Trial of Ratko Mladić
The Prosecutor v. Ratko Mladić was a case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, concerning crimes committed during the Bosnian War by Ratko Mladić in his role as a general in the Yugoslav People's Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska.
The trial of Mladić was presided over by judge Alphons Orie of the Netherlands, with two assisting judges, Bakone Justice Moloto of South Africa and Christoph Flügge of Germany. Proceedings began on 3 June 2011 with a listing of the charges against Mladić, which included crimes against humanity, particularly in connection with the Srebrenica massacre and Siege of Sarajevo.
The verdict was delivered on 22 November 2017. Mladić was convicted of 10 of the 11 charges and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Ratko Mladić was arrested on 26 May 2011 in Lazarevo, near Zrenjanin in the Banat region of the northern province of Vojvodina. His arrest was carried out by two dozen Serbian special police officers wearing black uniforms and masks, and sporting no insignia. On his arrest, Mladić surrendered two pistols he had been carrying. He was then taken to Belgrade as part of the "extradition process". Mladić was arrested in the house of his cousin Branislav Mladić, at the Ul. Vuka Karadžića 2. Branislav had been under surveillance for at least two months. After initial uncertainty as to the identity of the arrested man, then Serbian President Boris Tadić confirmed that it was Mladić at a press conference and announced that the process of extraditing him to the ICTY was under way. Mladić had been using the pseudonym "Milorad Komadić" while in hiding. Mladić was not wearing a beard or any disguise. His appearance reportedly showed he had "aged considerably", and one of his arms was paralyzed due to a series of strokes.
Following his arrest, Mladić appeared before the Belgrade Higher Court to establish whether he was fit to be extradited to the Hague. Judge Milan Dilparić suspended interrogation due to Mladić's poor health. His lawyer Miloš Šaljić said that his poor health prevented him from properly communicating. He was allegedly unable to confirm his personal data, but attempted to talk to the prosecutors on several occasions, especially to Deputy War Crimes Prosecutor Bruno Vekarić. However, the court ruled that he was fit to be extradited on 27 May. According to the Serbian Health Ministry, a team of prison doctors described his health as stable following checkups. Mladić was also visited in prison by Health Minister Zoran Stanković, a former friend.
This article contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (November 2017)
Following the arrest, Serbian authorities tightened security and banned public gatherings throughout the country.
In Novi Sad, hundreds of demonstrators attempted to break into the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party but were blocked by riot police, who injured two protesters. In Lazarevo, residents expressed support for Mladić to the media, waved Serbian and Russian flags, put up a banner of support at the entrance, blocked the road with a trailer, chanted, stopped people from taking pictures of Mladić's house and told journalists to leave. Serbian police placed the house under guard and arrested a demonstrator.
Serb demonstrators showed their support for Mladić in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Pale, the administrative centre of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War, and in the former capital of Banja Luka. Approximately 1,500 rallied in support of Mladić near his birthplace in Kalinovik, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Pantelija Ćurguz, President of the Association of Veterans of Republika Srpska (BORS), organized the rally. The Serbian Radical Party called a demonstration outside of the Serbian parliament and led the largest opposition party rally in support of Mladić in Belgrade. The demonstration was attended by several thousand protesters who held pictures of Mladić and Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Šešelj and wore Serbian nationalist emblems and slogans. A banner also demanded the ouster of President Boris Tadić. More than 3,000 riot police were deployed around government buildings and Western embassies, and riot police also tried to block small groups of demonstrators from reaching the rally. The rally descended into rioting that spread throughout downtown Belgrade. Demonstrators threw stones and bottles at police, broke traffic lights, overturned garbage cans, and set off firecrackers. Riot police set up cordons and clashed with protesters at several locations in central Belgrade. Darko Mladić, Ratko Mladić's son, stated "Ratko Mladić is not a criminal, he did not order the killings. He defended his people in an honourable, fair and professional manner." Speakers from the Serbian Radical Party promoted a "Greater Serbia", which would include parts of Bosnia and the Krajina region of Croatia in addition to the extant Serbian republic. According to the interior ministry there were 111 arrests, and 32 police and 11 protesters suffered minor injuries.
- Albania – Sali Berisha, Ex-Prime Minister of Albania, praised "the arrest of Ratko Mladić, one of the most bloodthirsty and notorious figures in the history of the Balkans and Europe, directly responsible for the Serbian genocide and atrocity in Bosnia-Herzegovina and especially for the Srebrenica massacre, the mastermind of extinction of 8000 innocent people there. The arrest of Europe's most wanted criminal after the World War Two marks the triumph of the international justice and it's a consolation to families of thousands of innocent victims."
- Austria – Michael Spindelegger, Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Austria, said "The Serbian government has shown that it takes cooperation with The Hague war crimes tribunal seriously and wants to contribute to the investigation of one of the most serious war crimes in Europe since 1945. Serbia has removed a significant obstacle on its path to EU membership."
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said "I think this is a great step for Serbia. I would say, in my personal opinion, that Serbia can expect now reactions from Brussels. I think everybody speaks about the (EU) candidate status of Serbia, but most important is that the whole region is now moving. Croatia will become a member state soon, Serbia a candidate country, Montenegro as well, and working in Bosnia, to me, is also important. This is the beginning, this is the beginning of the end of one of the most tragic chapters of Bosnian history. Everybody is welcoming the step of the government. But first of all, it's a very significant day for the families of the victims."
- Bakir Izetbegović, Bosniak member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency, stated that "We can say justice is slow. In this case too slow. But it comes. Sooner or later justice comes. We will find out all the facts about the truth and about what happened here in this region during the past war."
- Željko Komšić, Croat member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency, said that the arrest of Mladić proved that Serbian authorities knew where Mladić and Karadžić were and that they were used by Serbian authorities in negotiations with the European Union.
- Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik said the arrest fulfilled the obligations of the Dayton agreement and that "the institutions of the RS never stood or will stand in defence of anyone who has committed war crimes, regardless of ethnicity or religion." Dodik said he hopes "Ratko Mladić will have a fair trial in harmony with human rights conventions."
- Haris Silajdžić, Bosnia and Herzegovina's prime minister and foreign minister during the war, welcomed the arrest and stated "is good news for justice, good news for the families of the victims of genocide, the victims of ethnic cleansing and crime who suffered under Mladić and his political superiors. But the bad news is that the project he has been working for is still alive."
- Ejup Ganić, a former member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's presidency during the war, accused Serbia of knowing the whereabouts of Mladić but delaying his arrest until it was known that it would advance Serbia into the European Union. Ganić said that the arrest "is good news because he is a butcher, a killer, a monster."
- The lawyer of Radovan Karadžić, former President of Republika Srpska currently on trial for war crimes including genocide, said "President Karadžić is sorry for Gen. Mladić's loss of freedom and he looks forward to working with him to bring out the truth about what happened in Bosnia."
- Bulgaria – Nickolay Mladenov, Bulgarian foreign minister, said "This is a very good news for Serbia and the whole region. [...] The efforts of Serb leaders gave results and the full cooperation with the International tribunal for former Yugoslavia cannot be questioned any more."
- Croatia – Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor welcomed the arrest as good news for justice and regional stability, stating, "This is good news for us, for this part of Europe and for the world, but also for all the victims of Milošević's destructive policy."
- Finland – Alexander Stubb, Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, said "I congratulate Serbia on its efforts to capture Ratko Mladić and I hope this will pave the way for Serbian accession talks to begin no later than 2012."
- France – French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said "It is very good news and it is a very courageous decision by the Serbian president. It is one more step towards Serbia's integration one day into the European Union."
- Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, stated "The arrest of Ratko Mladić is good news, not only for Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also for Serbia, the western Balkans, and so for the whole of Europe. [...] This is at once the best basis for the region achieving reconciliation and a future in Europe."
- Italy – Franco Frattini, Italian foreign minister, stated "This is a real turning point which we welcome with great satisfaction. A turning point we had been hoping for and waiting for a long time, more than 15 years. Mladić was the symbol of ethnic cleansing and brutal violence that cost the lives of a very high number of civilians in what remains one of the darkest chapters in European history. This is a test of great democratic maturity for Serbia, bringing it closer to Europe and the European Union, a process that Italy has strongly encouraged and that now needs to be accelerated further, without reservations."
- Netherlands – Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said "In the end people get chased, prosecuted and finally get put away. And justice will triumph. And again, in that sense, this is a special moment for very many people."
- Serbia – Boris Aleksić, spokesman of the Serbian Radical Party, said that "Serb traitors have arrested a Serb hero. This shameful arrest of a Serb general is a blow to our national interests and the state. This is a regime of liars, dirty, corrupt and treacherous, a regime operated by the secret police."
- Sweden – Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister and former peace negotiator for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said "The European perspective for Serbia is brighter than it has been before. A very important condition that we've had is that they cooperate fully with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The arrest of first Karadžić and now Mladić show that they are complying with this demand."
- Turkey – Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hailed Mladic's arrest and said that Turkey is very closely following the ensuing developments after the arrest of the Serb military leader and that Turkey welcomes his capture as a very positive step.
- United Kingdom
- UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that "This is excellent news because we have to remember this man stands accused of some absolutely horrific war crimes. [...] And I think today of all days we should remember the thousands who died in Srebrenica and in the siege of Sarajevo – some of the most terrible things that have happened in recent decades on our continent. [...] People should recognise that it's right that international law has a very long reach and a very long memory. It will send a signal to war criminals everywhere: In the end we'll get you."
- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated that "This is a huge moment for the principle that people who engage in genocide will eventually be brought to justice, but also for Serbia. [...] It's an interesting example too of the way that Europe and the prospect of European Union membership can act as a magnet for changing the behaviour of countries, changing their political system. So it's big news and good news."
- United States
- US President Barack Obama stated, "I applaud President Tadić and the government of Serbia on their determined efforts to ensure that Mladić was found and that he faces justice. We look forward to his expeditious transfer to The Hague. [...] Today is an important day for the families of Mladić's many victims, for Serbia, for Bosnia, for the United States, and for international justice. While we will never be able to bring back those who were murdered, Mladić will now have to answer to his victims, and the world, in a court of law. [...] May the families of Mladić's victims find some solace in today's arrest, and may this deepen the ties among the people of the region."
- Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, stated "Mladić will finally be held accountable – to Bosnia and the world. [...] Once again, we have seen that crimes against humanity will not escape the long arm of justice. His arrest also should allow the people of Serbia to take an important step toward integration into Europe and the international community."
- Madeleine Albright, former United States Secretary of State, said "Ratko Mladić deserves to be tried and convicted. He was the military commander who ordered the murder of thousands and attempted to destroy Bosnian society. His trial should teach again the grim reality of ethnic cleansing and, I hope, bring some comfort to those who survived. [...] Mladić tried to become a conquering hero. Instead, he lived as a fugitive in obscurity and now faces years in custody. Justice works."
- European Union
- José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, stated "I strongly welcome the arrest of Ratko Mladić by Serbia's authorities. This is an important step forward for Serbia and for international justice. I congratulate President Tadić and Serbia's government for this courageous action. [...] I expect Ratko Mladić to be transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia without delay. Full co-operation with the ICTY remains essential on Serbia's path towards EU membership."
- Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said "It's of course a very important day for international justice and for the rule of law. Mr. Mladić will now face the charges against him in the International Tribunal; charges which are of course of a very serious nature. [...] I know that people will also be thinking about Serbia and its future in the European Union. What I know is that we will approach that with renewed energy because of today."
- Council of Europe – Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said: "The arrest of Ratko Mladić will help to close a dark chapter in the history of the Balkans. It will open the way for reconciliation in the region, and help all countries to focus on their European future. […]"
- Human Rights Watch – Richard Dicker, Director of Human Rights Watch, said "After nearly two decades on the run, justice has finally caught up with the man who personified the brutality of the Balkan wars. His arrest today is a clear message to accused like Omar al-Bashir and potential accused like Muammar Gaddafi that justice never forgets."
- United Nations – Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated "This an historic day for international justice. It marks an important step in our will to end impunity. I thank the Serbian government and president for their efforts."
- United Nations – ICTY
- Serge Brammertz, prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, commented "I welcome the arrest of Ratko Mladić today in Serbia. We await arrangements for his transfer to The Hague where he will stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. [...] We recognise the work done by the Serbian authorities, specifically the National Security Council and Serbia's Action Team, in apprehending Ratko Mladić."
- Richard Goldstone, chief prosecutor of the ICTY who indicted Mladić and Karadžić in 1995, commented that "I've always found it difficult to believe that the Serbian security people didn't know where he was."
- NATO – Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, said "Almost 16 years after his indictment for genocide and other war crimes, his arrest finally offers a chance for justice to be done. [...] General Mladić played a key role in some of the darkest episodes of Balkan and European history. [...] NATO has been a guarantor of security in the Balkans for the best part of two decades and today we have seen an important step towards a Europe that is whole, free and at peace."
Mladić's trial began on 3 June 2011 with an initial hearing to list the charges against him and ask him for a plea. After judge Orie read out the charges, Mladić responded by calling them "obnoxious" and "monstrous".
The charges brought against Mladić were:
- Genocide against a part of the Bosniak and/or Bosnian Croat national ethnical and or religious groups with the object of permanently removing Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats from the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory.
- Genocide against Bosniaks in Srebrenica by killing the men and boys of Srebrenica and forcibly removing the women, young children and some elderly.
- Persecutions as a crime against humanity including murder, torture, beatings and rape against Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats.
- Extermination and murder of Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats in the municipalities.
- Murder of Bosniaks in Srebrenica.
- Murder of civilians in Sarajevo.
- Forcible deportation of Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats or other non-Serbs from the municipalities.
- Forcible deportation of Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats or other non-Serbs from Srebrenica.
- Terror and unlawful attacks against civilians.
- Sniping and shelling against civilians in Sarajevo.
- Hostage-taking of United Nations military observers and peacekeepers.
Mladić declined to enter a plea and the trial was adjourned until 4 July, when he made a second initial appearance and was asked to enter a plea. He was removed from the courtroom for continually interrupting the judge and appearing to attempt to communicate with the public gallery; Mladić expressed anger at being represented by an ICTY-appointed lawyer rather than his chosen lawyer, military attorney Milos Saljic, and Russian jurist Alexander Mezyayev. (The court was verifying their eligibility.) A plea of 'not guilty' was later entered by the court on his behalf.
On 10 November 2011, the medical service of the prison found that Mladić was not in a condition to follow the trial. It was decided that he needed a longer period of recovery.
The main hearings of the trial began on 16 May 2012. Prosecutors had 200 hours in which to make their case, presenting evidence from more than 400 witnesses, the first of whom was due to testify on 29 May. Most of the witness evidence was to be submitted in the form of written statements. Mladić refused to enter a plea to any of the charges against him.
On 17 May, the trial was adjourned indefinitely by the presiding judge due to prosecution "errors". It was reported that the prosecutor failed to disclose all of their facts to the defence. The prosecutor admitted the errors and the lawyer of Mladić asked for a six-month delay. The judge, Alphons Orie, said that the errors were still being analysed and wanted to continue the trial as soon as possible. On 10 April 2013, one of the survivors testified about the July 1995 massacre of almost 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia. Mladić was removed from the courtroom after muttering during the testimony. Prosecutors said that the Srebrenica testimony was expected to last several months. Mladić refused to testify at the trial of his superior, Radovan Karadžić, despite a subpoena from the ICC as he called the court "satanic" and added that "I do not want to testify and refuse to testify for reasons of my health and that it would prejudice my own case."
The court's verdicts were made on 22 November 2017. Mladić's lawyers attempted to delay proceedings, arguing that Mladić's blood pressure was too high to continue, but this was dismissed by the judges. Mladić then began shouting obscenities at the judges, and was removed from the courtroom. In his absence, the verdicts were read out.
Mladić has the right to an appeal of the judgement, which would be heard by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MITC). Current practice is for prisoners to be eligible for (but not entitled to) release after serving two-thirds of the life sentence (45 years) imposed by the ICTY, which for Mladić would mean an age of 99 years.
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