‘Butcher of Bosnia’ personally led Srebrenica massacre, prosecutors say

THE HAGUE: Prosecutors urged UN judges on Wednesday to uphold former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s genocide conviction, saying he personally oversaw the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

Mladic, 78, is appealing against his 2017 conviction and life sentence by a tribunal in The Hague for genocide over the massacre and for crimes against humanity and war crimes throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The former general dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia” resorted to “genocide, extermination and murder” to rid the UN-protected area of Croats and Muslims as part of the wider pursuit of a Serb-only state, prosecutor Laurel Baig said.

“Mladic was in charge of the Srebrenica operation, Srebrenica was Mladic’s operation. And the chamber was right to conclude that he was responsible for these crimes,” Baig told the court.

“He used the forces under his command to execute thousands of men and boys,” she added, describing the slaughter as being on “a scale not seen on European soil since the Second World War.”

Mladic will be allowed to speak for 10 minutes later on Wednesday at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals — which handles cases left over from the now-closed UN tribunal that convicted him.

Lawyers for Mladic urged the court on Tuesday to overturn his conviction, saying that the “charge of genocide was made out of thin air.”

The Srebrenica massacre was the bloodiest single episode from the Bosnian war, which erupted as communal rivalries tore apart Yugoslavia after the fall of communism.

In all about 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million displaced during the conflict.
The Bosnian Serb general was “personally overseeing” the operation to take Srebrenica, the prosecution said.

Baig said Mladic carried out a “victory walk” through Srebrenica after his forces seized it on July 11, 1995, saying that “now the time has come to take revenge on the Turks” — a disparaging term used during the war for Muslims.

Around 25,000 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly, were forced onto buses and moved out of Srebrenica under harrowing conditions, despite the presence of Dutch UN peacekeepers in the area.

Thousands of men and boys from Srebrenica meanwhile set out on a doomed walk through surrounding forests to reach the safety of Muslim-held territory — only to be picked off by Serb forces.

Victims “were executed by the handful, by the dozen, by the truckload, by the hundred and ultimately by the thousand, by gunfire and grenade, irrespective of their status as civilians, purely because they were Bosnian Muslims,” said Baig.

Mladic was “key to the success of this operation,” said Baig.

“Not only was he present giving orders, supervising and directing, he also played a high-level role in keeping the international community from stopping this,” the prosecutor said.

In a bid to cover up the crime after some mass graves were found later in 1995, Mladic ordered his forces to dig up other graves with heavy machinery and move remains to other areas, “commingling body parts from mixed victims,” said Baig.

Mladic was captured in 2011 after years on the run, and convicted following a three-year trial.

The prosecution are also appealing, seeking to overturn Mladic’s acquittal on wider genocide charges.

Source: Arab News


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