Welcoming today’s conviction of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic on multiple counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by an international tribunal, the United Nations top human rights official said that the verdict is “a warning” to perpetrators of such crimes that they will be brought to justice.
“Mladic is the epitome of evil, and the prosecution of Mladic is the epitome of what international justice is all about,” underscored Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement Wednesday.
“Today's verdict is a warning to the perpetrators of such crimes that they will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take. They will be held accountable,” he added.
Mladic presided over some of the most horrific crimes to occur in Europe since World War II, bringing terror, death and destruction to thousands of victims, and sorrow, tragedy and trauma to countless more.
In the statement, Mr. Zeid also noted that Mladic's conviction, by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is “a testament to the courage and determination of those victims and witnesses who never gave up hope that they would see him brought to justice.”
Today's verdict is a warning to the perpetrators of such crimes that they will not escape justiceHigh Commissioner Zeid
He also expressed hope that while the conviction will not return loved ones to their families or erase the past, the verdict can help “counter the voices” of those who either deny these horrific crimes or glorify those who committed them.
Also in the statement, Mr. Zeid said that the ICTY verdict reinforced the importance of the International Criminal Court.
“All those who question the importance of the ICC should reflect on this case. All those who are committing serious international crimes in so many situations today across the world should fear this result,” he said
Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic – two of the main architects of some of the worst atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica – have now been convicted by the Tribunal and are facing lengthy jail sentences.
For his part, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, said: “This is proof that one can delay justice but not escape it […] the verdict sends a very important message to the mothers of Srebrenica and others who suffered at the hands of Mr. Mladic.”
Mr. Lajčák served as the High Representative of the International Community and European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2007 to 2009. In that capacity, he visited Srebrenica several times and met with the families of the victims.
“I have personally witnessed and felt the despair in Srebrenica. I hope this ruling will help lift the anguish and impart some sense of justice,” President Lajčák said.
In another statement, Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said: “Today is an historic day. The verdict by the ICTY against Ratko Mladic sends a clear message that there is no space for impunity and that justice will prevail.”
Criminal accountability is not only about the past but is also about the future. Special Adviser Dieng
Also paying homage to the victims, Mr. Dieng said today's verdict renders justice to those who suffered as a result of the atrocity crimes committed by Mr. Mladic. “Nothing can erase the horrors of the past, but they can now have the comfort of knowing that [he] will face punishment appropriate to the crimes he committed.”
At the same time, the Special Adviser stressed that criminal accountability is “not only about the past but also about the future.” Indeed, he said that accountability constitutes a critical component of prevention and also an important step on the path to reconciliation.
In a region witnessing denial of some of the most heinous crimes committed during the armed conflict and the glorification of war criminals, justice alone will not lead to reconciliation, but there can be no real reconciliation without justice. “I hope that this verdict, as well as past decisions by the ICTY, will encourage the region to think about what happened, learn the lessons of the past and chart a future that fully acknowledges those lessons,” the Special Adviser said.
Mladic will be remembered by history for the many communities and lives he destroyed – ICTY Prosecutor
Also today, in a separate statement, Serge Brammertz, the Prosecutor at the ICTY, said that in delivering its judgement, the Tribunal accepted the evidence presented that Mladic was a key participant in four joint criminal enterprises.
ladic and other senior leaders intended to achieve their political and military aims by committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said the Prosecutor.
The convictions against the former Bosnian Serb army commander included for commanding violent ethnic cleansing campaigns across Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995; for commanding a campaign of crimes during the Siege of Sarajevo; for the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995; and for using forces under his command to take UN peacekeepers as hostages.
In his statement, Mr. Brammertz underscored that while some people would claim that this judgment is a verdict against the Serbian people.
“[We] reject that claim in the strongest terms. Mladic's guilt is his, and his alone […] he will be remembered by history for the many communities and lives he destroyed” he said.
“The true heroes are the victims and survivors who never gave up on their quest for justice [and] displayed real courage by coming to the Tribunal to tell the truth and confront the men who wronged them,” highlighted the prosecutor.