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UN court upholds conviction of genocide against ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Ratko Mladić 

Photograph: UN News

An appeal by Ratko Mladić, the commander of Bosnian Serb forces in the country’s 1992-95 war, against the 2017 verdict that convicted him of genocide has been turned down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The ruling, which came on Tuesday, also reaffirmed the life sentence awarded to Mladić in the previous judgement. 

The ICTY upheld the 2017 verdict of a lower tribunal which convicted Mladić, nicknamed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, for committing genocide against Bosnian Muslims in the notorious Srebrenica massacre of 1995. The court also convicted him of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

The 78 year-old former commander would spend the rest of his life in prison, although the ruling did not make clear where that would be. The court in 2016 found Radovan Karadzic guilty, another Bosnian Serb leader who masterminded Srebrenica, and gave him a 40-year prison sentence which was extended to a life sentence in 2019. He is currently serving his term in the UK. 

The break-up of former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s engendered a great deal of violence, the bloodiest of which took place in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. More than 100,000 people died in the triangular war between Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims. 

The war is considered the most gruesome conflict to take place in Europe since the Second World War.

Ratko Mladić commanded the Bosnian Serb forces and brutalised the non-Serb populations of Bosnia. He subjected Srebrenica to a 43-month siege and massacred over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the city which was supposed to be protected by UN forces.

The war in Bosnia ended with US intervention in 1995. The ICTY was set up to prosecute war crimes that took place in the territories that formed part of former Yugoslavia. Mladić fled the country and lived as a fugitive for the next 16 years.

He was arrested in northern Serbia in 2011 and brought to trial in The Hague, Netherlands. The ICTY granted him a life sentence in 2017 which Mladić’s defenders appealed against. 

The defenders argued the case that Mladic was not involved in the Srebrenica massacre, which they say was committed by his subordinates. The prosecution asked the appeals chamber to uphold the life sentence and also convict Mladic of genocides that took place in places other than Srebrenica.

A summary of the judgement provided by the appeals chamber says it "dismisses Mladić appeal in its entirety..., dismisses the prosecution's appeal in its entirety..., affirms the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Mladić by the trial chamber...”. 

Mladić is amongst the last individuals to be tried by the ICTY. US President Joe Biden welcomed the ruling in a statement and said, “This historic judgment shows that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable.”

Read more here and here

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