Experts in war crimes law hailed as an historic step today’s conviction of Ratko Mladić, commander of the Bosnian Serb Army in former Yugoslavia for atrocities including genocide in the early 1990s. Mladić, known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ was jailed for life. It was the final judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) which was established by the UN in 1993. 

In a statement, Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor, said that Mladić and other senior leaders’ intended to achieve their political and military aims by committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes’.

Mladić was convicted on four counts: Commanding violent ’ethnic cleansing’ campaigns across Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995; Commanding a campaign of crimes during the Siege of Sarajevo; for the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and for taking as hostages UN peacekeepers. 

On the genocide charge, the court found that the goal was ’to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica. Mladić used the forces under his command to execute several thousand men and boys. He further used these forces to forcibly expel 25,000 terrified women, children and elderly from their homes’.

He concluded: ’This judgment vindicates the Security Council’s vision 24 years ago: to secure peace through justice, by holding accountable the most senior leaders responsible for the crimes.’

Barrister Toby Cadman, former head of the prosecutor’s office at the Tribunal’s War Crimes Department, said: Today marks a historic step in ensuring that those persons who bear the greatest responsibility for international crimes are brought to justice. The ICTY marks it closure at the end of this year with one of its most important rulings.  

’Today is a victory for the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity.  It further sends an important message to those who have and continue to carry out similar crimes in Syria, Myanmar, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere that whilst the wheels of international justice move slowly, they move deliberately and effectively and they will be held accountable.’