Activist Dodges Cops to Deface Mural of Convicted War Criminal

A man threw paint over the Belgrade mural of Ratko Mladic, the "Butcher of Bosnia" who ordered the deaths of 18,000 people.
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A mural of Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic vandalised with white paint in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic

A political activist defied police, the government and right wing politicians to throw a bucket of white paint over a controversial mural of a former Bosnian Serb militia leader convicted of genocide. 

The image of Ratko Mladic, who is serving life in prison in The Hague, was splattered in Belgrade on Wednesday morning, despite police and right wing nationalist party efforts to protect the mural, which mysteriously appeared in July.

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Police officers defend the mural Tuesday as hundreds of people protested against the preservation of the mural of war criminal Ratko MladicPhoto: Milos Miskov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Djordjo Zujovic, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Serbia, told Nova.rs news that he threw the bucket of paint on the mural in Belgrade’s Vracar neighbourhood because it “represents a stain on the face of every citizen of Serbia, regardless of which nation [ethnicity] he belongs to, or what his religion or political orientation.”

“I consider what I did to be a normal, human act,” said Zujovic. “I support everyone who shows through his actions that he still cares about the fight for a normal society.”

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Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic imitates taking pictures in court at The Hague, where his appeal against his genocide conviction was rejected in 2021. Photo: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

A former Yugoslav army officer who joined the breakaway Serbian Republic’s militia in 1992, Mladic commanded Serbian troops during the siege of Sarajevo in which around 10,000 civilians died. He was captured in Serbia in 2011 and was convicted of war crimes in 2017 by an international tribunal after personally overseeing the massacre of at least 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in plain view of UN peacekeeping troops at the siege of Srebrenica in 1995. Earlier this year a UN court rejected his appeal against the genocide conviction. 

On Friday, Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin refused an application to paint over or erase the mural, describing the efforts to cover the mural as “vile and led by evil intent.” 

On Monday, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a Belgrade NGO, sued the Serbian Interior Ministry for blocking plans for local antifacist groups to paint over the mural on Tuesday, International Day of Anti-Fascism and Anti-Semitism. 

This set off a series of attacks on the mural, despite efforts of riot police and some counter protesters to protect the visage of a man once described by his colleague Serbian Republic President Radovan Karadzic, himself a convicted war criminal, as a “madman.”

The paint bucket attack came just a day after two activists, Aida Corovic and Jelena Jacimovic, were arrested after throwing eggs at the mural. It is unclear if Zujovic, who by Wednesday had not been arrested, will be charged.