Global Policy Forum

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic, the most wanted fugitive of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), has finally been arrested.  The arrest comes sixteen years after the tribunal issued the first indictment against Mladic.  During this time the Serbian government was consistently criticized by the international community for not doing enough to arrest Mladic and others accused of war crimes.  This article outlines the various charges Mladic will face when he is extradited to The Hague, including individual criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war.

By Erna Mackic

May 26, 2011

Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Republika Srpska Army, was first indicted before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, immediately following the capture of Srebrenica in July 1995.

The first indictment charged him with genocide and other crimes committed on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The same indictment charged Radovan Karadzic, president of the Republika Srpska and Mladic’s supreme commander.  

As of then, the two men were on the run. But while Karadzic was finally arrested in Belgrade on July 21, 2008, Mladic remained a fugitive.

In 2000, two indictments were formed out of the original indictment. Karadzic indictment was made public, and in 2002 even Mladic’s, with new amendments.

The Hague prosecution finally amended Mladic's indictment in May 2010, when they alligned the charges with the indictment against Karadzic.

The indictment charges Mladic in 15 articles for genocide, crimes against humanity and violations violation of laws and practices of warfare, all committed during the war from 1992 to 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The indictment notes that Mladic was appointed commander of the General Staff of the Republika Srpska Army on May 10, 1992, a function he held until December 22, 1996. In June, 1994, in the meantime, he was promoted to the rank of General Colonel.

From May 1992, Bosnian Serb Forces under the command and controle of General Ratko Mladic, took controle municipalities in the so called Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Heryegovina, later on Republika Srpska. In all of these municipalitis, Arma of Republika Srpska (VRS) soldiers participated in a campaigne of prosecutions to drive non-Serb population from these teritories, and thousands were killed.

"Many non-Serbs were killed, and many others were held in detention facilities where they were physically and psychologically abused and subjected to cruel and inhuman conditions. In addition, non-Serb homes, businesses, and religious sites and property were looted, destroyed and/or appropriated."

By the indictement, from January to March of 1993, VRS soldiers attacted Cerska and esterd Bosnia.

"Thousands of Muslims fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina government-controlled territory including Srebrenica and Zepa,“ the indictimend notes adding that on April 16 1993, the Securitz Council of the United Nations adopted Resolution 819 in which demanded that all parties to the conflict in areas of Sarajevo, Zepa, Srebenica and Gorazde, and their surroundings, are proclaimed „safe areas“, free from any armed attack or any other hostile act.

The Hague Prosecution belives that Mladic forces, starting from this period, concetreted on goals „strategicaly located around Srebrenica“. Culmination came after Radovan Karadzic, president of Republika Srpska and Suprime Commander, in March 1995 issued "Operational Directive 07“ which directed the VRS to eliminat the Muslim enclavec of Srebrenica and Zepa.

Attacs on this area culminated in July 11, 1995, when VRS atered Srebrenica, killing thousunds of Bosniaks.

Mladic is charged with "individual criminal responsibility as a person who was, „as the most senior officer," subordinated only to the Presidency/President of Republika Srpska. He was responsible, by indictement, for „planning and directing all operatios of the VRS, and monitoring the activities of all subordinate officers and unitis to ensure that his orders were implemented.“

Mladic exercised military command and control over, among others: the 1st Krajina Corps, 2nd Krajina Corps, East Bosnia Corps, Drina Corps, Sarajevo-Romanija Corps and Herzegovina-Romanija Corps.

“Each Corps within the VRS had a Corps commander and a command staff, all of whom were subordinated to General Ratko Mladic,” the indictment notes.

The Prosecution considers that Mladic exercised command and control over VRS forces “in co-ordination with paramilitary forces and volunteer units, the Bosnian Serb Territorial Defence, and the Bosnian Serb police, as well as [with] other civil authorities, like regional and municipal crisis committees”.

Besides the charge of command responsibility, Mladic is charged with having personally “planned, instigated, committed and ordered the crimes.

"By using the word ‘committed in this indictment, the Prosecutor does not suggest that the accused physically committed any of the crimes with which he his charged personally. ‘Committed’ in this indictment includes participation in a joint criminal enterprise,” the indictment explains.

Karadzic, his wartime colleague, Biljana Plavsic, the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik and other leaders of the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, as well as members of Serbian paramilitary and volunteer forces, are mentioned as other members of the joint criminal enterprise, JCE, which, as per the indictment, lasted from May 1992 to December 1996.

After Plavsic admitted guilt before the Hague Tribunal for the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2002, she was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment year after. After she served two thirds of her punishment, by the decision of ICTY Presidnet, she was relised on Octobar 27, 2009.

Milosevic, Serbia’s former president, died before his trial ended before the Hague Tribunal. The Court sentenced Krajisnik to 20 years’ imprisonment in 2008 for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The participants in the aforementioned Joint Criminal Enterprise were allegedly involved in planning, preparing and executing a campaign of persecution, which included acts of genocide; attacking and destroying non-Serbian towns and villages; and killing and terrorising the non-Serbian inhabitants, by killing, raping, sexually abusing, torturing, beating, robbing and generally treating them in an inhumane way.

The indictment alleges that, as a member of this enterprise, Mladic planned, ordered, instigated or carried out the “intentional partial destruction of the Bosnian Muslim community in Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Prijedor, Sanski Most and Srebrenica”.

According to Prosecution, in this and some other area, during 1992 and 1993, ethnical cleansing was committed,

Starting from May 1992, VRS forces started with attacks on Sarajevo and its citizens.  Mladic participated, by indictment, in “preparing, planning, facilitating or executing a protracted military campaign of artillery and mortar shelling and sniping into civilian areas of Sarajevo.”

The indictment charges Mladic with “prosecution on political, racial and religious grounds”, and he is indicted for crimes against humanity.

The Hague prosecution also charges Mladic for killings, terrorization and cruel and inhuman treatmen during and after attacks, sexual violence, imposing inhuman living conditions, forcible transfer and deportations, unlawful detention, forced labour, the appropriation or plunder of property…

“The appropriation or property included the practice of forcing non-Serbs to sign over their property to Bosnian Serb authorities before permitted to leave the municipalities.”

According to the indictment, Mladic is responsible for crimes against humanity and violation of laws and costumes of war.

Further counts of the indictment describe deeds by Sarajevo Romanija Corp of VRS, including the siege of Sarajevo.

As in the case of Radovan Karadzic, separate article of the indictment, is about taking of UN hostages, indicting Mladic for violation of the laws and customs of war one more time.

UN personnel, more then 200, were captured and held as hostages after NATO attack on VRS in May 1995.

Mladic’s forces “seized and held over two hundred UN staff members as hostages, following air strikes by NATO against Bosnian Serb Forces in BiH, in order to deter further air strikes in those areas where the hostages were being held,” the indictment says.

“Some of the hostages were assaulted and otherwise maltreated during their captivity,” it added.

Mladic is charged in connection with crimes commmited in the municipalities of Banja Luka, Bihac-Ripac, Bjeljina, Bosanska Gradiska, Bosanska Krupa, Bosanski Novi, Bratunac, Brcko, Doboj, Foca, Gacko, Kalinovik, Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Nevesinje, Novi Grad, Prijedor, Rogatica, Sanski Most, Srebrenica, Teslic, Vlasenica, Vogosca and Zvornik.

First indictment against Mladic in the Hague was issued in 1995 by that time chief prosecutor Richard J Goldstone, who made first amendments in November the same year. The last indictment was signed by Carla del Ponte in October 2002.


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