The guilty verdict passed down on Ratko Mladic for war crimes at The Hague Wednesday is one of the final acts of an international tribunal set up in 1993 to punish atrocities committed during the Bosnian war.
Known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” Mladic, now 74, is one of the most notorious figures from the 1992-1995 conflict, having led Bosnian Serb troops during the four-year siege of Sarajevo and the massacre at Srebrenica.
He did not take the sentencing well. As the judge read his verdict, Mladic demanded a toilet break, during which his blood pressure was taken three times before the defense counsel asked for the hearing to be suspended.
When the judge declined, Mladic stood up and shouted, “shame on you” and “it’s a lie.” The judge ordered Mladic removed from court, forcing him to watch the sentence of life in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity on television in a side room.
Along with the former Serbian President and convicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic, Mladic symbolized the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing that slaughtered tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims, known as Bosniaks, and left millions displaced.
Mladic’s most egregious act was the massacre at the village of Srebrenica in July 1995, where some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were summarily executed — Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
The killings were carried out in a systematic manner over several days from July 12 to 17, 1995, Judge Alphons Orie said.
“The Bosnian Serb forces tried to hide the [Srebrenica] crime, by digging up and reburying Bosniak victims in mass graves,” the judge said. “Their attempt ultimately failed.”
Watching from a memorial centre near the village, families of the victims wept openly as the court found Mladic guilty of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and the inhumane act of forcible transfer.
Mladic was finally arrested in 2011 having spent 16 years on the run. He was found living in squalor at his cousin’s house in a small village on the border between Serbia and Romania.
What you need to know:
- 100,000 — the estimated death toll with 80 percent of the victims Bosniaks
- 2.2 million — the number of people displaced during the three-year conflict
- 12,000-20,000 — the estimated number of Bosniak women raped by Serb militants
- 530 — The number of days the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sat to hear the case against Mladic
- 10,000 — The number of exhibits the court was shown during the trial
- 591 — the number of witnesses heard by the judges
After almost a quarter of a century, the Mladic verdict is one of the last to be handed down by the ICTY, which has now convicted 84 people. It is due to close at the end of this month.