United Nations war crimes judges on Tuesday upheld a genocide conviction and life sentence against former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, rejecting all grounds of his appeal against a lower tribunal’s verdict.
Mladic (78) led Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. He was convicted in 2017 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes including terrorising the civilian population of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during a 43-month siege, and the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.
He had been convicted by trial and ordered to serve life in prison, but appealed against both the verdict and sentence.
The appeals chamber “dismisses Mladic appeal in its entirety..., dismisses the prosecution’s appeal in its entirety..., affirms the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Mladic by the trial chamber,” said a written summary of the appeals judgment.
The verdict caps 25 years of trials at the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which convicted 90 people.
The ICTY is one of the predecessors of the International Criminal Court, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, also seated in The Hague.
Srebrenica remains the only episode of genocide on European soil after the second World War recognised by two international courts.
UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz stressed the importance of the Mladic ruling for victims who live with the trauma of the 1990s conflict daily.
“If you speak to the survivors, the mothers [of Srebrenica] who lost their husbands, their sons: their lives really stopped on the day of the genocide,” he told journalists ahead of the verdict.
In the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, residents lamented that Mladic was still seen as a hero in the Serb-dominated region of the ethnically divided country.
“Twenty-five years later, I feel as if the war is not over,” said Mela Softic (37), a marketing specialist who spent her childhood in besieged Sarajevo.
Lawyers for Mladic had appealed his conviction and argued the former general could not be held responsible for possible crimes committed by his subordinates. They had asked for an acquittal or a retrial. – Reuters