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Ratko Mladic sentenced to life in prison for genocide in Bosnia

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Former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic has been sentenced to life in prison for genocide and war crimes during the Balkans conflicts more than two decades ago.

The presiding judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Wednesday found that the 74-year-old general “significantly contributed” to genocide committed at Srebrenica. Previous judgments of the tribunal in the Netherlands already ruled that the massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica was genocide.Judge Alphons Orie ruled that the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Srebrenica intended to destroy the Muslims living there.

‘Heinous crimes’

The judge also ruled that Mladic carried out and personally oversaw a deadly campaign of sniping and shelling in Sarajevo.”The crimes committed rank among the most heinous known to humankind,” he said.

The former general initially appeared relaxed as he listened intently to the verdict but was later removed from the courtroom after he shouted at the judges when he was refused an adjournment. His lawyer said Mladic needed a break for treatment of high blood pressure but the continued reading the verdict after Mladic removal from court.

Wednesday’s verdict was long awaited by tens of thousands of victims across former Yugoslavia, and dozens gathered early outside the courtroom, many clutching photos of loved ones who died or are among the 7,000 still missing. The court said, however, it was “not convinced” of genocidal intent in six other municipalities, in line with previous judgments.

“We’re sad and disappointed because Mladic wasn’t declared responsible for the genocide in Prijedor and in the other five municipalities that were listed,” Sejida Karabasic, from Prijedor, said. “3,176 people [killed] in Prijedor isn’t enough in order to prove that there was a mass killing. So, more than 10,000 of us should have been killed in order to prove that genocide happened there,” Karabasic said.

“There were mass rapes, killings, concentration camps. They found the largest mass graves in the Prijedor region, none of that was enough for the verdict to include genocide,” she added. Munir Habibovic, a Srebrenica resident, said he was satisfied with the punishment. We weren’t expecting anything less,” he said, while agreeing that Mladic should have been found guilty of genocide in the six additional municipalities.

Speaking on behalf of the association for Parents of Children Killed in Besieged Sarajevo, Fikret Grabovica told Al Jazeera, that “no such punishment exists for Mladic to get what he deserves”.
“But we can be a partly satisfied with this verdict. It’s very important that he received a life sentence… what I’m particularly glad about is that the indictment confirmed the terrorising and sniping of the civil population of Sarajevo, in which 1,600 children were killed,” Grabovica said.

The former general, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, was accused of 11 counts – including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the war in Bosnia from 1992 and 1995.

Many Bosnian Serbs, however, view Mladic as a national hero who helped Serbia through the war that broke up former Yugoslavia. Serbian daily newspapers on Wednesday featured photos of Mladic on the front page with captions reading “I’m innocent; they can’t take my soul” and “I’m not guilty.”

Al Jazeera’s Marko Subotic, reporting from Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, said support for Mladic there is still widespread.

“The media in Serbia never reported on what the Serbian army, under the command of Mladic, committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of this, researchers say residents are confused because they don’t know why Mladic is standing trial at the tribunal in the Netherlands,” Subotic said. “A study in 2012 concluded that 42 percent of residents in Serbia don’t know why Mladic is being tried at all. They know more about what went on while he was in hiding; they know that he was looking for strawberries when he was arrested in Serbia in 2011.”

Mladic’s trial was the last before the tribunal and came as the court in The Hague prepared to close its doors next month.

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How did Slobodan Praljak obtain ‘poison’?

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Two investigations will seek to uncover how a Bosnian Croat war criminal managed to commit suicide during a hearing at a UN court by drinking a deadly substance.

Security measures at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia where Slobodan Praljak took his life on Wednesday are tight. But there are ways to evade the scanners and prying eyes.

Dutch lawyer Goran Sluiter, a professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, explains how, saying it was more than likely Praljak had an accomplice.

How did he get the liquid?

“There are three scenarios. He got hold of the liquid in the detention centre, while being transported from the prison to the courtroom, or inside the courtroom itself. But I would be very surprised if he got it during the transport, as it’s a very short lapse of time.”
It is possible that “the liquid he drank was a medicine that he had received in the centre for treatment, but which he then stashed away.

“If he got hold of the bottle inside the courtroom then that reduces the circle of people who could have helped him. So you are thinking about the lawyers.

“Whatever happened, there are very strong chances that he had help.”

What security measures are in place?

“When they arrive at the court, the detainees pass through security controls. Then — before the hearing and afterwards, before returning to the detention centre — the accused are kept in holding cells.

“At the detention centre, we lawyers must pass through two security controls. One at the entrance to the Scheveningen detention centre which comes under the authority of the Dutch, and then again when entering the part of the jail reserved for ICTY suspects which is under the authority of UN guards. We are scanned like at an airport. The UN controls are much stricter than those done by the Dutch.

“At the court, the suspects have to pass through security controls which detect metal and drugs. But it is not always possible to stop drugs. Medicines, for example, can be mixed with water, and passed off as a bottle of water.”

Are there pat-downs?

“This is not a terrorist unit, so the pat-downs are less strict. My bottles of water have never been controlled, for example. Clothing is felt to see if it contains a weapon. Praljak could have quite easily hidden this small bottle in one of his bodily cavities.

“When someone really wants to end their life, they will always find a way to do it.”

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UK loses seat on International Court of Justice for first time since 1946

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The UK has lost its seat on the International Court of Justice for the first time since its creation in 1946.

Christopher Greenwood, the current British judge, was running for re-election to serve a second nine-year term – but withdrew from the race after facing a run-off vote against India’s Dalveer Bhandari.

Although Mr Greenwood had a majority among the UN Security Council, Mr Bhandari won the most backing in the General Assembly – with the Indian judge’s popularity seen to be increasing as support for the Briton diminished.

Based at The Hague, the UN court has 15 members and its job is to settle disputes between countries.

The UK’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, said: “The UK has concluded that it is wrong to take up the valuable time of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly with further rounds of elections.

“The UK congratulates the successful candidates, including Judge Bhandari of India.

“We are naturally disappointed, but it was a competitive field with six strong candidates.

“If the UK could not win in this run-off, then we are pleased that it is a close friend like India that has done so instead.

The setback is being regarded by some diplomats as the result of waning international influence following the vote to leave the European Union.

Five judges are elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) every three years.

Ronny Abraham of France, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil and Nawaf Salam of Lebanon have been elected to the bench along with Judge Bhandari.

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Pedestrians injured in car collision near London museum

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LONDON — British emergency services raced to London’s Natural History Museum after a car struck pedestrians Saturday outside the building. Police said a number of people were injured and one person was detained at the scene.

The crash happened at 2:20 p.m. on a day when the central London museum is usually teeming with pedestrians, including international tourists.

Photographs showed a dented silver car and a man being pinned to the ground outside the museum. It was not immediately clear if he was pinned down by police or others at the scene.

The London Ambulance Service was tending to the injured. There was no immediate statement on the number or severity of the injuries.

Shopkeepers in the immediate area were told to evacuate and police established a large security cordon around the area minutes after the incident.

Police said they are working to establish the circumstances of the crash and more details would be released later.
The Natural History Museum tweeted that there had been a “serious incident” outside the museum, which is located near the world famous Victoria and Albert Museum and other attractions.

Downing Street said British Prime Minister Theresa May was being briefed on the incident.

London’s official terrorist threat level has been set at “severe,” indicating an attack is highly likely.

There have been a series of terror attacks on London and Manchester this year, including vehicle attacks on pedestrians at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

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