[File Photo] Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic (C) enters the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on November 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial. Dubbed “The Butcher of Bosnia,” Mladic’s trial is the last before the ICTY, and the judgement has been long awaited by tens of thousands of victims across the bitterly-divided region, seeking to close a chapter in the brutal 1990s Balkans conflicts. Peter Dejong / POOL / AFP
Former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic on Thursday appealed against his convictions for genocide and war crimes, urging UN judges to acquit him on all charges.
Mladic, once dubbed the Butcher of Bosnia, was sentenced to life imprisonment in November for his role in the Balkans war, including the 1995 Srebrenica genocide — Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II.
But in filings to a UN tribunal in The Hague on Thursday, his lawyers asked that “all erroneous findings” be reversed or quashed.
“The volume and magnitude of errors in the judgement is unprecedented,” they argued, alleging the trial chamber judges had made “basic mistakes,” including misidentifying Mladic’s position within the Bosnian Serb leadership.
– ‘No respect for life’ –
Prosecutors also filed an appeal, urging that the tribunal should find Mladic, 75, guilty of a second charge of genocide in Bosnian towns, on which he was acquitted.
In one of their final verdicts, judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Mladic guilty on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity such as murder and deportation.
But he was acquitted of one charge of genocide in certain municipalities.
About 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million displaced in the 1992-1995 war which erupted as ethnic rivalries tore Yugoslavia apart.
Judges said “ruthless” Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic’s command carried out “mass executions” and showed “little or no respect for human life or dignity.”
“For having committed these crimes, the chamber sentences Mr Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment,” presiding judge Alphons Orie said as applause broke out in the public gallery.
The crimes were “amongst the most heinous known to humankind,” he added.
But Mladic, who once left a trail of fear across Bosnia, was not present in the courtroom to hear the verdict in November.
In dramatic scenes he was dragged out and watched the proceedings from a neighbouring chamber, after accusing the judges in an outburst of lying, when they refused to adjourn the hearing because of his high blood pressure.
– ‘Unfit’ for trial –
He has suffered three strokes since being arrested in Serbia in 2011 and transferred to the court in the Hague. His defence team again on Thursday renewed their contention that a neurologist had found Mladic’s mental capacity was compromised and he was therefore “unfit to meaningfully participate in the trial.”
But in his appeal, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz called on the judges to “re-evaluate Mladic’s responsibility for genocide” in the municipalities and “convict” him.
The case will now be heard by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, set up to hear the last of the cases hanging over from the ICTY.
Mladic, former Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and ex-Yugoslav president and Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic were among the top leaders, accused of forming a “joint criminal enterprise” to create a Greater Serbia by ridding the territory of Bosnian Muslims and non-Serbs.
But Milosevic died before judgement could be passed, suffering a heart attack in his cell in The Hague in March 2006.
In March 2016, Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail on 10 charges including genocide. He has also appealed his conviction and sentence, and two days of appeal hearings start on April 23.