The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sentenced Ratko Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb general, to life in prison.
The decision was announced on Wednesday by Judge Alphons Orie. The UN tribunal at The Hague found Mladic guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war during the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) from 1992 until 1995.
He was also found guilty of “persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer.”
Mladic had managed to escape prosecution for 16 years until his arrest in Serbia in May 2011 and extradition to The Hague.
“Circumstances were brutal; those who tried to defend their homes were met with ruthless force. Mass executions occurred and some victims succumbed after being beaten. Many of the perpetrators who had captured Bosnian Muslims, showed little or no respect for human life or dignity,” the judge said.
The trial began in May 2012 and the hearing of evidence lasted for over four years.
Ratko Mladić was chief of staff of Bosnian Serb forces from 1992 until 1996, during the civil wars and ethnic cleansing that followed the break-up of the Yugoslav state.
Mladic’s defense team to appeal life sentence
The defense team of Ratko Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb general, plans to file an appeal against the verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, lawyer Dragan Ivetic said on Wednesday.
“The appeal will be lodged, and we hope that during the consideration of the appeal, the mistakes made by the court will be rectified,” Ivetic said.
The lawyer also expressed “serious concerns” over the health of Mladic, 75, who won’t be able to get the necessary medical assistance in the ICTY’s prison.
Mladic’s son Darko told TASS the sentence “came as no surprise.” “We will appeal against the verdict, we view it as the first half.”
He also called to allow doctors examine his father in December. The ICTY had earlier delayed this possible visit for several months.
Darko Mladic also said that the former Bosnian Serb commander accused the court of lying.
“General Mladic expected this [the politically motivated trial] and stated in the courtroom that everything they said was a lie. He expressed his stance saying: ‘All that is a lie. This is a NATO-style trial,” his son quoted him as saying.
General Mladic made this statement after the court rejected his defense attorney’s request to interrupt or shorten the pronouncement of the verdict because of the defendant’s hypertensive crisis.
Immediately after Mladic’s remarks, the judicial panel decided to expel him from the courtroom. The verdict was pronounced in his absence.
The tribunal refused to adjourn or cut short the procedure of delivering the verdict for Mladic, who suffered a hypertensic crisis during the session. The lawyer complained to the judges about his client’s health, but they decided to continue reading the verdict.
While the West has proclaimed the general as a war criminal, many people in Serbia and the Republika Srpska think he is a national hero.
“Mladic fulfilled his duty very professionally. Ratko Mladic remains a legend in Serbia, a person who used all his human and professional qualities to defend the Serb people,” said Milorad Dodik, President of the Republika Srpska (now part of Bosnia and Herzegovina).