UN judges on Tuesday upheld the genocide life sentence of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in the final verdict on Europe’s worst act of bloodshed since World War II.
US President Joe Biden hailed the “historic” confirmation that the man dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia” will spend the rest of his life in jail for the atrocities he oversaw during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
The worst of those was Srebrenica, where Serb forces under Mladic’s command executed 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys who had sought shelter in what was meant to be a UN protected enclave.
Unusually, judge Nyambe dissented to the findings of the majority of the other four judges.
“Mladic ranks among the most notorious war criminals in modern history,” Brammertz said.
– ‘Historic day’ –
“Today is a historic day, not only for us mothers, but also for the whole Balkans, Europe and the world,” said Munira Subasic, president of one of the “Mothers of Srebrenica, who lost her husband Hilmo as well as her son Nermin, aged just 16.
Mladic’s son Darko dismissed the verdict.
Mladic was the military face of a brutal trio led on the political side by ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic as the former Yugoslavia descended into carnage after the fall of communism.
At the genocide memorial near Srebrenica, a giant screen broadcast witness testimony ahead of the verdict, near the lines of white headstones where the bodies of some 6,600 identified victims were laid to rest.
– ‘Prevent future atrocities’ –
“This historic judgment shows that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable,” Biden said in a statement. “It also reinforces our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world.”
The ruling was also welcomed across Europe, which watched in ineffectual horror as the Balkans wars raged on its doorstep in the 1990s.
Following his capture a decade ago, Mladic was put on trial and finally found guilty in 2017 of genocide for personally overseeing the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Mladic was also found guilty of orchestrating a wider campaign of “ethnic cleansing” to drive Muslims and Bosnians out of key areas to create a Greater Serbia.
Mladic insisted throughout the trial and appeal process that he was not guilty of genocide or war crimes.
His lawyers argued he was far from the scene at the time of the killings in Srebrenica and that he could not be held responsible for the crimes of his subordinates.
Originally published as ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Mladic’s life sentence upheld