By Paul Holmes
More than 18 years have passed since my first encounter with Ratko Mladic but I still see him standing there, an intense, angry look in his eyes. He clasped his hands together and squeezed them more and more tightly until his fingers turned red and his knuckles went white.
I had asked the Bosnian Serb commander about the siege his forces had laid to the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. The massacre there, the worst of the many atrocities perpetrated against Bosnian Muslims by Mladic’s army, was still two years away but this was his way of demonstrating that there would be no escape for its inhabitants.
That gesture by Mladic, arrested in Serbia on Thursday after 16 years on the run from charges of genocide in the Bosnian war, spoke more about his ruthlessness and obsession than any of the words he uttered during an interview that lasted for more than two hours.
Mladic, a former Yugoslav Army officer, was a familiar face to reporters covering the war in Bosnia, but few journalists got to spend time with him. I had the opportunity to pass an evening alone with him and a Reuters colleague from Belgrade at the Bosnian Serb headquarters in Pale, outside Sarajevo, in May 1993.