War crimes suspect ‘must have died,’ says family, lawyer

A Bosnian Muslim woman prays at the memorial wall for the Bosnian 1992-95 war that claimed some 100,000 lives — many allegedly at the hand of Bosnian Serb wartime leader Ratko Mladic.

Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic was already suffering from at least two strokes and a failing pancreas when he went into hiding a decade ago and “must have died” since, his wife’s lawyer has said.

The former army commander, whose extradition to a United Nations court has been a condition for Serbia’s further integration with the European Union, left his Belgrade home in 2001 and the family lost all contact with him in 2003, said Milos Saljic, representing Mladic’s wife Bosiljka, who appeared in court today on charges for illegal possession of weapons.

Mladic “was already a very sick man” when he went into hiding, Saljic said. “His first stroke was back in 1996, then another one in 1999 and he could not survive, he must have died [without adequate medical care that presumably he had no access to as a fugitive],” Saljic said.

An automatic handgun, a rifle and ammunition were found in the Mladic family home during a 2008 police search for clues about the suspect’s whereabouts. Charges were brought against his wife for possession of the unlicensed weaponry.

The Balkans

Key political risks in the emerging Balkans:

» Serbia’s ruling coalition of the pro-Western Democratic Party and the Socialists is now dealing with the effects of slow recovery from the crisis, cost-cutting, growing social discontent and internal squabbling that ultimately led to the reshuffle and downsizing of the government to 17 ministries from a previous 24.

» Independent for three years, Kosovo is beset with economic problems and political division. The constitutional court ruled the election of President Behgjet Pacolli by the parliament was unconstitutional, but gave no details on moving forward.

» Macedonia is a candidate for NATO and EU membership, but its prospects are clouded by an 18-year-old dispute with neighboring Greece, which says Macedonia’s name implies a claim to Greece’s northern province of the same name.

» Montenegro is hoping to join NATO soon, and is awaiting a date for EU membership talks after gaining candidate status. Entry talks hinge on progress in fighting crime and corruption. The new government headed by Prime Minister Igor Luksic has pledged to work to remove remaining obstacles.


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