Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) released the following statement following today’s judgement of Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague (Netherlands):
“I welcome today’s judgement by the international tribunal against Ratko Mladic. The absolutely monstrous nature of the crimes he was found guilty of committing – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide – could not be ignored. Although it took a long time and a lot of effort, justice has, at long last, been served.
“My thoughts are now with the surviving victims. Nothing can provide complete closure for the tremendous wrongs that have been committed against them and the losses they experienced, individually and as a people. Justice is more often too slow and far less than complete than it should be. These unfortunate realities are not unique to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“However, a big step has been taken today. Those that have suffered from Ratko Mladic’s vicious acts know that he will pay a price for the crimes he committed. They can further the cause of justice now by relegating him to history, by moving forward with their lives and those of their children and grandchildren, and by learning from – rather than repeating – the wrongs that come with hate. As they do, I want Mladic’s victims also to remember that they are not alone; the people of the United States and many other countries want them to persevere.”
Background: On November 22, Ratko Mladic was judged guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mladic was a senior officer in the Yugoslav military based in Croatia during the conflict that followed Croatia’s assertion of independent statehood in 1991. When Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in 1992, he became commander of Bosnian Serb forces in that country, a position he held throughout the conflict that lasted until the signing of the Dayton Agreement in late 1995.
Mladic was held responsible for the siege of Sarajevo and the genocide at Srebrenica, each of which led to many thousands of deaths. Indicted in 1995, he remained at large until his arrest in Serbia in 2011, when he was transferred to The Hague.
His trial is the culmination of ICTY’s two decades of work as the first ad hoc tribunal designed to hold individuals accountable for war-related crimes since the Nuremburg and Tokyo trials following World War II. The Helsinki Commission and its leadership have strongly encouraged U.S. support for ICTY and the cooperation of the countries of the Western Balkans with the tribunal.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.