have only seen Ratko Mladić on television and on my computer screen, but I am well aware of his legacy in eastern Bosnia. Earlier this decade, I spent two years in Foča, a mountainous district in the Upper Drina Valley near the borders with Montenegro and Serbia.
Apart from its rugged nature, the Drina Valley is known because of what happened there during the Bosnian War (1992-95). Despite the overwhelming media attention on the besieged Sarajevo, much of the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims was carried out in isolated rural areas, in places such as Goražde, Višegrad, Srebrenica and Foča itself.
Mladić was born there, in Kalinovik, a scruffy and isolated village on the high planes of Treskavica. And while he may be despised internationally, the “General” enjoys a hero’s standing among many Serbs in the region, as evidenced by the graffiti supporting him that I used to see when I arrived in the valley in 2010 as a human rights officer for the OSCE.
Reading the recent sentence by The Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, two memories from that time come to mind: the local response to his arrest, and our work in the mass graves he and others created.