Bosnian Muslims who lost loved ones in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre say no punishment would be enough for Ratko Mladic, the ex-Bosnian Serb wartime commander jailed for life for genocide.
Mladic, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, was convicted on Wednesday by a UN tribunal on 10 counts of war crimes including the siege of Sarajevo in which over 10,000 civilians died from shelling and sniper attacks, and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs during the 1992-95 conflict.
“Can there ever be adequate punishment for someone who committed so many crimes? It would be too many even for 300 years, let alone three days,” said Vasva Smajlovic, 74, referring to the Srebrenica slaughter in July 1995.
Her husband, son-in-law and other relatives were among the 8,000 Muslim men and boys taken away and shot dead execution-style after Mladic assured UN peacekeepers and local residents that no harm would befall them after his forces seized the town.
“I try to count my dead all the time. I count to 50 and then I’m not able to count anymore,” Smajlovic said tearfully while watching a live telecast of the Mladic verdict. “No words can describe how I feel. I am angry. All this comes too late.”
Her sister-in-law felt, however, justice was served with Mladic’s conviction, even if it came 22 years after the war.
“Nothing can compensate for our pain but it is important that justice is done,” said Bida Smajlovic, who last saw her husband when he tried to flee Srebrenica through woods in July 1995. His remains were later found in a mass grave.
On July 11, 1995, Mladic’s ultra-nationalist forces separated men and boys from women and took them away in buses or on foot to be shot within days. It was Europe’s worst single atrocity since World War Two.
Wednesday’s verdict, the last major case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after 24 years of work, stirred tension in a region still scarred by the 1990s Balkans conflagration.
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