Serbia Offers $1.3M for Ratko Mladic Capture

Belgrade police stations have a new look. A big poster at the entrance of any precinct offers visitors 1 million euros (about $1.3 million) for any information leading to the arrest of Ratko Mladic.

An official-looking warrant on the poster notes that Mladic was born March 12, 1942, in Bozinovici in Bosnia and that his father's name was Nedjo. It also provides a phone number and a promise that informants will enjoy "guaranteed secrecy of data and identity." For everything else about the wanted man, authorities are counting on viewers to already be in the know.

Among the pertinent facts left out:

1) This is General Ratko Mladic, once the commander in chief of the Bosnian Serb Army, and once one of the highest-ranking officers of the old Communist Yugoslav Army, which then became the Serbian Army.

2) Even after he took command of the supposedly separate Bosnian Serb Army, Mladic stayed on the payroll of the Serbian Army until 2005.

3) General Mladic has been indicted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for the Srebrenica massacre, Europe's worst mass killing since World War II, in which about 7,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed.

4) Mladic has also been indicted for his role in the 1992 shelling of civilians in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo.

This may be the democratic, pro-Western legal government of Serbia but it still has problems calling a cat a cat.

This latest move against Mladic is part of the Serbian campaign to gain admission to the European Union.

What makes the poster project interesting is that it comes from the office of the Minister of the Interior, Ivica Dacic. This young and gifted politician is the head of the Socialist Party of Serbia, which was founded by Serbia 's former President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial at the same Hague War Crimes Tribunal that has indicted Mladic.

Dacic has never renounced the leadership of Milosevic, although he did join the ruling coalition of some of the former president's worst enemies in the Serbian Democratic Party. At the very least, Dacic has decided his Socialists need a new image.

The wanted posters have not created any public outrage in Serbia. Most Serbs are facing dire economic conditions and are sick and tired of having their country isolated because of the failure to capture the accused war criminal Mladic.

"I don't want my children barred from travelling to the E.U. or the U.S.A. because some politicians are secretly protecting a soldier who proved to be maybe brave but also a pathological killer," says Branislava Jovanovic, a graduate of theology working for a Belgrade travel company.

There has even been some public support for capturing Mladic. Rasim Ljajic, president of the National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, has called on all citizens with any knowledge of his whereabouts to contact the authorities, adding that they would be "doing a favor for the state."

"The gains from Mladic's extradition far outweigh the sums being offered for information leading to his arrest," Ljajic said.

But there are still media that have taken an extreme nationalist line on the campaign to capture Mladic. The populist daily Glas Javnosti has compared the possibility of turning in Mladic to war crime prosecutors to past demands for the extradition of the Serb Royalist resistance leader Draza Mihajlovic to Nazi Germany in 1942.

"This is one of their tricks," says Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, a prominent human rights lawyer. "They always compare the current Germany of the European Union to Hitler's Germany as if nothing has changed in Berlin since 1945. "

But this move by the Minister of Interior hints that the fate of Ratko Mladic will be sealed in 2009 just as the fate of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader held in the Hague on war crime charges, was sealed in July 2008 when he was arrested.