UN judges to rule on Ratko Mladic's appeal against genocide conviction

Photo: EPA

The Hague tribunal will deliver on Tuesday its final verdict on Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic's appeal against his genocide conviction for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, news wires reported. The so-called "Butcher of Bosnia" was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 1992-5 Bosnia war.

Mladic, now frail and in his late seventies but still prone to courtroom outbursts against NATO and the West, is expected to be in the dock to hear the judgment read out from 1300 GMT, AFP reported.

Mothers of some of the 8,000 mostly Muslim men and boys killed when Bosnian Serb troops overran Srebrenica will meanwhile be outside the court in the Netherlands where they have long campaigned for justice.

Prosecutors have also appealed against Mladic's acquittal on wider genocide charges. Tribunal prosecutor Serge Brammertz said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the verdict, with the Belgian jurist telling reporters last week he "can't imagine another outcome than confirmation" of at least the original verdict.

Mladic, who spent a decade on the run before his capture in 2011, was the military face of a brutal trio led on the political side by ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Mladic was found guilty of genocide for personally overseeing the massacre at the supposedly UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica as part of a campaign to drive out Muslims.

Footage from the time showed him handing out sweets to children before they and the women of Srebrenica were taken away by bus, while the men of the town were marched into a forest and executed.

He was also found guilty of orchestrating a wider campaign of "ethnic cleansing" to drive Muslims and Bosnians out of key areas to create a Greater Serbia as Yugoslavia tore itself apart after the fall of communism.

The war left around 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million displaced.

Mladic, who gives his age as 78 but it is 79 according to the court, insisted during an appeal hearing last year that "fate put me in a position to defend my country." During a long tirade, Mladic also said he was a "target of the NATO alliance" and derided the court as a "child of western powers".

The appeal hearing was delayed repeatedly after Mladic needed surgery to remove a polyp, and then because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Access to the court on Tuesday is also limited because of coronavirus measures.

Mladic is the last of the Serb trio to face justice, with Milosevic dying of a heart attack in his cell in The Hague in 2006 before his trial had finished, while Karadzic is serving a life sentence for genocide in Srebrenica.

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