The delayed appeals hearing of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, sentenced to life imprisonment, will take place in June, the UN announced on Monday.
The hearing, initially scheduled for March, had to be postponed after Mladic, 77, underwent an operation doctors had said was to remove a benign polyp from his colon.
Mladic, once dubbed the Butcher of Bosnia was sentenced to life behind bars in 2017 for his role in the country’s bloody 1990 civil war.
This included for genocide committed by his Bosnian Serb forces in the small eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in mid-1995, Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II.
About 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million others displaced in the 1992-95 war, which erupted as communal rivalries tore Yugoslavia apart after the fall of communism.
The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunal (IRMCT) said that Mladic was “recovering well from the surgery” that he underwent on March 28 and stressed the need to hold the appeal “without delay when it is safe and practicable to do so”.
With the Netherlands on coronavirus lockdown until May 15, the Tribunal said the hearing would take place on June 16 and 17, although that may change if “coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions inhibit the necessary travel or the holding of the hearing for other reasons”.
– ‘Heinous’ –
Imprisoned since 2011 in The Hague detention center, Mladic is one of the main leaders tried by international justice for crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
In one of its final judgments, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted the brazen ex-commander of genocide in certain municipalities, a fact which now forms the bulk of the prosecution’s appeal.
Mladic’s crimes however were “amongst the most heinous known to humankind”, the judge said when handing down the sentence.
At Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb forces overran UN peacekeepers before slaughtering almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys and dumping their bodies into mass graves.
Along with Mladic, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and ex-Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic also faced international justice over the Balkans wars.
Milosevic died in his cell in The Hague in March 2006, suffering a heart attack before his trial had finished.
Karadzic was convicted of genocide in 2016 for the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities during the war and sentenced to 40 years.
After an appeal, judges increased his sentence to life, saying the initial term had underestimated the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of his crimes.