‘Butcher of the Balkans’ Ratko Mladic to face verdict next month for war crimes and genocide

He has denied 11 charges arising from an alleged ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing to create a Greater Serbia in the 1990s

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 7:40pm

UN judges will next month deliver a long-awaited verdict against former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, accused of war crimes and genocide during the Balkans conflicts, the court announced on Wednesday.

The case of the feared military commander dubbed “the Butcher of the Balkans” is the last before the Yugoslav war crimes court set up at the height of the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict.

“The pronouncement of the judgment in this case shall take place on Wednesday November 22 at 10am,” the presiding judge Alphons Orie said in a statement.

Mladic, 74, has denied 11 war crimes charges arising from an alleged ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing to create a Greater Serbia in the 1990s wars.

More than 100,000 people died and 2.2 million others were left homeless during the Bosnian war, one of several conflicts which erupted in the death throes of the former Yugoslavia.

Genocide trial of Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic enters its final stage

Mladic is notably accused at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of being behind the punishing 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, which claimed an estimated 10,000 lives in a relentless campaign of shelling and sniping.

He has also been charged with genocide for his role in the 1995 killing of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, Europe’s worst bloodshed since the second world war.

After living openly in Serbia despite an international arrest warrant against him, Mladic was finally captured in 2011 after 16 years on the run and transferred to a UN detention centre in The Hague, where the tribunal is based.

His trial opened in May 2012 and lasted until December 2016, when prosecutors in their closing arguments urged the judges to jail Mladic for life.

But his defence lawyer Branko Lukic argued that Mladic was “an innocent man”, and he “is not a monster, he was a soldier defending against a monster, that was the Islamic war machine”.

The tribunal is wrapping up its final cases after concluding proceedings for 154 of the 161 people indicted for their roles in the wars.

After more than two decades in operation, it closes its doors on December 31. A new mechanism known as the MICT has been set up in the same building in The Hague by the UN to handle all appeals and lingering issues arising from the Balkans wars.