Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic has been jailed for life for genocide and other atrocities in the 1990s Bosnian war.
Known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” Mladic led forces during the massacre of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo.
Mladic, 74, was not in court when the sentence was read out. He had been removed for shouting at the judges. “It’s a lie. Everything you said in this courtroom is a lie,” he said.
Mladic has denied all the charges and his lawyer said he would appeal.
Mladic was the military commander of Bosnian Serb forces against Bosnian Croat and Bosnian Muslim armies. He had been on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) since 2012.
It found that Mladic “significantly contributed” to the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, where more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.
He was cleared of a second count of genocide in other municipalities. The other charges included war crimes and crimes against humanity.
At the end of the war in 1995 Mladic went into hiding and lived in obscurity in Serbia, protected by family and elements of the security forces. He was finally tracked down and arrested at a cousin’s house in rural northern Serbia in 2011 after 16 years on the run.
Victims and their relatives watched the verdict in a memorial centre near Srebrenica, and erupted in cheers as it was read out. The group Mothers of Srebrenica said it was partially satisfied, and some relatives said Mladic deserved a harsher sentence.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it welcomed the conviction and believes it is vital that crimes of this scale are recognised as state organised industrial-scale mass murder.
But the IHRC said it is worrying that despite being indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia in 1995, Mladic continued to live a normal life protected by his compatriots, most of whom still consider him a hero. Meanwhile, other convicted war criminals who helped him in his mass slaughter occupy posts lecturing in the country’s military schools and are mayors in regional districts.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “The verdicts today are overdue and provide long-awaited justice for those killed by Mladic. However, the continued glorification of mass murderers and the celebration of genocide show how deep-rooted anti-Muslim animosities run in the Balkans and should remind us to be forever on our guard.”