Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was yesterday (22 November) convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the 1990s Bosnian war by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Known as the “Butcher of Bosnia”, Ratko Mladic was in charge of the forces that perpetrated the killings of more than 8,000 Muslim men by the Bosnian Serb Army – an event that in 2005 then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described as the worst crime on the European soil since the Second World War.
The former Bosnian Serb military commander was tracked down and arrested in 2011 after 16 years spent in hiding. He had been living in obscurity in Serbia initially protected by Serb security services and the army and later by family. Mladic was convicted on 10 of the 11 charges. Troops led by his command committed mass rapes of Bosniak women and girls, kept Bosniak prisoners in appalling conditions, causing starvation, deporting Bosniak forcibly en masse, destroying mosques and Bosniak’s homes and terrorizing civilians in Sarajevo by shelling and sniping at them. Sarajevo was a place of a brutal siege in 1992-1995 in which the Bosnian Serb forces fired mortars and rockets down into the city on civilians from the surrounding hills.
Ratko Mladic was not present in court when the sentence was read out after he had been removed for shouting at the judges. “It’s a lie. Everything you said in this courtroom is a lie,” he said. Meanwhile, Kofi Annan wrote on the occasion of the 10th anniversary commemoration that, while blame lay “first and foremost with those who planned and carried out the massacre and those who assisted and harbored them”, the UN had “made serious errors of judgement, rooted in a philosophy of impartiality”, describing Srebrenica as a tragedy that would haunt the history of the UN forever.