The United Nations Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in The Hague has sentenced former Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic to life in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity between 1992 and 1995, during the Yugoslavia civil war.
In particular, the court found that Mladic was guilty of ‘genocide and persecution, extermination, murder, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer in the area of Srebrenica in 1995’. Some 8,000 men and boys in the town were massacred when it was over-run by Mladic’s forces in 1995. Srebrenica was under the protection of Dutch UN troops at the time.
‘Circumstances were brutal; those who tried to defend their homes were met with ruthless force. Mass executions occurred and some victims succumbed after being beaten. Many of the perpetrators who had captured Bosnian Muslims, showed little or no respect for human life or dignity,’ said presiding judge Alphons Orie.
Mladic was removed from the courtroom half way through the verdict after calling for the tribunal’s findings to be either halted or speeded up because of his high blood pressure. When the court refused to agree, he began screaming and was taken to another room where he was able to follow proceedings.
Mladic was arrested and brought to the Netherlands in 2011. His trial has taken 530 days spread over more than four years, it heard 591 witnesses and examined nearly 10,000 pieces of evidence concerning 106 crimes.
Dutch foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra said: ‘I welcome the ruling against Ratko Mladic. The war in Yugoslavia and the crimes in Srebrenica have left irreversible scars. I hope this verdict helps the next of kin to deal with their loss and suffering.’
Wednesday’s verdict helps close one of the most painful chapters in Dutch post war military history, but several other court cases involving the Dutch courts are still ongoing.
This June, the Dutch state was found partly liable for the death of over 300 Muslim men who died in the massacre of Srebrenica by appeal court judges in The Hague.
The 300 men and boys were inside the Dutch military base in the Muslim enclave when it was over-run by Bosnian Serb forces and now the Dutch state must pay their relatives compensation, the court said.
However, the Netherlands was not found to be responsible for the death of 7,000 plus other men and boys who were outside the compound. The court said it would have been impossible for Dutch soldiers to have protected them when the Bosnian Serb forces began to round them up.
Meanwhile, some 180 more Dutch army veterans have joined the fight for compensation from the state for sending them on ‘an impossible mission’ in Srebrenica.
The soldiers were serving in the Dutch battalion Dutchbat III to protect the Muslim enclave.
The veterans claim the Dutch government could have known the mission was impossible to execute and say the outside world has blamed them for not being able to prevent the massacre. This has caused them social, emotional and financial damage for which they now seek compensation.
Read the complete tribunal ruling (in English)