AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A U.N. judge cut short the closing remarks of former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic on Wednesday as he appealed his life sentence for war crimes, including genocide, during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
Mladic, 77, led Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992-95 Bosnian War. He was convicted in 2017 on charges including terrorizing the civilian population of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during a 43-month siege, and the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995.
In an address to judges in the closing minutes of his appeal, Mladic did not express any remorse for victims of the war, and described himself as a “simple man” and career soldier who had defended his country.
Presiding Judge Prisca Nyambe stopped him after he had spoken for his allotted 10 minutes.
“This indictment of yours has gone down the drain,” Mladic said.
Prosecutors argued that Mladic’s conviction should be upheld, along with the sentence, pointing to the suffering his actions had caused.
“Considering the nature, scale and brutality of these crimes, life in prison is the only conceivable punishment,” said prosecutor Barbara Goy.
Mladic shook his head in disagreement at times as Goy spoke.
In his 2017 conviction, judges held Mladic responsible for “ethnic cleansing” campaigns against Bosnian Muslims and Croats, as part of a plan to forge a “Greater Serbia” out of parts of the former Yugoslavia.
Mladic’s lawyers argued that trial judges were wrong and that he should be acquitted or face a retrial.
“We do not deny that others engaged in crimes… but they do not have anything to do with Mr. Mladic,” said defence lawyer Dragan Ivetic.
Mladic’s appeal is being held at a U.N. court in The Hague set up to hear appeals and the remaining cases from the former Yugoslav Tribunal, which closed in 2017. The proceedings were broadcast by video because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Appeals judges will rule at a date yet to be set in 2021.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Jan Harvey)