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‘Bosnian butcher’ Mladic faces final verdict for genocide

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THE HAGUE: UN judges to rule on Bosnian Serb warlord Ratko Mladic’s appeal against his genocide conviction for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the worst act of bloodshed in Europe since World War II .
The Hague court will render its final verdict on the so-called “Bosnian Butcher”, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2017 for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war of 1992-5.
Mladic, now frail and in his early 70s but still prone to outbursts in court against NATO and the West, is expected to be in the dock to hear the ruling read starting at 1300 GMT.
Meanwhile, the mothers of some of the 8,000 mostly Muslim men and boys killed when Bosnian Serb troops invaded Srebrenica will be out of court in the Netherlands, where they have long campaigned for justice.
“We will go to The Hague to look the executioner in the eye again when he is finally sentenced,” Munira Subasic, president of one of the “Mothers of Srebrenica” associations, told AFP.
Prosecutors have also appealed against Mladic’s acquittal on genocide charges.
Court prosecutor Serge Brammertz said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the verdict, and the Belgian jurist told reporters last week that he “cannot imagine a result other than confirmation” of at least the original verdict.
– ‘NATO Target’ – Mladic, who spent a decade on the run before his capture in 2011, was the military face of a brutal trio led on the political side by former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
Mladic was convicted of genocide for personally overseeing the massacre in the supposedly UN-protected Srebrenica enclave as part of a campaign to expel Muslims.
Images from the time showed him handing out sweets to children before they and the women of Srebrenica were taken by bus, while men from the city were taken to a forest and executed.
He was also found guilty of orchestrating a broader “ethnic cleansing” campaign to expel Muslims and Bosnians from key areas to create a Greater Serbia when Yugoslavia was torn apart after the fall of communism.
Around 100,000 dead and 2.2 million displaced.
But Mladic, who says he is 78 years old but 79 according to the court, insisted during an appeal hearing last year that “fate put me in a position to defend my country.”
During a lengthy tirade, Mladic also called him a “target of the NATO alliance” and mocked the court as a “son of Western powers.”
The appeal hearing was repeatedly delayed after Mladic needed surgery to remove a polyp and later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Access to court on Tuesday is also limited due to anti-coronavirus measures.
– ‘Important to the victims’ – Mladic is the last of the Serbian trio to face justice, Milosevic died of a heart attack in his cell in The Hague in 2006 before his trial ended, while Karadzic is serving a life sentence for genocide. in Srebrenica.
Relatives of the victims hoped the court would also overturn Mladic’s acquittal on broader genocide convictions, saying it was necessary for reconciliation between still-divided communities.
“This verdict is not only important for the victims and the survivors. It is very important for the future of our children, of all of us,” said Subasic, who planned to be in court with about a dozen supporters.
But for many Bosnian Serbs, Mladic and Karadzic remain heroes.
“Everyone is proud that he is from here,” said Radosav Zmukic, head of a local veterans group in Kalinovik, Mladic’s hometown.
Prosecutor Brammertz warned that Mladic’s ruling would not end the divisions in the Balkans and said it was only “the end of a chapter.”
“Denial of genocide is the last phase of genocide,” Brammertz said.
burs-dk / ach / je
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