Monday 19 August 2019

'Butcher of Bosnia' jailed for life over genocide

Ratko Mladic smiles as he enters court yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty
Ratko Mladic smiles as he enters court yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty

Karla de Wintours

A UN court has convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic of genocide and crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to life in prison for atrocities perpetrated during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

The court in The Hague convicted Mladic of 10 of 11 counts in a dramatic climax to a groundbreaking effort to seek justice for the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie read out the judgment yesterday after ordering Mladic, dubbed "The Butcher of Bosnia", out of the courtroom over an angry outburst.

Mladic was found guilty of commanding forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of the war - the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica. He will appeal the verdict, his legal team said yesterday.

Mothers of Srebrenica's victims clapped when the convictions were read out.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called the verdict a "momentous victory for justice".

"Mladic is the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about," Mr al-Hussein said in a statement.

"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."

Mladic is to appeal his life sentence, his son said yesterday, calling the judgment by the UN war crimes court "war propaganda".

Darko Mladic said: "I'm not surprised. The court was totally biased from the start. This sentence is unjust and contrary to the facts, and we will fight it on appeal to prove that this judgment is wrong," he told reporters shortly after his father was found guilty. "Today justice has been replaced by war propaganda," he said.

Mladic's legal team added: "It is certain we will file an appeal and the appeal will be successful."

Mladic's trial was the last before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and comes as the court prepares to close its doors next month.

After rumours that he would not attend his verdict, the former general (74), who once cut a swathe of fear against Bosnia, at first appeared relaxed in the courtroom as he listened intently to presiding judge Alphons Orie.

However, Mladic was dragged out of his judgment hearing after he started shouting at war crimes judges that they were lying.

Mr Orie ordered him removed from the courtroom just after denying a defence request to halt the proceedings due to Mladic's high blood pressure.

"They are lying, you are lying. I don't feel good," Mladic shouted, refusing to sit down, before being hustled out of the courtroom by two UN security guards to a nearby room where he could watch the rest of the proceedings.

His outburst came after the judges refused to halt the reading of the verdict.

After a surprise break requested by Mladic which lasted about 45 minutes, defence lawyer Dragan Ivetic returned to tell the judges that Mladic's blood pressure had been taken three times by nurses.

According to British and US medical organisations, that meant that Mladic was in a "hypertensive crisis" and continuing the hearing could lead to "fatality", Mr Ivetic said.

But the judges disagreed with the findings, and refused to adjourn the hearing.

Yesterday's verdict has been long-awaited by tens of thousands of victims across the bitterly-divided region, and dozens gathered early outside the courtroom in The Hague, many clutching photos of loved ones who died or are among the 7,000 still missing. One had a picture of Mladic with a human skull saying: "Guilty of all."

Irish Independent

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