Mladić’s genocide and war crimes conviction

By Mariane Gravelle November 23, 201723 November 2017

Mladić’s genocide and war crimes conviction

Former Commander of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) Ratko Mladić, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” has been convicted of one count of genocide and nine counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. The verdict, handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Trial Chamber I, carries a sentence of life imprisonment for Mladić.  Here is the statement from the ICTY:

Mladić was convicted of genocide and persecution, extermination, murder, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer in the area of Srebrenica in 1995; of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation and inhumane act of forcible transfer in municipalities throughout [Bosnia and Herzegovina, or “BiH”]; of murder, terror and unlawful attacks on civilians in Sarajevo; and of hostage-taking of UN personnel. He was acquitted of the charge of genocide in several municipalities in BiH in 1992.

The Overarching JCE [or “joint criminal entreprises”], which existed between 1991 and November 1995, had the objective of permanently removing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory through the commission of crimes in municipalities throughout BiH (Municipalities). The Chamber found that the evidence did not support a finding that the crime of genocide formed part of the objective of the Overarching JCE.


Mladić was instrumental to the commission of these crimes, the Chamber found, so much so that without his acts - they would not have been committed as they were.

Mladić’s conviction is the result of a five-year trial during which the Chamber “sat for 530 trial days and received the evidence of 592 witnesses and nearly 10,000 exhibits. The Chamber also took judicial notice of approximately 2,000 adjudicated facts. The closing arguments were held from 5 to 15 December 2016.”

The trial marks the end of the ICTY, a United Nations tribunal established in 1993 to prosecute the authors of crimes perpetrated during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s. During its tenure, the tribunal indicted 161 individuals for serious violations of humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001 —155 of which are concluded. Proceedings against six accused are still underway.

In a statement issued yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who served in the UN Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia from 1994 to 1996, declared that

“Mladić presided over some of the darkest crimes to occur in Europe since World War II, bringing terror, death and destruction to thousands of victims, and sorrow, tragedy and trauma to countless more. 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”.

Zeid hailed the verdict as a warning to other perpetrators of similar crimes that they will be brought to justice and held accountable, no matter how much power they may yield or how long it might take.

An outburst from Mladić, during the summation of the case, saw him decry the discourse as “pure lies”. Both parties have a right to appeal the verdict. A future appeal would be heard by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT).


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