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Mladić verdict – crimes against humanity do not go unpunished

Memorial to victims of war crimes in the Bosnian War

Die Erinnerung bleibt: Opfer von Kriegsverbrechen im Bosnien-Krieg., © dpa

22.11.2017 - Article

The verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sends an important message on international criminal law.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague© dpa

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague convicted Ratko Mladić today (22 November) as one of the leading figures in the Srebenica genocide and other atrocities during the Bosnian War. The court convicted Mladić of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced him to life in prison. Mladić can appeal against this lower-court verdict.

Vital process of addressing the past

The verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is important as regards addressing the terrible events of the Bosnian War. In 1995, Serbian units murdered over 8000 Muslim men and boys near Srebenica on Mladić’s orders. The UN Tribunal also convicted the former general of the years long shelling of Sarajevo, the forcible transfer of hundreds of thousands of people and systematic rapes of Muslim women and girls by his troops. 

In its verdict, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has implemented the principle that all those who commit the most serious crimes under international law must be held accountable to the international community in criminal proceedings. This aim is a legacy of the Second World War and the war crimes tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo.

Peace requires justice

Germany has been working for many years to enhance international criminal jurisdiction, as the pain of the victims and bereaved can only be alleviated if the perpetrators are named and prosecuted in person. Sweeping prejudices against former war opponents can only be overcome and reconciliation processes can only succeed if the past is addressed by criminal jurisdiction. Each international criminal trial thus also presents an opportunity for peace. 

Justice years later – photo of a victim of the Srebenica genocide
Justice years later - photo of a victim of the Srebenica genocide © dpa

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is expected to announce its final verdict against Jadranko Prlić et al. on 29 November and to close at the end of the year. Pending cases will be conducted by the successor institution, the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. 

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has not only played an important role in addressing war crimes and crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia, but has also helped to further international criminal law. As a result of the Tribunal’s verdict, systematic rapes of women, which were deliberately used as a means of war in the Bosnian War, are now also classified as crimes against humanity under international criminal law.
Further information from the ICTY on the Mladić case is available here.

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