The Hague: Ratko Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity by a UN tribunal here. Known as the "Butcher of Bosnia", Mladic led forces during the massacre of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo. The UN tribunal convicted him on 10 of the 11 charges.
The tribunal found that Mladic "significantly contributed" to the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 where more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered, the worst atrocity in Europe after World War II. He was also deemed responsible by the chamber for inciting terror during the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-96) -- where Serb troops had carried out a campaign of indiscriminate sniper fire against civilians. The death toll was more than 10,000.
"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 while reading the verdict.
Orie read out many crimes committed by troops under Mladic's command including mass rapes of Bosniak women and girls, keeping Bosniak prisoners in appalling conditions - starving, thirsty and sick - and beating them, terrorising civilians in Sarajevo by shelling and sniping, deporting Bosniaks forcibly en masse and destroying Bosniaks' homes as well as mosques.
The chamber rejected mitigating circumstances proposed by the defence team and handed Mladic a life sentence, bringing to a close a 530-day, four-year landmark trial at the UN International Criminal Tribunal. Before the verdict could be read, Mladic had to be removed from the room after he launched into a sudden outburst of angry shouting in a bid to halt proceedings by claiming that his blood pressure was too high. The reading of the verdict resumed after a brief adjournment.
The tribunal was created especially to try war crimes committed during the Yugoslav conflicts that tore up the Balkans in the 1990's. The chamber detailed that during the massacre of Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb troops separated men and boys from women being loaded onto buses to evacuate the Muslim population from the enclave. Those males were then subject to torture, humiliation and beatings before being executed.
Mladic is still regarded as a war hero by many in Serbia and the decision is likely to prompt backlash. The verdict comes a year after former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžic was found guilty of genocide over the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica and sentenced to 40 years in jail.