Defiant Ratko Mladic dismisses UN court as child of the West

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A defiant Ratko Mladic dismissed the U.N. court hearing his appeal against convictions for crimes including genocide as a “child of the Western powers,” as a two-day hearing wrapped up Wednesday with the former Bosnian Serb military chief jabbing his finger at the courtroom and saying his indictment had “gone down the drain.”

Mladic was given 10 minutes at the end of the hearing to make a personal statement before judges retired to decide whether to uphold or overturn his 2017 convictions and life sentence for masterminding atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

Their decision in the case of one of the highest profile suspects will go a long way to deciding the legacy of a U.N. tribunal that convicted dozens of war criminals from the bloody conflict.

Mladic, 77, stood up and used his time to lay out some of his recollections of the war that left 100,000 dead and to disparage one of the U.N. prosecution lawyers who earlier urged judges to uphold his convictions and sentence as “this blonde lady who has been showering me with satanic, snaky, devilish words.”

“I am none of the things that you call me,” he added, his words translated into English by a courtroom translator. He said he wasn’t speaking to defend himself, but insisted that the trial judges who convicted him were wrong.

Earlier, prosecution lawyer Barbara Goy called Mladic “one of the worst war criminals who has ever faced justice” at an international tribunal.

Goy said that for Mladic, “life imprisonment is the only conceivable sentence. Nothing less than the maximum sentence is appropriate.”

Mladic’s defense lawyers called on judges on Tuesday to overturn his 2017 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, saying the trial panel’s final judgment was riddled with legal and factual errors. Among their arguments, the lawyers said that busing Bosnian Muslims out of Srebrenica 25 years ago was a humanitarian mission, not a forcible transfer of civilians.

At a hearing conducted at the U.N. International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, and held partly by video conference because of coronavirus restrictions, prosecution lawyer Laurel Baig rejected that characterization of the events.

“There was nothing humanitarian about this operation. On the contrary, it was barbaric,” Baig said.

Mladic and his political master, Radovan Karadzic, were both convicted by a U.N. war crimes tribunal of genocide and other offenses for their roles in the forcible removal of Bosnian Muslims civilians and the massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys from Srebrenica. Karadzic’s convictions were upheld on appeal last year.

“Mladic was key to the success of this operation,” Baig said. “Not only was he present, giving orders supervising and directing, he also played a critical and high level role in keeping the international community from stopping these massacres.”

He also was convicted of involvement in crimes including the deadly siege of Sarajevo, and brutal campaigns to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats out of territory claimed by Bosnian Serbs. Prosecutors called on the appeals judges to overturn Mladic’s acquittal on a genocide charge linked to the “ethnic cleansing” campaigns.

Mladic called himself a lifetime professional soldier who worked according to the laws of his own country, which he referred to as the SFRY, or Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the country established after World War II that crumbled in the devastating Balkan wars of the 1990s.

“Fate put me in a position to defend my country, the SFRY, that you Western powers had devastated with the help of the Vatican, and the Western mafia,” he added, also blaming former US President George H.W. Bush and former German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel.

As the presiding judge cut him off, Mladic added, “I’m very sorry that you have interrupted me. My time is only just coming. People will hear what Ratko Mladic has to say. I am alive and I will live as long as our tribe and our people live. Thank you. And this indictment of yours has gone down the drain.”

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