Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, remained defiant to the very end of his four-year trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
As the judges of the United Nations-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague delivered their verdict last week, Mladic stood up and shouted, “ … this is all lies.”
And he showed why the sentence of life in prison was actually a big gift to him.
“I’ll [expletive] your mother,” he threatened.
Mladic was forcibly removed from the courtroom and the verdicts were read in his absence, according to the Guardian newspaper of Britain.
We can only hope the same fate awaits him in prison that was visited upon Radislav Krstic, who was convicted at The Hague in 2001 for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.
Krstic was serving time in Wakefield prison in Britain when three Muslim inmates slashed his throat while he was in his cell. They were intent on revenge, according to the Guardian.
Mladic is deserving of nothing less, given that he was found guilty by the U.N. tribunal of 10 offenses involving extermination, murder and persecution of civilian populations.
He oversaw the slaughter of thousands of Muslims during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. His Serbian troops committed unspeakable crimes against humanity, including the notorious Srebrenica massacre that left 8,000 men and boys dead. It was the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since World War II.
He also was accused of war crimes in connection with the siege of Sarajevo, which was shelled and fired on for nearly four years. The death toll reached 10,000.
Like other cowardly murderers, Mladic tried to avoid being sent to the Netherlands by claiming he was too ill to travel and stand trial. Fortunately, judges rejected an appeal seeking to stop his extradition from Serbia.
It is a sign of his depravity that not even the suicide of his 23-year-old daughter, Ana, in 1994 could touch the cold heart of this evil man.
He had visited his daughter’s grave before he was put on a plane in Belgrade headed for The Hague.
Ana did not leave a suicide note, but media reports at the time say she ended her life with her father’s gun in the family home because of depression caused by his role in the war.
And yet Mladic ¥ showed no remorse for his crimes during the 530 days of testimony in the most significant war-crimes case in Europe since the Nuremberg trials.
Almost 600 people gave evidence for the prosecution and defense, including survivors of the conflict, the Guardian reported.
Judge Alphons Orie, who delivered the verdicts against Mladic, was not exaggerating when he said the crimes “rank among the most heinous known to mankind and include genocide and extermination.”
Defense lawyers made the ridiculous arguments that their client was a “good character”, had diminished capacity and was in poor physical health.
The tribunal didn’t buy the arguments.
It is noteworthy that the defendant was one of the world’s most wanted fugitives before his arrest in 2011 in northern Serbia. He refused to enter a plea during his initial appearance before the tribunal. A not guilty plea was eventually entered for him.
“Through most of the trial in The Hague, he was a disruptive presence in court, heckling judges and on one occasion making a cut-throat gesture towards the mother of one of the 8,000 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre,” the British newspaper reported.
The blood-curdling, heart-wrenching details of what took place during the ethnic cleansing campaigns aimed at Muslims in the former Yugoslavia demand an examination of conscience by people of goodwill.
Mladic does have his supporters, especially in the Serbian village, Lazarevo, where he was arrested in 2011.
“All this is a farce for me,” said Igor Topolic. “He is a Serbian national hero.”
We hope Topolic’s comments represent a minority view. Otherwise, it means ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are not a big deal.