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Ratko Mladic, The Butcher of Bosnia

Munira Subasic exclaimed, “Today is a historic day not only for us mothers of Srebrenica but for all of the Balkans, Europe, and the world.” Her husband and son were killed by Serb forces.

The statement was in response to UN judges dealing with war crimes upholding the conviction of war crimes committed by Ratko Mladic, the former military commander of the Bosnian Serbs. He is accused of spearheading the worst atrocities in Europe since the World War II.


Ratko Mladic was born on March 12, 1942, in a remote village in Bosnia. His father, the leader of a partisan group, was killed in fighting with the Croatian fascists who controlled the government that ruled the Independent State of Croatia. Mladic spent his growing years in a Yugoslavia under the rule of Josip Tito

He was a long-serving member of the Yugoslav Communist Party and joined the Yugoslav people’s army. He rose to the rank of Chief of the general staff of the Republican army that waged war in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 against the Serbs. He played a big part in terrorizing the citizens, raining on then mortar and machine-gun fire while arbitrarily killing and wounding thousands. 

When Radovan Karadzic ordered that a situation be created to make the people feel totally insecure and hopeless, Mladic initiated the Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims which is estimated to have killed more than 8000 men and boys, while 40,000 Bosniaks were expelled.

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Arrest and Sentencing

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in July 1996 started proceedings against Mladic in his absence and issued an arrest warrant against him. It believed it had a sound reason, based on findings, to hold him accountable for the crimes committed. 

He remained elusive for nearly 16 years, receiving protection from Bosnian and Serb security forces. The Governments of Serbia and the United States offered a bounty of 5 million Euros for his arrest. Eventually, it was in Lazarevo, Serbia, that he was arrested. 

His extradition to The Hague took place on 31st May where he was detained at a center for suspects for the ICTY. On 16th May 2012 in The Hague, the process of formally charging him began. It was in the third week of November 2017 that he was pronounced guilty on several charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes

He was given a life sentence by the ICTY and held responsible for the massacre in Srebrenica and terrorizing the citizens of Sarajevo during a siege that lasted for about 43 months.

Appeals Turned Down

The sentencing was a result of trials that went on for 25 years at the ICTY.  Mladic appealed against the sentencing of life imprisonment and the guilty verdict. On 8th June 2021, the trial judges for war crimes upheld the verdict of genocide and life imprisonment. 

Wearing a black suit and a dress shirt he stood impassively, staring at the floor as the judges delivered their verdict in the appeals judgment in the court in The Hague. His appeals were dismissed in their entirety. Mladic committed genocide in the villages, cities, towns, and houses, wherever his army went, merely because the people were not Serbs.

The United States White House commended the efforts of the United Nations tribunals for delivering justice in holding the criminals of war crimes to account. It said that this judgment is historic and that the perpetrators of horrific crimes will be made to answer for their acts.

The determination to stop any such crimes happening in the future in any part of the world has received a boost. It is the shared resolution of countries in the world that these sorts of crimes are prevented.

Where is he Now?

Mladic, 78, will stay in custody at The Hague till such time arrangements are made for him to be sent to a state where he will serve his sentence. Which country will take him remains to be seen. To date 14 European countries have accommodated convicts sentenced by the United Nations court. For example, Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, is currently in a British prison.

Milorad Guzijan, a senior citizen from the city of Banja Luka, said that the decision of the court in The Hague was political. He maintains that "There is no justice there, just politics." There are many in Serbia who regard Mladic as a hero and not a criminal.

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