Mladic sentenced to life for crimes against humanity

Reuters
A UN tribunal has convicted former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to life in prison.
Reuters

A UN tribunal has convicted former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic of genocide and crimes against humanity for orchestrating massacres and ethnic cleansing during Bosnia’s war and sentenced him to life in prison.

Mladic, 74, was hustled out of the court minutes before yesterday’s verdict for screaming: “This is all lies, you are all liars.”

The UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found him guilty of 10 of 11 charges, including the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which more than 10,000 civilians were killed by shelling and sniper fire over 43 months.

The killings in Srebrenica of men and boys after they were separated from women and taken away in buses or marched off to be shot amounted to Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.

“The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind, and include genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity,” Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said.

“Many of these men and boys were cursed, insulted, threatened, forced to sing Serb songs and beaten while awaiting their execution,” he said.

Mladic had pleaded not guilty to all charges. His legal team said he would appeal against the verdict.

The “Butcher of Bosnia” to his enemies and critics, Mladic was the most notorious of the tribunal’s 161 indictees, along with former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

In its summary, the tribunal found Mladic “significantly contributed” to genocide committed in Srebrenica with the goal of destroying its Muslim population, “personally directed” the long bombardment of Sarajevo and was part of a “joint criminal enterprise” intending to purge Muslims and Croats from Bosnia. Prosecutors said the ultimate plan pursued by Mladic, Karadzic and Milosevic was to purge Bosnia of non-Serbs — a strategy that came to be known worldwide as ethnic cleansing — and carve out a “Greater Serbia” in the ashes of Yugoslavia.

Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz called the verdict “a milestone” in holding Mladic accountable not just for mass killings but the detention of tens of thousands of non-Serbs in camps where many were beaten and raped, as well as the expulsion of hundreds of thousands to remake Bosnia’s demographic.

He said Mladic was also convicted of using forces under his command to seize hundreds of UN peacekeepers as human shields to deter NATO from launching airstrikes. NATO intervention eventually stopped the war.

The Mladic case is the last major decision by the tribunal, which plans to close its doors soon after sentencing 83 Balkan war criminals since opening in 1993.

In Geneva, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called Mladic the “epitome of evil” and said his conviction was a “momentous victory for justice.”

“Today’s verdict is a warning to the perpetrators of such crimes that they will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take,” Zeid said in a statement.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said Serbia “respects the victims” and called for a focus on the future.

“I would like to call on everyone to start looking into the future and not to drown in tears of the past,” he said.

Alluding to enduring separatism in post-war federal Bosnia’s autonomous Serb region, Bosnia’s Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic said he hoped “those who still call for new divisions and conflicts will carefully read the verdict rendered today ... in case they are still not ready to face their past.”


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