The Hague, 8 June 2021 – The verdict handed down today by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (UNMICT) in the case of Ratko Mladić, following legal proceedings that have lasted for more than nine years, is an important affirmation of the rule of law, ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said.
The UNMICT upheld the conviction of Mladić for the genocide in the area of Srebrenica in 1995, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mladić, who was the Bosnian Serb commander during the conflict, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
“Those who killed unarmed civilians and those who facilitated the conditions for these crimes, wrongly believed that they could erase their crimes through hiding the mortal remains of their victims, said Bomberger.
ICMP’s work, in particular scientific evidence establishing the identity of victims from the 1990s conflicts, contributed to an incontestable narrative of genocide and other war crimes. The evidence has contributed to convictions in numerous trials: ICMP has provided expert evidence and other specialized forensic capacity, including testimony, forensic reports and depositions, in over 30 cases worldwide. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, ICMP assisted local authorities in the scientific excavation and investigation of around 3,000 mass gravesites, including Tomašica and Jakarina Kosa, which were part of the prosecution case against Mladić.
“Convicting persons responsible for war crimes is an indispensable element in upholding the rule of law. Ensuring that governments fulfil their legal obligations to account for those who are missing as a result of these crimes, and their responsibility to secure the rights of all surviving families of the missing is another element in the same process,” Bomberger said.
In the Western Balkans, ICMP spearheaded the effort to locate and identify the 40,000 people who went missing during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia. More than 70 percent of these people have been accounted for, including almost 7,000 of the 8,000 missing from Srebrenica genocide. ICMP’s use of DNA-led identification techniques made it possible to identify thousands of Srebrenica victims despite the attempt by those responsible for the massacre to remove evidence by exhuming and then hiding human remains. Countries of the former Yugoslavia are working together through an ICMP facilitated Missing Persons Group to fulfil their legal obligation to account for persons who remain missing after the conflict and to uphold the rights of the surviving families.
“An important chapter in the history of international justice and the history of the Western Balkans conflict closed today. Ramifications of the judgement in case of Mladić and in previous cases, such as that of Radovan Karadzić, go beyond the Western Balkans. This gives hope to survivors of atrocity, including families of the missing and disappeared persons around the world, that justice can be delivered,” Bomberger concluded.
ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.