The charges against Ratko Mladic

26th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military leader captured in Serbia on Wednesday, faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the bloody 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The 69-year-old wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb army had been on the run since he was charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1995.

He was named on the same indictment sheet as Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, who was arrested in July 2008.

The indictment against Mladic details his role the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, the bloodiest of the conflicts in the Balkans following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s which left more than 200,000 people dead.

The document details how Mladic went from being a commander in the Yugoslav army in 1991 to heading the staff of the Bosnian Serb army shortly after the Bosnian Serbs proclaimed their own republic inside Bosnia.

In particular the indictment highlights Mladic's alleged responsibility for the siege of Sarajevo, the campaign of "ethnic cleansing" throughout Bosnia, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and holding dozens of UN peacekeepers hostage.

He is charged with being a member of a criminal enterprise whose objective was "the elimination or permanent removal, by force or other means, of Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb inhabitants from large areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina through the commission of crimes".

The two counts of genocide, the gravest of war crimes, focus on the treatment of Bosnian Muslims and specifically mention the establishment of camps and detention centres for them and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000.

Thousands of people were held in horrific living conditions in the camps run by Bosnian Serbs at the start of the 1992-95 war. In the Prijedor area alone more than 1,500 people died in the notorious camps of Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm.

Conditions in the camps were "calculated to bring about physical destruction", detainees were subjected to "torture, sexual violence and beatings" and faced "inhumane living conditions", the prosecution has said.

In July 1995 Serb troops overran the UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia and killed nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the deadliest single bloodbath in Europe since World War II.

It is the only episode in the bloody Bosnian war to be officially ruled to have been a genocide by both the ICTY and the UN's highest court, the International Court of Justice.

The document also singles out the 44-month siege of Sarajevo by forces under Mladic's control which "used artillery and mortar shelling and sniping to target civilian areas of Sarajevo ... killing and wounding civilians and thereby also inflicting terror" upon the population of the Bosnian capital.

In all, Mladic faces 15 charges also including persecutions, extermination and murder, deportation, inhumane acts, unlawfully inflicting terror on civilians and taking of hostages.

He is not only charged with having personally "planned, instigated, ordered or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of these crimes" but also for being responsible for the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serb troops subordinate to him which he failed to prevent or punish.

© 2011 AFP

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