War-crimes suspect Ratko Mladic looks hollow-cheeked and shrunken after a decade and a half on the run, nothing like the beefy commander accused of personally orchestrating some of the worst horrors of the Balkan wars.
A police photo of Mladic moments after his arrest in a tiny northern Serbian village shows a clean-shaven Mladic with thinning hair wearing a navy blue baseball hat and looking up with wide eyes, as if in surprise.
After spending a night in jail, Mladic was due back in a Belgrade court on Friday for a hearing on his extradition to a U.N. war crimes tribunal.
The Bosnian Serb wartime army commander is facing international war crimes charges, including the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.
A Thursday extradition hearing was adjourned due to what Mladic’s lawyer claimed was his poor health.
Serbian war crimes prosecutors say the health issue appears to be a tactic to delay his extradition to the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
“What’s important is that his identity has been established,” said deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric. “It now depends on his defense whether they will launch appeals, but a maximum deadline for his extradition is a week.”
A spokeswoman said the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal was capable of dealing with any of Mladic’s health problems.
Mladic’s wife Bosiljka and son Darko walked into the courthouse to visit Mladic in the jail which is located in the same building, but did not speak to the media when they left.
Mladic, 69, was one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives — the top commander of the Bosnian Serb army during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, which left more than 100,000 people dead and drove another 1.8 million from their homes. Thousands of Muslims and Croats were killed, tortured or driven out in a campaign to purge the region of non-Serbs.
He was accused by the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the massacre of Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces in eastern Bosnia and the relentless four-year siege of Sarajevo.
War crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz was due to give the U.N. a report next month critical of Serbia’s lack of cooperation with the hunt for Mladic and other fugitives.
The Netherlands had used such reports to justify blocking Serbia’s efforts to join the EU, and the arrest could help Serbia shed its image as a pariah state that sheltered the men responsible for the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report.