Ratko Mladic: ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Who Preferred to be Called ‘God’

General Ratko Mladic, arrested Thursday for overseeing the most appalling atrocities in Europe since the Second World War, is known to many as the “Butcher of Bosnia”. However, he astonishingly preferred to be called “God”.

After being on the run for 16 years, the ruthless military leader is finally being brought to justice. He personally oversaw the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995. To Mladic, the war in Bosnia was an opportunity to seek revenge for 500 years of Turkish-Ottoman occupation and he branded all Bosnian Muslims as Turks. Indeed this brutal man, lacking in any mercy and compassion certainly cannot be described as God-like, yet alone demand such a title.

His ultimate goal was an ethnically pure homeland for Bosnian Serbs and he was prepared to go to extraordinarily brutal lengths to accomplish it.

Mladic went into hiding after he was indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

They include ordering the Srebrenica massacre and overseeing a 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which more than 10,000 people died.

His capture and arrest on Thursday at the home of a relative in the Serbian village of Lazarevo brings some closure to the painful legacy left behind by the civil war of the 1990s.

Serbian President Boris Tadic said: “We have ended a difficult period in our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live.”

Gerrit Wiersema, Office Manager of Eastern European Outreach UK, was uncertain about the impact of the general's arrest on the region. He said: "For some people, his arrest will be incredibly helpful. For some people, there will be closure. But realistically, I'm not certain a lot will change in the country as he has been out of power for so many years."

Gill Rowell, Director of Novi Most, a charity helping to build reconciliation in the region, welcomed Mladic's arrest but also expressed concerns about the toll of a trial on witnesses.

"It is fantastic that he has been arrested. Justice had to be done," she said. "He's destroyed so many lives, not just those of the people who were murdered, but their relatives who are still living.

"We've been praying for this for years and so for that, we thank God for answered prayers. But my concern is that if he stands trial, all the witnesses will have to go through the trauma again and I don't know if that does bring closure."

She conceded that his arrest was probably a political move to bring Serbia closer to entering the EU, but said it was "healthy" nonetheless that Serbian leaders have spoken of their support for his arrest and trial.

"In the long term, his arrest has got to make a difference," she continued. "Once he's tried and convicted, there will be a sense of looking forward."

(Maria Mackay and Karen Peake contributed to this article)