Thursday 27 June 2019

Explainer: Who is 'The Butcher of Bosnia' Ratko Mladic as he is jailed for life for genocide

Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial. Mladic's trial is the last major case for the Netherlands-based tribunal for former Yugoslavia, which was set up in 1993 to prosecute those most responsible for the worst carnage in Europe since World War II. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool)
Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic enters the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial. Mladic's trial is the last major case for the Netherlands-based tribunal for former Yugoslavia, which was set up in 1993 to prosecute those most responsible for the worst carnage in Europe since World War II. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, dubbed "The Butcher of Bosnia", has been jailed for life after being found guilty of genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal today.

Here is why the 74-year-old remains one of the most notorious names associated with the Balkan conflict over 20 years ago.

Who is he?

Mladic was the Bosnian Serb army commander in Bosnia's 1992-95 war and he was charged with crimes against humanity over the siege of Sarajevo in which 11,000 civilians died from shelling and sniper fire.

He was also accused of ordering the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

Where is he on trial?

Mladic is the last person to face charges at the International Criminal Tribunal and while he protests his innocence the court has already ruled that "genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and the inhuman act of forcible transfer were committed in or around Srebrenica" in 1995.

Today, he was convicted of genocide and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

What exactly happened in Srebrenica?

Srebrenica, near Bosnia's eastern border with Serbia, had been designated a "safe area" by the United Nations and was defended by lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers. But they quickly surrendered when Mladic's forces stormed it on July 11, 1995.

The Dutch peacekeepers looked on helplessly as Serb forces separated men and boys from women, then sent them out of sight on buses or marched them away to be shot.

A bronzed and burly Mladic was filmed visiting a refugee camp in Srebrenica on July 12. "He was giving away chocolate and sweets to the children while the cameras were rolling, telling us nothing will happen and that we have no reason to be afraid," recalled Munira Subasic of the Mothers of Srebrenica group.

"After the cameras left he gave an order to kill whoever could be killed, rape whoever could be raped and finally he ordered us all to be banished and chased out of Srebrenica, so he could make an 'ethnically clean' city," she told Reuters.

The remains of Subasic's son Nermin and husband Hilmo were both found in mass graves by International Commission of Missing Persons (ICMP) workers. The ICMP have identified some 6,900 remains of Srebrenica victims through DNA analysis.

What was his defence?

Mladic's lawyers argued that his responsibility for murder and ethnic cleansing of civilians by Serb forces and allied paramilitaries was never established beyond reasonable doubt and he should get no more than 15 years if convicted.

Prosecutors said the ultimate plan pursued by Mladic, Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was to purge Bosnia of non-Serbs - a strategy that became known as "ethnic cleansing" - and carve out a "Greater Serbia" in the ashes of old federal Yugoslavia.

In arguing for Mladic to be imprisoned for life, prosecutor Alan Tieger said anything else "would be an insult to victims and an affront to justice".

Mladic was indicted along with Karadzic in 1995, shortly after the Srebrenica killings, but evaded capture until 2011.

Where was he for 16 years?

Mladic remained in Serbia while the country was presided over by former colleague Milosevic. Even after he was ousted, Mladic remained an official member of the Serbian army until 2002 and was in receipt of an army pension until the end of 2005.

A woman reacts as she watches a television broadcast of the court proceedings of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
A woman reacts as she watches a television broadcast of the court proceedings of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic in the Memorial centre Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, November 22, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

It was widely rumoured that he had passed away in 2008 but in 2011 Serbian police found him living in northern Serbia under the name Milorad Komadic.

How has his case been received in Serbia?

Supporters of Mladic put up posters in Bosnia praising him.

Posters in the eastern Bosnian town of Bratunac carried a photo of Mladic in military attire with the words "you are our hero" written above.

However survivors of the massacre gathered at the memorial centre to also watch the live TV broadcast from the courtroom.

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