Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic sentenced to life in prison for genocide

Mladic, dubbed the ‘Butcher of Bosnia was also found guilty of crimes against humanity

Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic has been found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity by a court in The Hague.

A UN judge ruled that Mladic, dubbed the ‘Butcher of Bosnia, was responsible for persecution, extermination and murder during the Bosnian war.

He has been sentenced to life in prison.

Mladic has been on trial accused of ordering the massacre of 8,000 men and boys at Srebenica in Bosnia.

The 74-year-old is also charged with crimes against humanity over the Siege of Sarajevo in which 11,000 civilians were killed.

He is facing 11 charges in total and has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Announcing the court’s verdict this morning the UN judge said Mladic had been “instrumental” in war crimes perpetrated in Sarajevo – and 'significantly contributed' to atrocities committed at Srebrenica.

File photo: People pray at a funeral for 136 newly-identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre 20 years after it occurred, 13-Jul-2015. Image: Depo Photos/ABACA/PA Images

Adjournment

This morning, a judge rejected a request from Mladic’s lawyer to adjourn the session on health grounds.

He was then removed from the court room after shouting at the judges as the lengthy verdict was being read out.

"They are lying, you are lying. I don't feel good," he shouted, before being removed by security guards.

The Butcher of Bosnia

When the judgement is completed this morning, it be the final verdict handed down on a regime that brutalised a generation in central Europe.

For a time, Mladic was the world's most wanted man, but while the world condemned him as a war criminal, his supporters still celebrated him as the defender of Bosnian-Serb interests.

For years, they refused to believe the allegations of genocide.

It was only once a video was discovered in 2005 showing the execution of six young Bosnian Muslims outside Srebrenica that the doubts started to fade.

Fugitive

Mladic went on the run, evading capture and living under protection for 16 years.

His family tried to have him declared dead, falsely claiming they had not seen or heard from him in years.

Brussels insisted Serbia hand him over if they wanted candidacy for the EU - and the pressure eventually paid off.

Arrest

Mladic was finally arrested in the early hours of 26 May 2011. Four cars carrying unmarked security forces entered a village in northern Serbia while everyone was still asleep.

They found Mladic walking in the yard of a house belonging to his cousin. He surrendered and was taken to Belgrade.

Attempts to throw out his trial on grounds of ill health were rejected. Efforts to delay proceedings were defeated.

Poor health

The Butcher is now an elderly man.

A series of strokes have aged the 74-year-old. He might be frail of body, but his reputation lives long and for grim reasons.

The numbers are staggering: 100,000 died in the war; millions were left homeless; 50,000 women were raped.

To this day, bones are still discovered in the forests around Srebrenica

Genocide denial

However, Mladic still has his defenders.

The current mayor of Srebrenica, a Serb, denies the genocide. He is not alone in that view. What happened more than 20 years ago still divides communities.

The international tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague was set up in 1993 purposely for trying the crimes committed in Europe's worst conflict since World War Two.

Mladic's is the only verdict left for the court to deliver.

It will close next month, after almost a quarter of a decade of work, 5,000 witnesses, 11,000 trial days, 2.5 million sheets of evidence and 83 convictions - Mladic's will be the 84th and final verdict.

Some bemoan the court for being too lenient, others dismiss it as an arm of NATO. Judicially though, it has done its job.

It has painstakingly put away those guilty of gross murder, allowing Europe to put behind it a dark period of recent history.

Many of Mladic's victims and their families have travelled to The Hague to hear today's verdict.

It will no doubt resurrect unwelcome memories for them, but two decades on they will get the justice they must have never thought possible.