Thousands of Serbian nationalists demonstrated in Belgrade and Bosnia on Sunday against the arrest and pending extradition of the former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who was apprehended on Thursday and is facing war-crimes charges in The Hague.
An estimated 10,000 protesters, many of them supporters of the ultra-nationalist Serbian radical party and other far-right organizations, were bused in from across the region for demonstrations that began Sunday evening in the Serbian capital, the New York Times reported. Earlier, in Mladic's Bosnian hometown of Kalinovik, as many as 3,000 people -- many of them former Bosnian Serb soldiers -- waved posters of Mladic and accused Serbian President Boris Tadic, who ordered Mladic's arrest Thursday, of treason, Voice of America reported. Many nationalists consider Mladic a war hero.
The protests came as Mladic denied responsibility, through his son, Darko Mladic, for the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995, considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the Nazi era, the Guardian said. Mladic faces genocide charges related to the killing of as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, as well as for the siege and shelling of Sarajevo. He was arrested Thursday after 16 years on the run. Mladic's lawyer is fighting his extradition to the international criminal tribunal at The Hague on grounds of ill health.
Serbia's labor minister, Rasim Ljajic, said that Mladic's arrest could cost the ruling party the next election. "We knew that a majority of citizens were against his extradition to The Hague," Ljajic told the Bosnian newspaper, Dnevni Avaz, according to the Guardian.
The New York Times reported:
Many Serbs have said they would prefer to see Mr. Mladic face trial in Serbia. They regard the Hague tribunal as biased against Serbs and an instrument of “victor’s justice,” saying that Serbs are charged in disproportionate numbers compared to Muslims or Croats who also committed war crimes in what was a civil war in Bosnia.
The U.N. tribunal on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia indicted Mladic in 1995 for war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkan wars of the 1990s.