Ratko Mladic was born on 12 March 1942 in the municipality of Kalinovik, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Mladic was a career officer in the Yugoslav Peoples Army (JNA). In 1992 General Mladic joined the newly created army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina/ Republika Srpska(VRS), established by the Assembly of Bosnian Serbs on 12 May 1992 and became its Commander in Chief. He held this position at least until 22 December 1996.
Upon recognition by the international community of the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina on 6 April 1992, fighting broke out in Sarajevo. The town was subjected to a blockade, to heavy artillery fire and to the action of isolated snipers. Starting in May 1992, the VRS), under Mladic’s command unleashed a campaign of bombardments and sniper shootings against the civilian areas of the town, terrorising, wounding and killing civilians and destroying buildings.
The VRS took control of the municipalities situated on the territory of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, from where it began a campaign of persecution against the non-Serbian population aimed at forcing them out through expulsions, forced displacements, arrests, murder and imprisonment in detention centres where these people were subjected to cruel treatment both physical and psychological as well as to cruel and inhumane living conditions. The homes, businesses, places of worship and belongings of the non-Serbian population were also pillaged, destroyed and/or confiscated.
Between January and March 1993, the VRS launched an attack against the Cerska region in eastern Bosnia, leading to the flight of thousands of Muslims who subsequently sought refuge in the territories controlled by the authorities of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which included Srebrenica and Zepa. Despite resolution 819 of the UN Security Council, of 16 April 1993, requiring that all parties to the conflict in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina treat Srebrenica, Zepa, Goradze, Sarajevo (and their surroundings) as “security zones” which should not be the target of any armed attack nor of any other hostile action, the VSR, under the command of General Mladic and by order of Karadzic, attacked the enclave of Srebrenica between the 2 and 11 July 1995.
Thousands of Muslim men present in this enclave were forced to surrender to the VRS, and more than 7000 of these captured Bosnian Muslims were summarily executed between the 13 and 19 July 1995. The VRS then tried to cover up the murders of these Muslims in Srebrenica by exhuming the bodies of the victims from the mass graves in order to rebury them in more isolated areas.
In addition, from 26 May to 19 June 1995, the VRS captured and held as hostages more than 200 military observers and members of the UN peacekeeping forces, in retaliation for the air raids carried out by NATO against the Bosnian Serb forces.
In his capacity as Commander in Chief of the VRS, General Mladic had authority over the entire operations of the VRS and therefore assumed full responsibility for them, given that he was in charge of planning and directing the overall operations of the VRS, as well as controlling the activities of all of its officers and subordinate units.
On 24 July 1995, both Radovan Karadzic and Mladic were formally accused by the International Criminal tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (TPIY) of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war. Mladic, as a former commander of the Bosnian Serb forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was accused of being responsible for the serious breaches of international humanitarian law committed by the Bosnian Serb forces during the period between May 1992 and July 1995.
On 15 November 1995, Karadzic and Mladic were also accused of serious breaches of humanitarian law committed by the Bosnian Serb forces during the “siege” and capture of the security zones in Srebrenica in July 1995, of genocide and of crimes against humanity.
Arrest warrants were issued and sent to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to the Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina and to the Serbian Administration of Bosnia in Pale.
On 15 October 2009, the first trial chamber of the ICTY ordered the separation of the Mladic and the Karadic cases. At the end of the year 2009, the European Union announced it would delay the negotiations of Serbia’s accession until Mladic was arrested, because he was still at large and sought by the ICTY.
On 26 May 2011 the President of Serbia announced that Ratko Mladic had been arrested. On 31 May 2011 Mladic was transferred to the UN Detention Unit in The Hague.
Mladic was indicted for the following crimes:
– Two counts of genocide
– Five counts of crimes against humanity, including persecutions, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts
– Four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war including murder, terror, unlawful attacks on civilians, taking of hostages
His trial began on 16 May 2012.
On 28 October 2016, the president of the Tribunal dismissed the defence motions seeking the disqualification of three judges from the Appeals Chamber, as ‘reasonable concern’ could not be proven.
The closing arguments took place in December 2016: the prosecutors called for a life sentence while the defence pleaded for Mladic’s acquittal.
On 22 November 2017, Mladic was found guilty of 10 out of 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to life in prison. The judges from the ICTY found him responsible for the Srebrenica massacre, qualified as a genocide. They also judged that he was responsible for the bombings of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996.
Mladic’s lawyers announced that he will appeal this judgement.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
The conflict in former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1999, shocked international public opinion because of the abuses revealed by the press, which were committed by all parties to the conflict (massacres, forced displacements of population, concentration camps …). The conflict is considered to consist of several separate conflicts, which were ethnic in nature – the war in Slovenia (1991), the war in Croatia (1991-1995), the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995) and the war Kosovo (1998-1999), which also involved the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.
The conflicts accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia, when the constituent republics declared their independence. The wars mostly ended after peace accords were signed, and new republics were given full international recognition of their statehood.
In order to restore peace and security in the region, the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of UN Charter, created on 25 May 1993, by Resolution 827, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was determined that pursuant to numerous reports of, among other, mass killings, systematic detention, rapes, practice of “ethnic cleansing”, transfers, etc., these acts constituted a threat to international peace and security, necessitating a reaction by Security Council. As the Tribunal was created during the ongoing conflict, the Security Council expressed its hopes that ICTY would contribute to halting violations in the region. Its headquarters are in The Hague, Netherlands.
The Tribunal has jurisdiction to prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law – grave breaches of Geneva Conventions, violations of laws and customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity – allegedly committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991, (no end date was specified). Since its creation, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people, including heads of states and government members.
The Tribunal’s mandate was originally meant to expire on 31 December 2009, but the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the Court with several judges, including permanent judges, so that the ongoing trials can be completed. According to the “ICTY Completion Strategy Report” from 18 May 2011, all trials were supposed to be completed by the end of 2012, and all the appeals by the end of 2015. The exceptions were cases of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.
The Security Council adopted resolution 1966 on 22 December 2010, establishing International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. The ICTY residual mechanism began functioning on 1 July 2013.
The Tribunal was called to finish its work by the end of 2014, in order to prepare closure and transfer of cases to the Residual Mechanism. The Mechanism is a small and temporary body, which plays important role in ensuring that the completion strategy of ICTY does not result in impunity of fugitives and in injustice. It is conducting all outstanding first instance trials, including those of Karadzic, Mladic and Hadzic. It is also to complete all appeals proceedings that were filed before 1 July 2013.
The ICTY is not the only court with jurisdiction to try alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia. The Tribunal has concurrent jurisdiction with national courts. However, it takes precedence over them and may require the referral from the national court at any stage of the proceedings (Article 9 of the ICTY Statute). The Statute does not elaborate how the primacy is to be exercised, but it was asserted by the judges of the ICTY in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The primacy can be asserted in three cases: when an international crime is intentionally or unwittingly prosecuted before national court as an “ordinary criminal offence”, when a national court is unreliable, or when the case is closely related, or may be relevant to other cases being tried by the ICTY.
National courts also have jurisdiction to prosecute alleged perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law.
In the former Yugoslavia, the trials of those accused of war crimes have been opened by the courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Section for War Crimes was set up in the Criminal and Appellate Divisions of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Special Chamber for War Crimes has jurisdiction to prosecute the most serious alleged war crimes committed in Bosnia, and was created to relieve the ICTY, so that it can focus on criminals of high rank. Its establishment was also considered necessary for effective war crimes prosecution in Bosnia. The opening of the Special Chamber was on 9 March 2005.
Additionally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1244 from 10 June 1999, UN administration was created in Kosovo. Consequently, in 2000 “Regulation 64” Panels in Courts of Kosovo were created, which are mixed chambers at the local courts. They have two international judges and one national. These panels work in collaboration with the ICTY. They have jurisdiction over those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They focus on prosecuting lower ranking offenders.
In Serbia, the Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor was established on 1 July 2003. It was created to detect and prosecute perpetrators of criminal offenses against humanity and international law, and offences recognised by the ICTY Statute, regardless of the nationality, citizenship, race or religion of the perpetrator and the victim, as long as the acts were committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia after 1 January 1991. Its seat is in Belgrade, Serbia.
Other relevant national jurisdictions are under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows states with a specific legal basis, to try perpetrators of serious crimes regardless of their nationality or that of the victims and regardless of where the crime was committed.