RATKO MLADIC is today waking up in Scheveningen Prison's special UN detention unit after being extradited from Serbia to face trial on 11 counts of war crimes charges including genocide.
The former Bosnian Serb general was whisked to The Hague by a succession of armoured convoys, a special chartered jet and a helicopter just five days after his arrest last week ended 16 years as a fugitive from UN prosecutors.
As judges in Belgrade threw out his final appeal against extradition, on grounds of ill health, more than 10,000 Bosnian Serbs took to the streets of Banja Luka.
The demonstrations in the capital city of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb part of the federal Bosnian state, have deepened ethnic divisions and alarmed Muslims 16 years after a war that included the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre.
"We love our general, Ratko Mladic, and we love freedom. We came here to support our hero," said Vojo Gusic, a Bosnian Serb war veteran.
Bosnian Muslims and Croats have been deeply alarmed by the strength of Serb support for the man who held military command during a conflict that took more than 100,000 lives. He also ordered the shelling of Sarajevo and presided over the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica.
"It really hurts and I also feel fear and discomfort, as such a rally shows that we are going back to the 1990s," said Edina Ramulic, the head of a group representing the families of killed and missing people.
Mladic (69) was briefly released from jail yesterday and lit a candle at the grave of his daughter, Ana, who committed suicide in 1994, at the height of the Bosnian Serb atrocities in Sarajevo.
His visit, overseen by the Serbian authorities, has angered the Muslim relatives of men and boys slaughtered by Bosnian troops under Mladic's command in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995. Kadira Gabeljic, whose family was killed, said she had almost fainted at the news because the remains of her two sons, Mesud and Meho, who were 16 and 21 when killed, have never been recovered.
"He was allowed to do it, and I am still searching for my children for the past 16 years, ever since Srebrenica happened," she said.
In Belgrade, Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said the handover marked the fulfillment of Serbia's "international and moral obligation".
"Mladic is charged with the most serious crimes against humanity and the most serious violations of the international humanitarian law," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)