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Bosnian Serb Commander Mladic Convicted Of Genocide, Sentenced To Life In Prison


A UN tribunal has sentenced former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment after convicting him of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

The court in The Hague on November 22 convicted Mladic on 10 of the 11 counts he faced.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein hailed the verdict as a "momentous victory for justice," calling Mladic the "epitome of evil."

Mladic was found guilty of commanding forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of the war — the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Presiding Judge Alphons Orie read out the judgment after ordering Mladic out of the courtroom over an outburst.

"They are lying; you are lying. I don't feel well," Mladic shouted, before being hustled out of the courtroom by two UN security guards.

WATCH: Minutes before he was found guilty, Ratko Mladic began a tirade as his lawyer requested a delay due to his high blood pressure. (Reuters)

Mladic was acquitted on one count of genocide linked to ethnic purges in Bosnian towns and villages.

His lawyers said they would appeal the ruling. "It is certain we will file an appeal and the appeal will be successful," attorney Dragan Ivetic told journalists

The chief prosecutor of the UN tribunal said the ruling was not a verdict against all Serbian people. "Mladic's guilt is his and his alone," prosecutor Serge Brammertz said.

Serbian nationalists portray the tribunal as anti-Serb because most of the people it has convicted were Serbs.

End Of The Road

Barring appeals, Mladic's verdict will be the last to come down from the tribunal, which was established at The Hague in 1993 to prosecute crimes committed in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

Mladic, 75, called the "Butcher of Bosnia" by his enemies, was accused of genocide for organizing the summary execution of some 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, which has been called the worst atrocity to be committed in Europe since the Holocaust.

WATCH: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague has restated its judgement that the mass killings in Srebrenica in 1995 constituted a genocide. (Reuters)

Welcoming the verdict, Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic said in a statement that it "confirmed that war criminals cannot escape justice regardless of how long they hide."

The United States said it "respects" the tribunal’s ruling and urged people in the Balkan region to "build a better future."

"We will continue to commemorate the victims of the horrific crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia," a U.S. State Department spokesman said.

"We urge the countries and peoples of the region to refrain from divisive rhetoric and work together to build a better future for the entire region," the spokesman added.

In a statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the ruling "shows that the rule of law is working."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said conviction shows that "those who perpetrate atrocities cannot outrun justice."

Kosovo's Foreign Ministry said the verdict marked an act of "international justice and satisfaction for the Bosnia war victims."

The ministry said Kosovo's own ethnic Albanian population, like Bosnians, suffered at the hands of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his generals, who it said "applied in Kosovo, too, all the forms of crimes described in the charges against Mladic."

Kosovo was previously a province of Serbia that declared independence in 2008.

Serbian President Alksandar Vucic said he was not surprised by the verdict, adding that "all of us knew what will be the outcome."

But Vucic -- a former ultranationalist who supported Mladic's war campaigns and who now says he's a pro-EU reformer -- urged "citizens of Serbia to look to the future."

The EU said it could not comment specifically on the judgment but that it fully respects the court's decisions.

It said the verdict "touches upon some of the darkest, most tragic events" in the recent history of the Western Balkans and Europe.

Given the gravity of the alleged offenses, Mladic's case became one of the highest-profile war crimes trials since the Nuremberg trials of Germany's Nazi leadership after World War II.

In Srebrenica, prosecutors say Mladic's soldiers pushed past Dutch UN peacekeepers before separating the males for execution and putting the elderly, women, and children on buses and trucks to Bosniak-controlled territory.

The men and boys were marched away, shot in the back, and dumped in mass graves. The remains of about 6,900 of the victims have been identified through DNA analysis, but many are considered still missing decades later.

In 2007, the tribunal ruled the massacre was genocide carried out by Bosnian Serb forces.

Prosecutors said the ultimate plan pursued by Mladic, Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was to purge Bosnia of non-Serbs -- in what became known as "ethnic cleansing" -- and carve out a "Greater Serbia" in what had been Yugoslavia.

WATCH: Sarajevo residents who lost their children in the siege of Sarajevo expressed mixed feelings after Mladic was given life imprisonment for genocide and other war crimes. They came together to watch the verdict on TV, more than 20 years after the conflict in Bosnia. (RFE/RL's Balkan Service)

Other counts against Mladic include persecutions, murder, torture, rape, extermination, the shelling and sniping of Sarajevo, deportations, terrorism, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

The tribunal filed charges against Mladic in 1995, but he remained in hiding in Serbia until Belgrade arrested him and handed him over in May 2011.

A survivor of multiple strokes, Mladic was visibly frail when the trial began in 2012. His defense attorneys raised his health as an issue throughout the trial.

The tribunal in 2016 found Mladic's political chief, Karadzic, guilty of similar charges, including genocide, and sentenced him to 40 years in prison. He has appealed.

Milosevic died in his cell in The Hague in 2006, and his trial ended without a verdict.

With reporting by Tony Wesolowsky, dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP, and Euronews
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