European Western Balkans

Reactions from the EU and US to Mladić verdict: Regional leaders should respect the decision

Srebrenica–Potočari Memorial and Cemetery; Photo: Wikimedia

BRUSSELS / WASHINGTON – The final judgement in the case of Ratko Mladić by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) brings to an end a key trial in Europe’s recent history for war crimes, including genocide, which took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated High Representative of the Union Josep Borrell and European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi in a joint statement.

United Nations war crimes judges on Tuesday upheld a genocide conviction and life sentence against Mladić for his role in the killing of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.

The appeals chamber also dismissed the appeal brought by the prosecution, which had sought a second conviction against Mladic over crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats in some other areas during the war.

“Remembering those who lost their lives, our deepest sympathies are with their loved ones and those who survived. This judgment will contribute to the healing for all those who suffered”, Borrell and Várhelyi stated.

They added that the EU expected all political actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Western Balkans to demonstrate full cooperation with international tribunals, respect their decisions and acknowledge their independence and impartiality.

“Genocide denial, revisionism and glorification of war criminals contradict the most fundamental European values. Today’s decision is an opportunity for leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, in view of the facts, to lead the way in honouring victims and promote an environment conducive to reconciliation to overcome the legacies of the war and build lasting peace”, the statement reads.

This is a prerequisite for the stability and security of Bosnia and Herzegovina and fundamental for its EU path. It is also amongst the 14 key priorities of the Commission Opinion on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership application.

“International and domestic courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the neighbouring countries need to continue their mission to provide justice for all victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and their family members. There can be no impunity”, Borrel and Várhelyi concluded.

Biden: I hope leaders in the region will respect this judgment and reinforce its importance for the rule of law

President of the United States Joseph Biden, an active member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the Yugoslav wars, also released a statement yesterday.

“Almost twenty-six years ago, Ratko Mladić ordered the summary execution of some 8,000 unarmed men and boys in Srebrenica. He also led the brutal years-long siege of Sarajevo and was responsible for many other crimes. Today, the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague affirmed his conviction for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. This historic judgment shows that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable. It also reinforces our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world”, the statement reads.

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Biden stressed that the United States had helped lead the international effort to end the atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to bring to justice those who committed crimes there and in other parts of the former Yugoslavia, and to establish a lasting peace to that country and the broader region.

“We are grateful for the tireless work of the UN tribunals over the past two decades on cases related to the conflict in the Balkans and all those whose dedication made this judgment possible”, the statement reads.

According to the statement, justice and reconciliation are the foundation for peace and stability for the future, and today’s decision is also an important confirmation that this is possible.

“I sincerely hope leaders in the region will respect this judgment and reinforce its importance for the rule of law. My thoughts today are with all the surviving families of the many victims of Mladić’s atrocities. We can never erase the tragedy of their deaths, but I hope today’s judgment provides some solace to all those who are grieving”, Biden said.

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