyed commander of the Serbian forces in Bosnia that he once was. He managed to escape the justice for fifteen years, although the question remains whether he really hid or whether he was being protected by someone high up. According to the former deputy chief of state security, Zoran Mijatovic, who conducted the arrest and extradition of Slobodan Milosevic in 2001, Mladic could have been arrested much earlier, for example with Milosevic. But there was no political will, he says in an interview with B92, particularly after Vojislav Kostunica became president. The way he saw it, the secret service was not able to act legally against an active army officer: this was the responsibility of the military security. Mijatovic admits that Mladic was protected by his friends in the Serbian army. Mladic obviously felt safe: unlike Radovan Karadzic, he never assumed a false identity. Only after 2001 did he go into hiding – or rather, remove himself from the radar. Did the authorities know where in order to act only now? Of course, no one is willing to confirm that. However the way he was arrested, without resistance, lends credence to this theory.

It looks like political pragmatism has finally prevailed in Serbia. Although the president Boris Tadic was the first to deny that the arrest of Ratko Mladic had anything to do with Serbia's desire to become an EU candidate for the EU member, very few people think that the arrest was pure coincidence. According to the opinion polls, the majority of Serbs believe that it was a trade-off. On Sunday evening, a few thousand radicals went out onto the streets of Belgrade to protest. Their number gives an idea of how little ordinary citizens are concerned with Mladic's destiny. He might still be a hero for half of them, as some polls show, but they aren't prepared to go out onto the streets for him.

However his arrest is surely important and symbolic on many levels, not only for Serbia. It is a message that war crimes do not expire and that justice must be done. It is important as a sign of respect for dead – and even more so for the living: for those Serbs, Muslims and Croats who need to go on living together. It is also a political gesture by the Serbian government aimed at closing that chapter in history and moving forward to a common future in the EU. The winds of change came a year ago, when the Serbian parliament voted on the "Declaration on Srebrenica" condemning the atrocities committed against Bosniaks and expressing condolences and apologies, thus recognizing Serbian involvement in the war in Bosnia.

Ratko Mladic will now be judged in a court of law, which is the only way to determine whether an individual is guilty or innocent. But is his individual guilt – as well as that of other war criminals on all sides – all it boils down to? After the terrible wars that ravaged the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, leaving at least 100,000 dead and a million homeless, can Mladic's trial be the end of the story?

In his first hearing in Belgrade, addressing the judge and all present, Mladic said "Don't blame me, it is you who elected Milosevic. Tko vam je kriv! (Who else is to blame!)" Certainly, he was trying to evade his own guilt by implying that he was only following orders. Although he rejected the authority of the ICTY and the charges against him, this will presumably be his line of defence. After all, Karadzic was his commander-in-chief as the president of Republika Srpska. But Mladic did have a point. If he is to be tried, what about citizens who repeatedly voted for Milosevic and Karadzic and their policies of nationalism, hatred and war? What about the responsibility of voters who, by casting their votes, made Mladic's war crimes possible? By sending him to The Hague, are they washing their own hands while marching towards the EU?

Is there such a thing as collective political responsibility? That is the question every side avoids asking. Certainly, it is impossible to talk of the collective guilt of an entire population, be it the Serbs or any other nation. But can the citizens of Serbia (or Bosnia or Croatia), who voted time and again for nationalist leaders who led them into destructive wars, truly believe that they had no part in the transformation of Mladic into a war criminal? There can be no court to judge them, other than history and their own conscience. It is a paradox that Mladic, of all people, reminded them of their role in the carnage they would love to forget.


Published 2011-06-02

Original in English
First published in Neue Zürcher Zeitung 01.06.2011 (German version); Eurozine (English original)

© Slavenka Drakulic
© Eurozine

Focal points     click for more

The politics of privacy
The Snowden leaks and the ensuing NSA scandal made the whole world debate privacy and data protection. Now the discussion has entered a new phase - and it's all about policy. A focal point on the politics of privacy: claiming a European value. [more]

Beyond Fortress Europe
The fate of migrants attempting to enter Fortress Europe has triggered a new European debate on laws, borders and human rights. A focal point featuring reportage alongside articles on policy and memory. With contributions by Fabrizio Gatti, Seyla Benhabib and Alessandro Leogrande. [more]

Russia in global dialogue
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

Ukraine in focus
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG, editors and Eurozine contributors comment on current affairs and events. What's behind the headlines in the world of European intellectual journals?
Eurozine Gallery: TIME top ten photos of 2014
Massimo Sestini's aerial shot of a boat containing at least 500 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, included in the current exhibition in the Eurozine Gallery, has been named one of the top ten photos of 2014 by TIME magazine. [more]

A master of the daily grind
On Sunday 30 November, Turkish publisher Osman Deniztekin died, just a few weeks after having been diagnosed with leukemia. He was 65. In memoriam. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
Dessislava Gavrilova, Jo Glanville et al.
The role of literature houses in protecting the space for free expression
This summer, Time to Talk partner Free Word, London hosted a debate on the role that literature houses play in preserving freedom of expression both in Europe and globally. Should everyone get a place on the podium? Also those representing the political extremes? [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

Felix Stalder
Digital solidarity
As the culture and institutions of the Gutenberg Galaxy wane, Felix Stalder looks to commons, assemblies, swarms and weak networks as a basis for remaking society in a more inclusive and diverse way. The aim being to expand autonomy and solidarity at the same time. [more]

Literature     click for more

Olga Tokarczuk
A finger pointing at the moon
Our language is our literary destiny, writes Olga Tokarczuk. And "minority" languages provide a special kind of sanctuary too, inaccessible to the rest of the world. But, there again, language is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond itself and starts to create an alternative world. [more]

Piotr Kiezun, Jaroslaw Kuisz
Literary perspectives special: Witold Gombrowicz
The recent publication of the private diary of Witold Gombrowicz provides unparalleled insight into the life of one of Poland's great twentieth-century novelists and dramatists. But this is not literature. Instead: here he is, completely naked. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Law and Border. House Search in Fortress Europe
The 26th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Conversano, 3-6 October 2014
Eurozine's 2014 conference in southern Italy, not far from Lampedusa, addressed both EU refugee and immigration policies and intellectual partnerships across the Mediterranean. Speakers included Italian investigative journalist Fabrizio Gatti and Moroccan feminist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rita El Khayat. [more]

Multimedia     click for more
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]

powered by