After a trial lasting more than five years, former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, age 74, is finally being punished for his campaign of ethical cleansing during the civil war that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995.
Nicknamed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” Mladic led Bosnian Serb forces against Bosnian Croat and Bosniak armies during the Bosnian War, an international conflict that killed 100,000 and displaced over 2 million.
Mladic has been convicted for his leadership role in the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, when up to 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were rounded up and murdered. Mladic also played a significant role in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, which is the longest siege of any capital city in the history of modern warfare. The siege, which lasted three times longer than the Battle of Stalingrad, caused an estimated 10,000 deaths.
Mladic’s troops have been accused of crimes including:
• Mass rape
• Abuse of Bosniak prisoners
• Terrorizing civilians in Sarajevo
• Destruction of homes and mosques
Mladic spent 16 years in hiding before he was finally tracked down in northern Serbia in 2011. He has been on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia since 2012.
The 530-day trial involved 169 prosecution witnesses, 208 defense witnesses, and over 9,900 pieces of evidence. Mladic was charged with nine crimes against humanity and two counts of genocide. He was found guilty on 10 of the 11 charges.
Mladic will be remembered “for the many communities and lives he destroyed,” said prosecutor Serge Brammertz. “Today’s judgment is a milestone in the tribunal’s history and for international justice.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who has referred to Mladic as the “epitome of evil,” said the commander “presided over some of the darkest crimes to occur in Europe since WWII” and his “conviction is a testament to the courage and determination of those victims and witnesses who never gave up hope that they would see him brought to justice.”
Victims and their relatives watching the verdict erupted in cheers when the final sentence was announced on Wednesday.
In a summary of the verdict, Judge Alphons Orie said Mladic’s crimes “rank among the most heinous known to humankind, and include genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.” Mladic was not present in the courtroom at the time, having been removed earlier for shouting at the judges.
Mladic, who labeled the court “satanic” and called the charges against him “lies,” is almost certain to appeal the ruling.