The Hague International Court rejected the appeal of Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladić on Tuesday, meaning that in line with the court’s original sentence, he will spend the rest of his life in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War.
The 78-year-old Mladić began his military career with the Yugoslav People’s Army in the early 1960s, and he was the one who led the Army of the Serbian Republic during the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995.
In the war marred by many outrageous acts, more than 100,000 people were killed and millions were rendered homeless. As the Serbian Army’s Chief of Staff, Mladić led his side’s troops during several deadly campaigns and mass executions, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo, earning the nickname of “the butcher of Bosnia”.
The Croatian government — Croatia was also involved in the conflict on the side opposing Serbia — welcomed the verdict and called it exemplary, but regretted that he had not been held accountable for the war crimes committed in Croatia.
“By this judgment, Ratko Mladić was finally and definitively convicted of one of the most serious and cruel crimes committed with the aim of exterminating Croats and Bosniaks in certain areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the Croatian government said in a statement.
US President Joe Biden said the “historic” verdict shows that perpetrators of horrific crimes will be brought to justice, and it also reaffirms the common determination to prevent atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world in the future.
In a joint statement by Josep Borrell, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Olivér Várhelyi, commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement, the EU said it expects all political actors in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Western Balkans to cooperate fully with international tribunals and respect their decisions as well as recognize their independence and impartiality.
“Genocide, revisionism, and the glorification of war criminals contradict the most fundamental European values,” the statement said. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was relieved to hear the verdict and expressed his conviction that the law had triumphed.
Serbiar Minister of Interior Aleksandar Vulin, however, expressed the view that the International Court of Justice in The Hague was not established to seek justice and bring about peace, but to judge the Serbs, adding that the court fulfilled its purpose.
Title image: An April 12, 1993 file photo of Bosnian Serb army Gen. Ratko Mladic, second from left, accompanied by an aide, and French U.N. security troops arrive at a U.N. sponsored meeting at Sarajevo’s airport. U.N. judges will on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 deliver their final ruling on the conviction of former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during Bosnia’s 1992-95 ethnic carnage. (AP Photo/Michael Stravato, File)