BELGRADE, Serbia - Sixteen years after the bull-necked military commander went on the run, a pale and shrunken Ratko Mladic was hauled into a courtroom yesterday to face charges of genocide in ordering torture, rape and the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.
A Serbian government that has changed mightily since Mladic's alleged atrocities trumpeted his early morning arrest as a victory for a country worthy of EU membership and Western embrace. It banned all public gatherings and raised security levels to prevent ultra-nationalists from making good on pledges to pour into the streets in protest. Riot police broke up one small protest.
Deep divisions remain in the nation, which is half Serb and half Bosniaks, but few of Bosnia's Serbs poured into the streets to protest his capture, and the Muslim Bosniaks and Croats didn't appear en masse to cheer it.
Mladic was one of the world's most wanted men. He faces trial at the U.N. war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
"Thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers' eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson," war-crimes Judge Fouad Riad said during Mladic's 1995 indictment in absentia.
Mladic, 69, appeared frail and walked very slowly last night as he went into a closed-door extradition hearing. He wore a navy-blue jacket and a baseball hat with gray hair sticking out the sides.