THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Ratko Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, was sentenced Wednesday to life imprisonment after a United Nations special court found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity that it labeled as some of the “most heinous” in human history.
Mladic, 75, was found guilty by the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal of leading forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war — the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, which was Europe’s worst mass killing since World War II.
“The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind,” Presiding Judge Alphons Orie said when reading out the court’s judgment.
Mladic’s lawyers said they planned to appeal.
The convictions were hailed as a victory for international justice by the court’s prosecutor and rights groups.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called Mladic, “the epitome of evil” and described the prosecution as “the epitome of what international justice is all about.”
The verdict, he added, should serve as a warning to other perpetrators of atrocities “that they will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take.
“They will be held accountable.”
A three-judge panel at the court, formally known as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, convicted Mladic of 10 of 11 counts in a dramatic climax to a groundbreaking effort to seek justice for the wars in the former multi-ethnic federation.
Presiding Judge Orie read key parts of the judgment Wednesday after ordering Mladic out of the courtroom for the final verdict over an angry outburst.
Survivors known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, clapped when the convictions were read out.
Mladic’s son Darko dismissed the convictions: “I’m not surprised,” he said. “The court was totally biased from the start.”
Mladic’s son said judges obstructed defense lawyers in presenting evidence exculpating his father.
“This judgment is wrong, it does not achieve anything … and will be an obstacle to future normal life in the region,” he said.
Bosniaks and Serbs watched from near and far as the long-awaited climax approached. Wednesday’s judgment marks the end of the final trial at the tribunal, which was set up in 1993, while fierce fighting was still raging in Bosnia.