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UN: Mladic was “key” in the atrocities in Srebrenica

A United Nations lawyer urged judges on Wednesday to reject the argument of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic that he was not responsible for the killings and displacements in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, on the last day of the former general’s appeal against the verdict and the sentence of life imprisonment.

Mladic’s defense on Tuesday asked judges to overturn his 2017 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for organizing various atrocities during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. They said, among other arguments, that the transfer of Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica 25 years ago was a humanitarian mission, not a forced transfer of civilians.

At the hearing held at the International Mechanism for Residual Functions of Criminal Courts, held in part by videoconference due to coronavirus restrictions, prosecutor Laurel Baig rejected that characterization of the events.

“Mladic’s arguments that it was a humanitarian evacuation overlook that the displacement operation was violent and coercive,” Baig said. “This operation was not at all humanitarian. On the contrary, it was an act of barbarism ”.

The forced relocation of Bosnian Muslim civilians and the massacre of more than 8,000 men of all ages from Srebrenica was the bloody climax of a war that left approximately 100,000 dead. Both Mladic and his political boss, Radovan Karadzic, were convicted by a UN criminal court of genocide and other crimes. Karadzic’s conviction was upheld by an appeals court last year.

“Mladic was key to the success of the operation,” Baig said. “He was not only present, giving orders, supervising and directing, but he played a crucial high-level role in preventing the international community from stopping these massacres.”

Mladic, 77, was present in court during the hearing. The judges have given him 10 minutes to address them at the end of the hearing. The five-judge panel will likely take months to deliver its ruling.