‘Butcher of Bosnia’ loses appeal against genocide conviction
The Hague – Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic has lost his appeal against a 2017 conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The UN court upheld the life sentence for his role in the killing of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. The massacre, in an enclave supposed to be under UN protection, was the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two. It was not yet clear where Mladic will serve the rest of his sentence. The five-person appeals panel found Mladic had failed to provide evidence to invalidate the previous convictions against him, although the presiding judge dissented on almost all counts.
However, the Appeals Chamber also dismissed the appeal brought by the prosecution, which had sought a second conviction against Mladic over crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in some other areas during the war. Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic on Tuesday heard the final verdict on his conviction for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Europe’s worst act of bloodshed since World War II. Mladic, now frail and in his late seventies but still prone to courtroom outbursts against NATO and the West, is expected to be in the dock at the tribunal to hear the judgment read out from 1300 GMT.
‘Target of NATO’
Mladic, who spent a decade on the run before his capture in 2011, was the military face of a brutal trio led on the political side by ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
Mladic was found guilty of genocide for personally overseeing the massacre at the supposedly UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica as part of a campaign to drive out Muslims.
Footage from the time showed him handing out sweets to children before they and the women of Srebrenica were taken away by bus, while the men of the town were marched into a forest and executed. He was also found guilty of orchestrating a wider campaign of “ethnic cleansing” to drive Muslims and Bosnians out of key areas to create a Greater Serbia as Yugoslavia tore itself apart after the fall of communism. The war left around 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million displaced. But Mladic, who gives his age as 78 but it is 79 according to the court, insisted during an appeal hearing last year that he was a “target of the NATO alliance” and derided the court as a “child of western powers”. His lawyers argued that he was far from the scene at the time of the actual killings in Srebrenica, and that he could not be held responsible for the crimes of his subordinates. They will be watching for the findings of presiding judge Prisca Nyambe of Zambia, who gave a dissenting opinion in the 2012 verdict of Mladic’s right-hand man Zdravko Tolimir, which questioned the basis for his genocide conviction.
The appeal hearing was delayed repeatedly after Mladic needed surgery to remove a polyp, and then because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Access to the court on Tuesday is also limited because of coronavirus measures.