Ratko Mladic was ‘key’ to Srebrenica atrocities: UN lawyer

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (AP) — A United Nations (UN) lawyer urged judges yesterday to reject former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s claim that he was not responsible for mass killings and displacements in Srebrenica, as the former general’s appeal against his convictions and life sentence entered its final day.

Mladic’s defence lawyers called on judges on Tuesday to overturn his 2017 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for orchestrating atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War. Among their arguments, the lawyers said that busing Bosnian Muslims out of Srebrenica 25 years ago was a humanitarian mission, not a forcible transfer of civilians. At a hearing conducted at the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals partly by video conference because of coronavirus restrictions, prosecution lawyer Laurel Baig rejected that characterisation of the events.

“Mladic’s arguments claiming a humanitarian evacuation ignore that the displacement operation was violent and coercive,” Baig said. “There was nothing humanitarian about this operation. On the contrary, it was barbaric.”

The forcible removal of Bosnian Muslims civilians and the massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys from Srebrenica was the bloody climax of the war that left an estimated 100,000 people dead. Mladic and his political master, Radovan Karadzic, both have been convicted by a UN war crimes tribunal of genocide and other offences for their roles. Karadzic’s conviction was upheld on appeal last year.

“Mladic was key to the success of this operation,” Baig said. “Not only was he present, giving orders supervising and directing, he also played a critical and high level role in keeping the international community from stopping these massacres.”

A man walks past a graffiti that reads ‘Ratko Mladic Hero’ in Belgrade. PHOTO: AP