Ratko Mladic, the 'Butcher of Bosnia', jailed for war crimes

  • 23/11/2017

Former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic will appeal his conviction and life sentence after a UN war crimes tribunal found him guilty of genocide.

"It is certain we will file an appeal and the appeal will be successful," attorney Dragan Ivetic told journalists after the Wednesday ruling.

Mladic, 74, was hustled out of the court minutes before the verdict for screaming "this is all lies, you are all liars" after returning from what his son described as a blood pressure test which delayed the announcement of the judgement.

The three-judge panel 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 judgement on Wednesday, saying: "The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind."

Mladic was charged with genocide for the slaughter of 8000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and boys rounded up in the town of Srebrenica, and his forces' 43-month-long siege of Sarajevo in which thousands of civilians were killed by artillery, mortar, tank and sniper fire from the rugged hills ringing the capital.

Mothers of Srebrenica's victims clapped when the convictions were read out. Mladic's son Darko said: "I'm not surprised. The court was totally biased from the start."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein hailed the conviction as a "momentous victory for justice".

In a statement, he said Mladic is "the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about".

"Mladic presided over some of the darkest crimes to occur in Europe since World War II, bringing terror, death and destruction to thousands of victims, and sorrow, tragedy and trauma to countless more.

"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. They will be held accountable."

Ratko Mladic in 2017.
Ratko Mladic in 2017. Photo credit: Reuters

How Mladic was brought to justice

July 25, 1995 - The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicts Mladic and wartime Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic.

November 21, 1995 - The United States brokers the Dayton Accords that formally end Europe's worst conflict since World War II, with 100,000 dead and 2 million homeless.

2000 - Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic toppled. Successors hand the former strongman over to the ICTY in 2001.

2006 - A Serbian military intelligence report discloses that Mladic was using army premises until mid-2002. The EU suspends talks on relations with Serbia over its failure to arrest war crimes fugitives. Milosevic dies in prison before his trial is completed.

2008 - Serbian authorities arrest a disguised Karadzic and extradite him to the ICTY in The Hague.

2010 - Mladic's family launch court proceedings in Serbia to declare him dead, saying he had been in poor health and they had had no contact with him for over five years.

May 2011 - Mladic is arrested in northern Serbia and extradited to the ICTY.

June 3, 2011 - Mladic calls the charges against him "obnoxious" and "monstrous words". He declines to enter a plea, saying he needs more time to study the charges.

July 4, 2011 - Judge Alphons Orie removes Mladic from the courtroom after he refuses to listen to the charges. Orie enters a not-guilty plea on Mladic's behalf on all 11 charges against him.

2012 - Mladic's trial begins.

2013 - Mladic is removed from court for challenging harrowing testimony from a survivor of the July 1995 massacre in Srebrenica of 8000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces.

January 28, 2014 - January 28 - Mladic appears as a witness against his will in the trial of Karadzic and sidesteps questions from his old ally.

April 5, 2014 - The ICTY upholds a life sentence against Zdravko Tolimir, the former head of intelligence who reported directly to Mladic, for genocide over Srebrenica.

March 24, 2016 - The ICTY convicts Karadzic of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre and sentences him to 40 years.

December 2016 - Closing arguments in Mladic's trial.

2017 - Convicted of 10 of 11 charges and sentenced to life in prison.

Locals celebrate the conviction.
Locals in Srebrenica celebrate the conviction. Photo credit: Reuters

What he did

Mladic was a general in the old communist Yugoslav People's Army when the multinational Balkan republic began to disintegrate in 1991 with the secession of Slovenia and Croatia.

When Bosnia's Serbs rose up in response to a referendum for independence by Muslims and Croats, Mladic took over Belgrade's forces in Bosnia which swiftly overran 70 percent of the country.

Serb paramilitaries entered the conflict with a campaign of murder, rape, mutilation and expulsion mainly against Bosnian Muslims. Dozens of towns were besieged with heavy weapons and villages were burned down as 22,000 UN peacekeeping troops stood by more or less helplessly, with orders not to take sides.

Mladic had a cameraman film the blitz of the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, showing him bronzed and fit at 53, extolling his "lads" and haranguing hapless Dutch UN peacekeepers who took his soldier's word that the inhabitants would be safe.

Instead, 8000 were systematically executed in July 1995.

The massacre was the grim culmination of a three-year conflict in which the beefy general had pounded Sarajevo, killing more than 11,000 people.

His goal, prosecutors said, was ethnic cleansing - the forcible extermination or expulsion of Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs to clear Bosnian lands for a "Greater Serbia".

Only a combination of Western pressure and covert American arms and training for Croats and Muslims turned the tide in 1995. NATO air strikes did the rest.

Mladic spent only half his time at large as a hunted fugitive. Even after Milosevic fell to a pro-democracy uprising in 2000, Mladic remained protected until 2005.

He received treatment at a top military hospital. Sporadic sightings put him at a Belgrade horse race or football match.

Most Bosnian Serbs remain convinced that Mladic is innocent, and that the tribunal is utterly biased against them. Of the 83 defendants the ICTY has convicted, more than 60 are Serbs.