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Nov 22, 2017 14:28 EEST
SARAJEVO (Bosnia and Herzegovina), November 22 (SeeNews) – The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague sentenced Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic to life in prison on Wednesday after finding him guilty on 10 out of 11 counts of crimes perpetrated during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, including the genocide in Srebrenica, presiding judge Alphons Orie said.
Mladic was found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, for leading a campaign of terror against citizens, for unlawful attacks on civilians, for violations of the laws and customs of war and for taking hostages, the judge said as he delivered the verdict.
Mladic was acquitted only of one count - of genocide in the municipalities of Foca, Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Prijedor, Sanski Most and Vlasenica.
The crimes Mladic has been found guilty of represent the most "heinous of all crimes," Orie noted.
The UN war crimes tribunal found that Mladic had committed these crimes through his participation in, and contribution to, four joint criminal enterprises (JCE), i.e. the Overarching JCE, the Sarajevo JCE, the Srebrenica JCE and the Hostage-taking JCE.
The overarching JCE, which existed between 1991 and November 1995, had the objective of permanently removing Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory through the commission of crimes in municipalities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina , the ICTY said in a statement following the ruling.
The judges established that Bosnian Serb Forces killed many Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, while numerous others were forcibly displaced from their homes, during and after the take-over of the municipalities or following attacks on non-Serb villages.
"Circumstances were brutal; those who tried to defend their homes were met with ruthless force. Mass executions occurred and some victims succumbed after being beaten. Many of the perpetrators who had captured Bosnian Muslims, showed little or no respect for human life or dignity", Orie said.
Other victims were arrested, detained in detention facilities, often under inhumane living conditions, subjected to torture, beatings, rape and other acts of sexual violence, and then transported out of the municipalities, the judge added.
"Mladic was instrumental to the commission of these crimes", the court said, so much so that without his acts - they would not have been committed as they were.
The judges therefore found Mladic guilty of persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer.
The Chamber further found that between May 1992 and November 1995, Mladic significantly contributed to carrying out a campaign of daily sniping and shelling, aimed to spread terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo during the siege of the city.
The deliberate shelling and sniping, often at locations that had little or no military value resulted in deaths and injuries of thousands of citizens, the court said.
The people of Sarajevo, judge Orie said, "were made to live in a state of constant distress. Every time they or their loved ones left their homes, they wondered if they would be targeted by sniper or artillery fire".
The judges determined that Mladic's actions were instrumental to the commission of the crimes and therefore found him guilty of the crimes of terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and murder.
The Chamber also established that a JCE existed with the common purpose of taking UN personnel hostage to compel NATO to abstain from conducting air strikes against Bosnian Serb targets. The judges concluded that Mladic's contributions were central to the implementation of the hostage-taking JCE’s objective and that he is therefore guilty of the crime of taking hostages.
Further, the Chamber found that in 1995 Mladic participated in a JCE to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica (Srebrenica JCE).
In March 1995 Mladic signed orders for a strategic operation against the enclave, intending to empty it of its Bosnian Muslim population and make the area Serbian territory, the court found. After the Bosnian Serb forces entered Srebrenica on 11 July 1995, the Bosnian Muslim women, children, and some elderly men were forcibly removed from the enclave to Bosnian Muslim-held territory.
The Bosnian-Muslim men taken from the UN base in Potocari were detained in temporary detention facilities and later, together with thousands of others captured from the column fleeing the enclave on foot, bussed to various sites in Srebrenica, Bratunac, and Zvornik municipalities, where they were executed.
"The Bosnian Serb forces tried to hide the crime, by digging up and reburying Bosniak victims in mass graves", the judge said while reading the verdict.
The Chamber found that Mladic intended to carry out the objective of the Srebrenica JCE by destroying the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, by killing the men and boys and forcibly removing the women, young children, and some elderly men. The Chamber therefore found Mladic guilty of genocide, persecution, murder, extermination, and the inhumane act of forcible transfer.
Mladic was removed from the court after he obstructed the sentencing proceedings with an angry outburst as the judge delivered the verdict.
Parties have the right to appeal the judgement.
Mladic was arrested in 2011, prior to which he was one of the world's most wanted fugitives. His trial started in May 2012 and the hearing of evidence lasted for over four years. The trial has been referred to internationally as the most significant war crimes case Europe since WWII.
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