The former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, has been sentenced to life in prison by a UN tribunal in the Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out during the breakup of Yugoslavia . Mladic, known as the “butcher of Bosnia” for ordering the slaughter of 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and the four-year-long siege of Sarajevo, was arrested in Serbia in 2011 after 16 years on the run from international justice. At one point during the hearing Mladic asked for a five-minute bathroom break which stretched to 45 minutes as he claimed to be feeling unwell and doctors were called in to take his blood pressure. When he returned to the dock and the judge refused his request to adjourn proceedings he began shouting abuse and had to be taken into another room by security guards. In delivering his verdict judge Alphons Orie said that Mladic was guilty of crimes that “rank among the most heinous known to humankind and include genocide and extermination,” and dismissed the defence’s please that Medic’s “good character” and failing health be taken into account as mitigating factors.
The Bosnian war was the worst conflict to hit Europe since the end of the Second World War and saw a return to the horrors of ethnic cleansing, concentration camps and millions of displaced people as Bosniaks and Croats fought to break away from the Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Some 100,000 people died during the campaign that came to an end with the signing of the Dayton Agreement in 1995. Last year, the former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, was found guilty of the same crimes as his general, Mladic, and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Like Mladic, Karadzic had spent years on the run hiding out among supporters and even working in a private clinic under an alias before he was finally arrested in 2008. The Hague Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which will be wound up next year after convicting 83 people in total for various crimes committed during the war, is seen by campaigners as a watershed in international justice for being the first to bring charges against a sitting president and the first to include sexual violence as a crime against humanity.