LIFE SENTENCE FOR RATKO MLADIC
Former VRS Main Staff commander was found guilty today of the part he had played in four joint criminal enterprises and was sentenced to life in prison. The accused was removed from court while the judgment summary was read out because he loudly complained and cursed the judges. The prosecutor is happy with the sentence Mladic received for the 'most heinous crimes known to humanity', while the defense vows to fight on in the appellate proceedings
Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Republika Srpska Army Main Staff was found guilty today on 10 out of 11 counts in the indictment which charged him with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war. Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment, the severest punishment available to the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The judges described the crimes he was convicted of as being 'among the most heinous crimes known to humanity'.
Mladic was acquitted only on Count 1 in the indictment, charging him with genocide in six municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. Although the majority in the Chamber found that the perpetrators of crimes in Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Foca, as well as some of the perpetrators in Kotor Varos and Prijedor had the genocidal intent to destroy Bosnian Muslims. The Trial Chamber concluded that their attacks 'targeted a relatively small part of the protected group', rather than its 'substantial part', which is a requisite element of the crime of genocide. In his statement after the verdict, the Tribunal's chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz hailed this finding as 'an important new conclusion'.
Mladic was found guilty on all the counts in the indictment, except for Count 1. In the remaining 10 counts he was charged with and convicted of the Srebrenica genocide, persecution, extermination, murders and inhumane treatment of the non-Serb population in 12 municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina that had been ethnically cleansed, the terror campaign and unlawful attacks on civilian residents of Sarajevo and taking UN hostages. All these crimes were committed within four separate but interconnected joint criminal enterprises. As the judges concluded, Ratko Mladic was one of key participants in the enterprises. Other participants included Radovan Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic and other Bosnian Serb political and military leaders.
The delivery of the last trial judgment at the Tribunal, in the case against one of the first persons to be indicted by it (we recall that Mladic was indicted as early as in May 1995) did not proceed smoothly. Despite the alarmist noises made by his defense lawyers prior to the hearing that Mladic might not be able to attend because of ill health, Mladic appeared in court today. He seemed to be in better form physically than at his initial appearance at the Tribunal on 3 June 2011. After 45 minutes of reading the judgment summary, the defense asked for a five-minute recess, which stretched to almost an hour. When the court reconvened, defense counsel Dragan Ivetich stated that the defendant's blood pressure had been measured during the break: it was so high that there was a risk of fatal consequences. He asked for the reading of the judgment to be suspended, or for the judges to move on to the actual verdict and sentence. The judges conferred briefly and then rejected the request, whereupon Mladic leapt from his seat in the dock, shouting, 'these are all lies' and went on to curse the judges. After the accused refused to sit down, the judges ordered the guards to remove him from the courtroom and then continued reading the summary of the judgment.
In his statement after the hearing, Chief Prosecutor Brammertz categorically rejected claims made by some Republika Srpska politicians and defense lawyers that Ratko Mladic's guilty verdict is in fact 'a verdict against the Serb people'. 'Mladić's guilt is his, and his alone,' the chief prosecutor stressed.
Noting that some people 'will say that Mladić is a hero and was defending his people', Brammertz stressed that the judgment rendered today clearly shows that 'nothing could be further from the truth'. As the chief prosecutor said, 'Mladic will be remembered by history for the many communities and lives he destroyed'.
Mladic's defense lawyers for their part insisted that the Tribunal had failed to deliver justice for the Serb victims, that the accused general had not received a fair trial, that they consider this to be only the end of the first half and that they are determined to fight on in the appellate proceedings.