Ratko Mladic, confirmed life sentence for «the butcher from Bosnia

No acquittal, no postponement, no repetition of the trial. Ratko Mladic was also sentenced to life imprisonment on appeal. This is the decision taken today 8 June against the former Serbian general or, as he is called by many, the “butcher of Bosnia”. A sentence issued by the jury, composed of five judges and led by Prisca Matimba Nyambe, of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which since 2018 has replaced the post of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The main accusation against Mladic is that he ordered the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, the largest massacre in Europe after the Second World War, in which more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnians (or Bosniaks) were executed.

Srebrenica 1995, chronicle of a massacre

But the list of crimes for which he had already been convicted in the first instance, in November 2017, is long. Mladic was in command of the Army Staff of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia (Republika Srpska) from 1992 to 1996, right in the period of the terrible war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ex-military’s shoulders are burdened by the violence committed during the 43 months of the siege of Sarajevo, the persecution of Croats and Muslims, the mass murder, the murders, the deportations, the forced displacements, the violent attacks on civilians and the kidnapping of hostages.

After the accusations of those years by the ICTY, he began his hiding, which lasted 16 years. Only on May 26, 2011 was he stopped in the small town of Lazarevo, north of Belgrade, hidden in the house of his cousin and a few days later he was extradited to The Hague. An essential step requested more or less directly from Brussels, to meet the aspirations of Boris Tadic’s Serbia for integration into the European Union. It took six and a half years to reach the first degree sentence, with Mladic then appealing.

A parable similar to that of the other symbolic figure of the war in Bosnia: the president of the Serbian entity Radovan Karadzic, captured in Belgrade in 2008 after years of flight and extradited. Karadzic is also convicted of war crimes in 2017 and for being the real creator of the genocide and planner of ethnic cleansing.

Serbian society, at the time of Mladic’s arrest and his first conviction, split apart. Even today a significant slice of the population, especially in the Srpska Republic, praises him, considering him a hero, “a fighter for freedom” as his son Darko defined him after his arrest. In Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian entity, a banner was displayed in these hours which reads: “We do not recognize the judgments of the Hague Tribunal, you are the pride of the Srpska Republic”. The public opinion in Bosnia and Herzegovina was in a completely different mood as it awaited the sentence with optimism.

On the eve of the verdict of 8 June, the hopes of his lawyer, Branko Lukic, had emerged: «I expect acquittal or at least a repeat of the trial, if the judges on appeal have examined our arguments. If so, I have no doubt that the decision will be changed, ”the lawyer said. And of the same opinion was Mladic’s son, Darko, who flew to the Netherlands to watch the session live and to have a brief meeting with his father. The 51-year-old had wished “greater professional integrity of the judges”.

On the other hand, several family members, mothers and wives of the victims of Srebrenica also attended during the final phase of the trial. The prosecution asked that Mladic also be convicted of genocide for some atrocities that took place in six Bosnian areas, charges from which he was innocent in 2017. But the sentence, which came months late due to Mladic’s health conditions and pandemic restrictions, confirmed the first degree sentence of four years ago, rejecting the appeal. The former soldier will remain in prison for life.

Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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