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Orhan Dragas Explains Why Mladic Was Allegedly Arrested In Romania
Jurnalul National: You said Gen Ratko Mladic was allegedly arrested in Romania, a statement that stirred rumors all over the world. Why do you think the arrest would have taken place in a NATO member state?n Dragas Orhan: I find it quite logical. Mladic did not want to turn himself in, and the Serbian Government is in a very difficult situation because of him. So, Mladicâs arrest had to take place in a territory outside Belgradeâs authority. The fact that Romania is a NATO member only made things easier.
JN: You stated that the British SAS troops conducted the arrest. Should one infer from this that SAS operates on Romanian territory to replace the Romanian military forces or to duplicate them?
DO: First, SAS is not exactly an intelligence service, but an elite corps of the British military. Also, this would not be the first time joint operations are conducted by Balkan nations on the one hand, and UK and US on the other. Besides, UK - Romania relationships are very good and, given the excellent level the relationships have at highest-level, there was no need to set up a British operation independent of those conducted by the Romanian intelligence services.
JN: Are there any similarities between Mladicâs case and the recent arrest in Spain of Croat Gen Ante Gotovina?
DO: Of course there are. Gotovinaâs arrest in Croatia was also impossible to perform, since people there still regarded him as a hero, in spite of the Court in The Hague wanting him as a war criminal.
JN: If it is true that Mladic was arrested, why procrastinating to make public such news?
DO: These situations are very complex, and interests of all parties involved have to be considered. The Serbian Executive should maximize the benefits of such an endeavor. Belgrade waits for a written confirmation from Carla Del Ponte, the head of the Court in The Hague, stating that after hading over Mladic Serbia would not stand accused for obstructing the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the former political leader of the Serbs in Bosnia, also wanted as a war criminal.
JN: The media in Belgrade repeatedly said that authorities in former Yugoslavia knew all the time Mladicâs whereabouts, but did not arrest him because the army protected him. Do you think there is a danger that the military will react if Mladic reaches The Hague?
DO: These are rather made-up stories which bare no resemblance to reality. The only fact known with certainty, from a written note of Svetko Kovac, head of the military intelligence service, was that Mladic was protected till June 2002 in buildings controlled by the military. After that date, he took refuge in civilian buildings. From then on the Serbian army may not be held accountable for Mladic. As for the dangers you hinted at, I am sure there will be no negative impact of handing over Mladic. There is total consensus inside the defense ministry to that effect, and even minister Zoran Stankovic spoke of the need to urgently hand over Mladic to the Court in The Hague.
JN: Ratko Mladic is well known as a very intelligent man and a brilliant strategist. How is it possible for such a man to not have counted in the risks of traveling in Romania? Could that have been a trap?
DO: I do not think so. First, I am sure the arrest was a result of a deal Mladic himself struck with the Serbian Government, and his arrest in Romania was part of the compromise they arrived at, which meant that he did not want to look like giving himself in, as the Serbian authorities did not want to look like apprehending him. I am sure this was the only acceptable compromise. Thus Mladic will reach The Hague in a matter of days, while Serbia will get rid of the responsibility of having him arrested.
JN: What is the institute you lead actually doing? Do you have contacts with similar structures in Romania?
DO: The International Institute for Security was founded in 1981 as a scientific body, with active and retired researchers, university professors in Moscow, London, Washington, Beijing, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Berlin. These are professionals with various kinds of expertise relevant for reforming security structures, fighting against terrorism or the trade in counterfeit products. The bureau in Belgrade opened in June 2005, but unfortunately did not establish contacts with similar structures in Romania, though it is clear we need those contacts. This is why we intend to open a bureau in Bucharest. Translation by Anca Paduraru