UN judges to rule on Ratko Mladic appeal against convictions

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic will hear Tuesday if U.N. judges have upheld or overturned his convictions and life sentence for masterminding genocide and other atrocities throughout Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

Mladic, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” for leading troops responsible for a string of deadly campaigns including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo, was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The verdicts in the appeal case will all but wrap up U.N. prosecutions of crimes committed in the war that killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless.

Mladic, 79, was found guilty of genocide for leading the 1995 massacre in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys. It was the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.

Widows and mothers of Srebrenica victims began gathering outside the court in the Dutch city of The Hague hours before the judgment that will be delivered by a five-judge panel led by Zambian Presiding Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe.

Mladic also was found guilty of other crimes including persecution, extermination, murder and terror. He was acquitted of a second genocide charge linked to a campaigns to drive non-Serbs out of several Bosnian towns early in the war. Prosecutors appealed that acquittal.

Mladic's former political leader, Radovan Karadzic, also was convicted of the same crimes and is serving a life sentence.

Mladic was first indicted in July 1995. After the war in Bosnia ended, he went into hiding and was finally arrested in 2011 and handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia by the then-ruling pro-Western government of Serbia.

The U.N. tribunal has since shut its doors. Mladic's appeal and other legal issues left over from the tribunal are being dealt with by the U.N.'s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which is housed in the same building as the now-defunct court for the former Yugoslavia.

Mladic and his legacy still divide Bosnia. Bosniaks, mostly Muslims, view him as a villain and war criminal while many Bosnian Serbs still consider him a hero.

“I cannot accept any verdict,” Serb war veteran Milije Radovic from the eastern Bosnian town of Foca told The Associated Press. “For me, he is an icon. And for the Serb people, he is an icon.”

But the shadow of Mladic and Karadzic spreads far beyond the Balkans.

They even have been revered by foreign far-right supporters for their bloody wartime campaigns against Bosniaks.

The Australian who shot dead dozens of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 was believed to be inspired by the wartime Bosnian Serb leaders, as well as Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who shot dead 77 people in Norway in 2011.


Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed.

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