The UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found the 74-year-old guilty of 10 of 11 charges on Wednesday, including the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarejevo, in which more than 10,000 civilians died.
Minutes before the verdict Mladic was hustled out of the court for angry shouting, “This is all lies, you are all liars!” Mladic’s outburst came after he returned to the courtroom from what his lawyers described as a visit to the bathroom, then a blood pressure test which held up proceedings.
The killings in Srebrenica of men and boys after they were separated from women and taken away in buses or marched off to be shot amounted to Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.
“The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind, and include genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity,” Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said in reading out a summary of the judgment.
“Many of these men and boys were cursed, insulted, threatened, forced to sing Serb songs and beaten while awaiting their execution,” he said.
Mladic had pleaded not guilty to all charges. His legal team said he would appeal against the verdict.
Called the “Butcher of Bosnia” by survivors of his actions, Mladic was the most notorious of 163 ICTY indictees together with Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb nationalist leader and political mastermind of ethnic cleansing, and their patron, then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
The tribunal found Mladic “significantly contributed” to genocide committed in Srebrenica with the goal of destroying its Muslim population, “personally directed” the bombardment of Sarajevo and was part of a “joint criminal enterprise” aimed at purging Bosnian Muslims and Catholic Croats from Bosnia.
Prosecutors said the ultimate agenda of Mladic, Karadzic and Milosevic was what came to be known worldwide as ethnic cleansing, to carve out an Orthodox “Greater Serbia” in the ashes of multinational federal Yugoslavia.
ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz called the verdict “a milestone” in holding Mladic accountable not just for massacres but the detention of tens of thousands of non-Serbs in camps where many were beaten and raped, and the forced displacement of over one million to remake Bosnia’s demographic map.
The Mladic case is the last major decision by the ICTY, which plans to close its doors soon after sentencing 83 Balkan war criminals since opening in 1993.
In Geneva, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called Mladic the “epitome of evil” and said his conviction after 16 years as an indicted fugitive and five years of trial was a “momentous victory for justice”.
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