UN tribunal failed to reconcile Bosnia: Mladic lawyer

Sarajevo (AFP) –


The UN tribunal set up to try Balkan war crimes suspects is a "political" institution that has failed to reconcile Bosnia, a lawyer for Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime military chief, said.

The court should have "led to reconciliation" between ethnic groups but "all of us living in Bosnia know that it did not succeed," lawyer Miodrag Stevanovic told AFP.

As for "the choice of who should be indicted by the prosecution, I have no difficulty in saying that it was political," said Stevanovic.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which closes at the end of the year, has made 83 convictions linked to the bitter 1990s conflicts since it was established at The Hague in 1993.

On Wednesday, ICTY judges will deliver their verdict on Mladic, who faces 11 charges including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity -- arising from Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

The 74-year-old became internationally known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" for his role in the civil war, in which 100,000 people were killed and another 2.2 million displaced.

The court's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said he "fundamentally" disagreed with Stevanovic's allegations, stressing that his office had "no political agenda".

"What is much more the case is that nationalist politicians in the region are trying to use... the decisions by the ICTY to push their own nationalistic agenda," he said.

The Belgian official said that while justice alone could not achieve reconciliation, "I think it is a pre-condition to give reconciliation a chance".

The war in Bosnia ended with a deal that split the small country along ethnic lines into two semi-independent entities, and relations between the two sides remain tense.

Mladic was arrested in 2011 after 16 years on the run. His complex 523-day trial included 500 witnesses and 10,000 exhibits were admitted in evidence.

He is charged notably over the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men, and the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo.

The Srebrenica massacre of Muslim boys and men trying to flee the ill-fated town after it fell to Serb forces was deemed genocide by international justice.

The prosecution is seeking a life sentence.

At his first court appearance in 2011, Mladic denied all the charges, describing them as "obnoxious."

"This is a political trial," Stevanovic said. "History will deliver its judgement with distance. Time will show the truth".

He said Mladic would remain a "butcher" to some and a "hero" to others.

"But he is a historic personality".