Rumours about Ratko Mladic’s arrival circulate among the international media hounds gathered around the entrance to Scheveningen jail. When the former Serb general will appear in The Hague remains uncertain.
In 1995, Bosnian Serb soldiers murdered an estimated 8000 Muslim males in and around Srebrenica, a town in present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Under the protection of some 600 lightly armed Dutch soldiers, the enclave was attacked by Serb commander Ratko Mladic on 11 July 1995. While over 20,000 of the women, children and infirm who had taken refuge in this UN-declared safe haven fled to a neighbouring Dutch base, men and boys were separated from their families and systematically murdered.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled the Srebrenica massacre a genocide, reportedly the worst case of mass killings in Europe since World War II.
Curious passers-by pause to watch the legion of international journalists at the entrance to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) detention unit in Scheveningen. Mladic fever spread after a number of press agencies reported on Thursday what was expected to be his swift arrival to The Hague.
Journalists there are waiting for Mladic to be handed over to the court. He’ll stand trial for his role in the murder of thousands of Bosnian men and boys after the fall of the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica in 1995.
But when will he be transferred to The Hague?
“Nobody knows when it will happen, but you can’t risk missing that moment,” a journalist from German TV broadcaster ARD says. “But once he arrives in the Netherlands, I expect he’ll be flown in by helicopter.”
When Mladic appears, the world’s floodlights are sure to shine on this spot.
Rows of crush barriers and portable toilet cubicles show local authorities anticipate a media circus. It could prove to be a long wait.
The international press had to hold out for days until Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic arrived to sit behind bars at the same jail, where he has been since July 2008. By contrast, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was flown into the Netherlands within 24 hours after news of his arrest broke.
“Maybe Serb authorities are in a hurry, afraid of protests from the ultra-nationalists against his transfer,” a British television producer speculates.
Mladic will first be heard by Serb judges, local authorities have said. The war crimes suspect then has right to appeal against that court’s decision.
Several kilometres from the Scheveningen jail, a similar scene has unfolded at the ICTY entrance. Throngs of broadcast vans are strategically parked amidst the crush barriers, some of which have already collapsed. Against the flapping of flags, journalists with wind-blown hair speak to cameras. The Tribunal has given no press statement. Speculating about Mladic’s arrival and the charges against him are still the only fodder for discussion.
As evening falls, expectation of Mladic’s arrival thins. “I hope I don’t have to be here for seven days,” a Flemish journalist sighs. The long wait also creates a sense of fraternity: a bag of nuts passes from hand to hand. “Emergency rations. Available at the nearby petrol station.”