UN court upholds life sentence for Ratko Mladic over Bosnian genocide, war crimes

A UN court in The Hague on Tuesday upheld a 2017 life sentence for former Serb commander Ratko Mladic for his role in the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals rejected his appeal against 2017 convictions for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Mladić, 79, known as “the Butcher of Bosnia”, presided over some of the most horrific crimes to occur in Europe since the Second World War.

He commanded violent ethnic cleansing campaigns across Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995, including the July 1995 massacre of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica.

Mladic joins his former political master, ex-Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, in serving a life sentence for masterminding ethnic bloodshed in the Bosnian war that left more than 100,000 dead and millions homeless.

Photo: Anadolu Agency

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has taken note of the court’s decision and his thoughts are with the victims, survivors and their families, according to a statement issued by his Spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric.

It said the UN chief “calls on all those in position of power to refrain from denying the seriousness of the crimes that have been adjudicated and notes that accountability constitutes an essential step for reconciliation in the region.”

This final judgement is also a reflection of the global community’s commitment to international criminal justice and the fight against impunity.

“It is another vital step towards coming to terms with the past to build a more resilient, secure and hopeful future for all citizens and residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region,” the statement said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, alongside the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, have welcomed the ruling.

“The Mechanism’s verdict highlights the determination of the international justice system to ensure accountability no matter how long it may take – in Mladić’s case, nearly three decades after he committed his appalling crimes,” Bachelet said.

Nderitu added that the court’s decision “provides historical certainty and finality” for victims and survivors.

“It also sends a hugely important message throughout the Western Balkans where we see genocide denial and the glorification of convicted criminals such as Mladić not only persisting but increasing,” she said.

They urged elected and public officials across the region, as well as media, to refrain from revisionist narratives, divisive rhetoric and incitement to hatred, pointing out that posters and other materials that glorify war criminals continue to appear in various towns across Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Mladić’s crimes were the abhorrent culmination of hatred stoked for political gain. Today’s decision is about his individual responsibility for his dreadful acts, not about collective punishment or apportioning guilt to any particular community,” Bachelet said.

“I urge Governments and elected and public officials to strive for justice for all victims and survivors of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, to assuage – rather than aggravate – the region’s open wounds, and to foster reconciliation and long-lasting peace. Only by honestly addressing the past can a country strive to create an inclusive future and build accountable institutions for all its citizens.”