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Mladic sentenced to life for 1990s genocide in Bosnia

Bloomberg News

November 22. 2017 10:10PM
Ex-Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic reacts in court at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, Netherlands in this still image taken from a video released by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on Wednesday. (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)/Handout via REUTERS)

BELGRADE, Serbia — The U.N. Hague tribunal on Wednesday sentenced Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, to life in prison for genocide and other crimes, including for the massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.

In its last major verdict before wrapping up its work punishing crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars, the court found that Mladic, 74, issued orders concerning operations around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995, where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were separated from women and children, murdered, and buried in mass graves. The court also convicted him for crimes against humanity and violating the rules of war, including the siege and the shelling of the capital Sarajevo — one of the bloodiest episodes in a conflict that killed 100,000 people. He was acquitted on one count of genocide in Bosnian municipalities.

“The crimes committed were among the most heinous known to human kind and include genocide and extermination as crimes against humanity,” Judge Alphons Orie said at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. “He commanded both army and police units during the Srebrenica operation. Without him, the crimes wouldn’t be committed as they were.”

The verdicts came as the nations that emerged from Yugoslavia, which was torn apart largely along ethnic lines by five wars after the fall of the Iron Curtain, try to increase regional cooperation with the goal of following other ex-Communist nations into the European Union.

Still, as with the past trials and convictions of other war crimes suspects, including former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the potential for stoking old disputes is high.

“We are not satisfied, because the verdict excludes events from municipalities where crimes had also happened,” Katidza Mehmedovic, a member of the Mothers of Srebrenica, told N1 TV. “We regret that Serbia is not held responsible for those crimes, because it is Serbia that waged war in Bosnia, that used tanks and jets.”

Mladic was removed from the courtroom after he shouted “Lies! Shame on you!” when the court rejected a motion from the defense that the reading of the judgment be halted. Mladic’s lawyers made the motion, arguing that he had suffered a spike in blood pressure and that his health was at risk.

The commander served as the chief of staff of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996.

He went into hiding after the 2000 fall of former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who was also indicted and extradited to the international tribunal. Milosevic died there before a verdict in 2006.

Bosnia is now home to 3.5 million people, about half of them Muslims, 31 percent Serbs and 15 percent Croats, according to a 2013 census.

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