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UN court upholds Bosnian Serb commander's conviction for genocide, war crimes

A court of United Nations appeals judges on Tuesday upheld Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladić's conviction and life sentence for genocide and war crimes committed during Bosnia and Herzegovina's 1992-95 war.

Why it matters: Mladić was known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" for commanding troops responsible for the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities in Bosnia. Tuesday's verdict — 25 years after the end of the war — is one of the last major Balkan war crimes trials at the Hague's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, per Reuters.

  • "It's really the last big trial. It is an endless story that many people thought would never end and now it will," historian Iva Vukušić told Reuters.
  • "It sends a message that things are possible even when it seems hopeless," Vukušić added about what the verdict would mean to victims and their families.

The state of play: Mladić went into hiding after the war and evaded capture for 15 years, per Reuters. He was ultimately arrested in Serbia in 2011.

  • In 2017, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of "genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes including terrorizing the civilian population of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo," reports Reuters.
  • Mladić appealed the verdict, but the court proceeding has been long delayed due to his ailing health and the coronavirus pandemic, reports the BBC.

The big picture: Presiding Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe of Zambia announced Tuesday that the court dismissed Mladić's appeal “in its entirety” and upheld his life sentence, per AP.

  • However, the court also rejected an appeal by prosecutors to bring a second genocide conviction against Mladić for ethnic cleansing that occurred early on in the war, according to the BBC.
  • "The presiding judge dissented on almost all counts," adds the BBC.

What's next: Tuesday's court proceeding is a final verdict. A host country for Mladić's life sentence still needs to be determined, per Reuters.

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