Russia slams biased war crimes verdict against Ratko Mladic

The Bosnian Serb commander was convicted of crimes against humanity, while accusations of crimes by the opposing side were ignored

(bne IntelliNews) – The guilty verdict against general Ratko Mladic issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague is biased and politicised, foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters at regular press briefing in Moscow.

During the bloody 1992-1995 Bosnian war Russia, which has close ties to Serbia, unofficially backed the Serb side. Several hundred Russian volunteers participated in the war, fighting on the Serb side. Until today, Moscow has fiercely denied the Srebrenica genocide.

Mladic, known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’, was indicted on two counts of genocide – across Bosnia & Herzegovina and in Srebrenica, five counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war in the most significant war crimes trial in Europe since the Nuremberg tribunal. On November 22, judges found him guilty of all charges except genocide across Bosnia.

“We have to say once again that the guilty verdict for Ratko Mladic, former commander in chief of the Bosnian Serb Armed Forces, delivered by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is a continuation of the politicised and biased course that has dominated the tribunal’s activity from the outset,” Zakharova said.

She added that the tribunal had a “contrived, one-sided anti-Serb interpretation of the tragic events of the 1990s”, eroding the reconciliation efforts on the Balkans.

“The Hague Tribunal objectively failed to cope with the main task of impartially holding accountable all those responsible for the heinous atrocities committed during the period of the conflict under consideration. Moreover, the ICTY’s “selective justice” that acquitted them contrary to the evidence against them gave a number of persons a start in political life and granted them freedom that innocent victims will never have,” Zakharova also said.

She accused the tribunal of not sending to jail Bosniak field commander Naser Oric, who was allegedly responsible for the killing of Serb civilians, and claimed that it has not mentioned the “illegal nature of Nato’s military operations in the Balkans”, while at the same time accusing Mladic of holding UN personnel as hostages.

Mladic’s trial began in 2012. He declined to plead and the court pleaded not guilty on his behalf. The former Bosnian Serb military leader is allegedly in poor health and his lawyers have made attempts to persuade the tribunal to send him to Serbia for medical treatment, as well as to postpone the sentence hearing.

The Bosnian war broke out after Bosniaks and Croats voted for independence from the former Yugoslav federation in a 1992 referendum boycotted by Serbs, which wanted to stay part of former Yugoslavia.

The Hague tribunal has already convicted 15 people for the massacres during the war. Three were given life sentences — two former officers from the Bosnian Serb army’s main headquarters, Zdravko Tolimir and Ljubisa Beara, as well as former Bosnian Serb Army Drina Corps security officer Vujadin Popovic. Mladic’s verdict was the one to be pronounced by the tribunal, which is due to stop working by the end of December this year.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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