‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Found Guilty Of Genocide

This combination of pictures created on November 22, 2017, shows (L) Ratko Mladic then Bosnian Serb General looking on in Sarajevo on February 15, 1994, and (R) Mladic smiling as he enters the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on November 22, 2017, to hear the verdict in his genocide trial. PASCAL GUYOT, Peter Dejong / AFP

 

 

United Nation judges on Wednesday sentenced former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment after finding him guilty of genocide and war crimes in the brutal Balkans conflicts over two decades ago.

The trial of the man dubbed “The Butcher of Bosnia” was the last before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and comes as the court prepares to close its doors next month.

The court found him guilty on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992-1995 war that killed 100,000 people and displaced 2.2 million as ethnic rivalries tore apart Yugoslavia. But they found him not guilty of genocide in the municipalities.

“For having committed these crimes, the chamber sentences Mr Ratko Mladic to life imprisonnement,” presiding judge Alphons Orie said, adding the crimes were “amongst the most heinous known to human kind”.

After rumours he would not attend the hearing, the former general, 74, who once cut a swathe of fear against Bosnia, gave a thumbs-up as he entered the courtroom in The Hague.

But in extraordinary scenes he was ordered to be dragged from the court, when in an outburst he accused the judges of lying, after they refused to adjourn because he had high-blood pressure.

“The circumstances were brutal. Those who tried to defend their homes were met with ruthless force. Mass executions occurred and some victims succumbed after being beaten,” Orie said, outlining the facts of the case against Mladic.

“Many of the perpetrators who had captured Bosnian Muslims showed little or no respect for human life, or dignity.”

‘Guilty of all’

Wednesday’s verdict has been long awaited by tens of thousands of victims across the bitterly-divided region, and dozens gathered early outside the courtroom in The Hague, many clutching photos of loved ones who died or are among the 7,000 still missing.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina: No impunity for war criminals!”, read one banner, while another had a picture of Mladic with a human skull saying: “Guilty of all!”

“We will see today. Will he be found guilty or will he be seen as a hero?” Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica, told AFP before the verdict.

Prosecutors said Mladic and his political counterpart Radovan Karadzic sought through ethnic cleansing to “permanently remove” Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from areas claimed by Bosnian Serbs.

Darkest episode

Caught after 16 years on the run, Mladic was found guilty of the 1995 massacre in northeastern Srebrenica, where troops under his command slaughtered almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

The killings, in which the victims were marched away, shot in the back and dumped in mass graves, was one of the darkest episodes in the conflict, and has been called the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

Once a brutish military commander who strode around in combat fatigues, Mladic was also found guilty of “personally directing” a 44-month campaign of sniping and shelling to terrorise citizens in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, which left about 10,000 dead.

Mladic was also found guilty of taking hostage more than 200 NATO military personnel and keeping them as human shields to prevent NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serb army.

Prosecutors had called for a life sentence, after a five-year trial in which almost 600 witnesses testified and more than 10,000 exhibits were presented.

‘Time for justice’

But defence lawyers — who in the past few days filed a flurry of requests to have their ailing client’s health assessed — have slammed his trial as “political”, had called for an acquittal.

After suffering at least three strokes, Mladic has been left with “part paralysis of the entire right side of his body,” lawyer Dragan Ivetic said.

For victims of the atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serb army however, it was time for Mladic to face justice.

Subasic, who said she had begged Mladic to spare her son at Srebrenica, told AFP the truth had to be unveiled.

“We need truth, we need justice. Without justice there’s no trust, without trust there’s no reconciliation,” she said.

For Fikret Alic,a survivor of a Bosnian Serb camp, told AFP: who was in “I hope justice will be done by this verdict, so that people will stop suffering. It will send a message to the world.”

AFP

More History As Iceland, Serbia Clinch World Cup Spot

Iceland’s players celebrate after the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification football match between Iceland and Kosovo in Reykjavik, Iceland on October 9, 2017. Haraldur Gudjonsson / AFP

Iceland qualified for the World Cup for the first time after beating Kosovo 2-0 on Monday, while Serbia clinched a spot at next year’s finals with a 1-0 win over Georgia.

Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and Johann Gudmundsson scored in Reykjavik as Iceland, with a population of just 330,000, became the smallest country to advance to the World Cup finals.

It is the tiny northern European island nation’s second successive appearance at a major tournament after their shock win over England in a surprise run to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.

Iceland needed all three points to secure top spot in European qualifying Group I as Croatia, who sacked coach Ante Cacic last week, downed Ukraine 2-0 in Kiev in the fight to claim second place.

Andrej Kramatic struck twice in the second half to send Croatia into next month’s playoffs as Zlatko Dalic took charge of his first match following the 1-1 draw with Finland that prompted the dismissal of Cacic.

Aleksandar Prijovic scored after coming on as a second-half substitute to cement Serbia’s place in Russia, ending an eight-year major finals absence.

Prijovic struck the winner on 74 minutes in Belgrade as Serbia finished top of Group D, with the Republic of Ireland heading to the playoffs after a 1-0 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

“I think we deserved this, although it turned out that the last step was the most difficult one, but we succeeded,” coach Slavoljub Muslin said.

Prijovic said the goal was the most important in his career.

“It was a dream since (my) childhood to score an important goal for the state,” he said.

James McClean broke Welsh hearts with a thunderous 57th-minute strike to keep Irish dreams alive as they leapfrogged their opponents, without the injured Gareth Bale, into second place.

Ireland remain on course for a first World Cup finals appearance since 2002, as surprise Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales saw their dream of a first trip to the tournament since 1958 turn to dust.

“The players were magnificent playing away from home at a very good Welsh side. To win on their territory was a great result for us,” Ireland manager Martin O’Neill told Sky Sports.

“We are in the playoffs. Whenever the draw is made we will take our chance.”

Asier Illarramendi netted the only goal in Jerusalem as Spain completed their successful qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Israel, while Antonio Candreva grabbed a second-half winner for Italy in a 1-0 victory away to Albania in Group G.

Italy will be the top seeds for the November playoffs, the draw for which is made in Zurich on October 17.

AFP

Serbia’s Gay PM At Pride Takes Tolerance ‘Once Step At A Time’

Serbia’s lesbian prime minister, Ana Brnabic.

Serbia’s lesbian prime minister said on Sunday she was working “one step at a time” towards a more tolerant society, as she joined Belgrade’s annual gay march held under heavy security.

Ana Brnabic, 41, became one of the few openly gay government leaders in the world when she came to power in June, but activists say homophobia remains a widespread problem in the conservative Balkan country.

Setting off on the Pride parade with hundreds of activists waving rainbow flags and balloons, Brnabic was keen to give a more positive message, saying Serbia was “finally showing what I believe is its true face”.

“We do have a very loud minority, an aggressive minority of people who are against this, but most of the people in Serbia, I think, are people who think in terms of ‘live and let live’,” she told AFP.

She encouraged gay youngsters to be “full of understanding for people who are very traditional and who do not yet truly understand what this is about”.

In 2010, Belgrade’s Pride parade descended into clashes between anti-gay protesters and police, injuring more than 100 people and prompting a three-year ban on the event.

This is the fourth consecutive year the march has gone ahead under a huge security presence, and the first time a prime minister has attended.

Brnabic, who wore jeans and a dark jacket and posed for selfies with marchers, said the parade was “more relaxed” than in previous years, with a sharp reduction in police numbers.

Around 2,000 armed officers guarded the cordoned-off streets as activists marched through the city, accompanied by a soundtrack of pop music and a police helicopter buzzing overhead.

– ‘Pinkwashing’ suspicions –

Brnabic was chosen for the top job by her predecessor, Aleksandar Vucic, after he was elected president. She had entered politics less than a year earlier as public administration minister.

Her appointment, endorsed by parliament, made international headlines. But sceptics suspected an attempt at “pinkwashing”, with Brnabic used as a puppet by Vucic to improve Serbia’s image as it campaigns to join the European Union.

Critics allege that Vucic — still the country’s most powerful politician — is a populist authoritarian who styles himself as the only one capable of maintaining Serbian stability.

Brnabic, a technocrat with a business background, has firmly dismissed allegations that she was chosen merely because of her sexual orientation.

“I’m proud to be living in a country with a president who has actually, out of all the people, said ‘I do not care whether she’s gay or straight, I care whether I think she’s capable’,” she said on the march.

– ‘A pragmatic person’ –

In a survey conducted in 2015 by the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, only 12 percent of Serbian respondents said they would completely support their child if they were homosexual.

Although the country has various legal acts addressing gender identity and anti-gay discrimination, rights activists say that implementation is poor.

They are now campaigning for the adoption of a law on same-sex partnerships, for which they hope to win the premier’s support.

Asked whether she would like to see the law pass, Brnabic said: “I can’t give you my personal opinion right now because I’m here as the prime minister representing the Serbian government.”

She said she would discuss the issue with ministers and civil society groups to “see what is it that we need to do to enable civil liberties in Serbia”.

“I’m a very pragmatic person, for me it’s one step at a time, and I think if we go one step at a time, that is how we build a more tolerant society.”

The premier’s attendance at the march drew a largely positive response from participants who spoke to AFP, although Ivana Mitrovic, a 35-year-old from the northern city of Novi Sad, was sceptical.

“I don’t like the government. It’s all for show,” she said.

Others thought Brnabic’s visibility could inspire young gay and transgender people even in traditionally-minded small villages.

“For me that’s a good thing,” said Nevena Pupic, 34, a rights activist and financial officer from Belgrade.

AFP

Berlin State Poll: Losses For Merkel’s CDU, Gains For AFD

MerkelThe Political Party of Germany Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the CDU, has suffered historic losses in Berlin state elections.

It has been ousted from the state governing coalition with the centre-left social democrats.

Meanwhile the right-wing anti-migrant party alternative for Germany (AFD) made gains and will enter the state parliament for the first time.

Mrs Merkel’s popularity has waned since her decision in 2015 to allow more than a million migrants into Germany.

The CDU won 17.6% of the vote – its worst-ever result in Berlin.

It is the party’s second electoral blow in two weeks, having been pushed into third place by the AFD at the beginning of the month.

“There is no question, we didn’t get a good result in Berlin today,” said Michael Grosse-Broemer, a senior CDU politician. However, he blamed his party’s historic losses in Berlin primarily on local issues.

“I think it is dangerous to transfer the Berlin result to the federal level,” he told broadcaster ZDF.

The AfD has campaigned heavily on the migrant issue, playing to voters’ fears about the integration of the roughly 1 million migrants who entered Germany in 2015.

“From zero to double digits, that’s unique for Berlin. The grand coalition has been voted out – not yet at the federal level, but that will happen next year,” said AfD candidate Georg Pazderski to cheering supporters after the results.

 

Australian Athletes Fined For Improper Accreditation

Rio Olympics, IOC, AOC, Australian athletesA group of Australian Olympic athletes have been fined by Brazilian Police after they tried to get into a venue they were not accredited for.

The group of 10 athletes were taken to a police station after trying to enter the basketball arena to watch a semi-final game between Australia and Serbia.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) confirmed that the athletes included Rugby Sevens Captain, Ed Jenkins and bronze medal winning cyclist, Matthew Glaetzer among others.

The AOC Chief Executive, Fiona de Jong, told ABC that the athletes did not have the correct accreditation, but denied earlier reports that they had been arrested.

“A mistake was made this evening.

“We have apologised for that mistake before the magistrate and prosecutor.

“We have agreed on an outcome which is the payment of the fine and a good behaviour bond for each of the athletes involved,” she said.

Officials of the International Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Organising Committee were not available for comment.

Davis Cup: Czech Republic, Great Britain Advance

Davis CupThe Czech Republic has beaten Germany to qualify for the Davis Cup quarter-finals despite a retirement in the fourth round by Tomas Berdych.

Lukas Rosol sealed the match-up with a straight sets victory against Alexander Zverev.

Berdych was trailing by two sets against Philipp Kohlschreiber before he retired.

The retirement levelled the match-up at 2-2 and left a final decisive round between Rosol and Zverev.

Rosol, beat 58th ranked Zverev 6-2 6-3 6-1.

Great Britain also advanced to the quarter-finals of the competition after Andy Murray overcame Japan’s Kei Nishikori in a five-set marathon in Birmingham.

The hosts and reigning champions led 2-1 heading into the fourth rubber but the British no 1 got the job done with a match to spare.

Murray wrapped up a 7-5 7-6 3-6 4-6 6-3 result against Japan’s top representative, Nishikori.

Argentina also clinched a quarter-final spot in the Davis Cup after Leonardo Mayer beat Poland’s Michal Przysiezny to give them an unassailable 3-1 lead.

Mayer lost the first set in a tie-breaker before winning the second, which also went to a tie-break.

The world number 41 then took the next two sets more comfortably winning 6-7 7-6 6-2 6-3.

The South Americans will now face Italy in the next round.

Serbia beat Kazakhstan 3-2 in their Davis Cup first-round tie in Belgrade to set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with holders Britain in July.

World number one Novak Djokovic overcame fatigue to beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7 7-6 4-6 6-3 6-2 in an absorbing five-hour contest before Viktor Troicki completed Serbia’s comeback with a 6-2 6-3 6-4 win over Aleksandr Nedovyesov.

Troicki, who was beaten by Kukushin, made light work of Nedovyesov in a straight-sets win.

The world number 23 was mobbed by the Serbian team after Nedovyesov sent a long forehand behind the baseline.

Cologne Attacks: Merkel Considers Migrant Laws

Angela Merkel on Cologne AttacksGerman Chancellor, Angela Merkel, says she will consider changes to make it easier to deport migrants, who commit crimes after sex attacks on women in Cologne.

The attacks on New Year’s eve, which shocked the country, has sparked a debate about Germany’s open-door policy on migrants.

The police handling of the events has also been sharply criticised resulting to the head of the city police force’s suspension from his duties.

Under current German laws, asylum seekers are only forcibly sent back if they have been sentenced to at least three years, providing their lives are not at risk in their countries of origin.

The BBC reported that German officials had warned that anti-immigrant groups have been trying to use the attacks to stir up hatred.

Similar attacks to those seen in Cologne were also reported in Hamburg and in Stuttgart on New Year’s Eve.

As the investigation into the Cologne attacks continues, federal authorities said that they have identified 18 asylum-seekers among 31 suspects. But they were suspected of theft and violence, but not sexual assault.

The suspects include nine Algerians, eight Moroccans, four Syrians, five Iranians, two Germans and one each from the US.

Migrants Crisis: Tensions Rise In Balkans As Numbers Increase

migrants-4Tempers are rising among thousands of migrants heading north through Balkan States as their route to western Europe is stalled by new controls.

Croatia had asked its northern neighbour Slovenia to accept 5,000 migrants daily, but Slovenia said it would only take half that number.

The move had led to a build-up of people on Croatia’s border with Serbia.

Hungary, citing security concerns, had closed its borders with Serbia and Croatia, forcing migrants to switch to a slower route via Slovenia.

Buses crammed with people were backed up in Serbia on Sunday, and tempers flared between frustrated migrants and overstretched police officers.

Thousands of asylum seekers travelled north through the Balkans, with most aimed to reach Austria, Germany and other EU States.

Explaining Slovenia’s new restrictions on Sunday, Interior Ministry State Secretary, Bostjan Sefic, said that its northern neighbour, Austria was only accepting a maximum of 1,500 people a day.

He said that Slovenia “cannot accept unlimited numbers of migrants if we know that they cannot continue their journey”.

Migrant Crisis: Slovenia Braces After Hungary Border Closure

Migrant Crisis: Slovenia Braces After Hungary Border ClosureDesperate migrants have begun arriving in Slovenia by bus from Croatia, after Hungary shut its border with Croatia to try to stem the numbers arriving en route to Western Europe.

Hungary closed its border, reinforced with a razor-wire fence, at Friday midnight, but many of the migrants aimed to continue north to Austria and Germany.

European Union leaders had earlier failed to agree on a plan backed by Hungary to send a force to prevent migrants reaching Greece.

Hungary’s closure of its border with Croatia comes just a month after it shut its frontier with Serbia, which was another transit route to Western Europe.

According to BBC, Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, noted that border controls with Slovenia would be temporarily reinstated to safeguard Hungary from a “mass wave of unidentified, uncontrolled migrants.”

Hungary and Slovenia are both part of the passport-free Schengen zone, but Croatia is not.

Croatia Closes Serbia Road Borders

croatiaCroatia has closed seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia, following a huge influx of migrants.

Security officials says more than 11,000 people entered the country since Hungary fenced off its border with Serbia earlier this week.

Some migrants are also planning to walk to neighbouring Slovenia which is in the European Union’s (EU) border-free Schengen area.

Huge numbers of people heading north from the Mediterranean have created a political crisis in the EU.

The crossing on the main road linking Belgrade and Zagreb at Bajakovo, appeared to be the only one left open.

Migrant Crisis: Dozens Find New Route To Croatia

croatia-crisisCroatian Police have started registering the first group of migrants who reached Serbia’s border with Croatia.

The migrants who found a new route into the European Union (EU) boarded buses which took them towards the town of Sid, after Hungary closed the border with Serbia, leaving thousands attempting to reach Germany, which is the final destination for many, stranded.

Croatia has said it will not “just allow people to move through”.

New border restrictions and a row over allocating migrants have shown bitter divisions in Europe over the crisis.

Hundreds of stranded migrants spent the night in the open and in makeshift tents close to the Serbian border with Hungary.

About 150 migrants crossed into Croatia from Serbia.

On Tuesday, Hungary declared a state of emergency in the area, with hundreds of army and police deployed to enforce new laws, making it an offence to breach a razor-wire border fence.

The laws also made it a criminal offence, punishable by prison or deportation, to damage the newly built four metre fence along Hungary’s 175km border with Serbia.

Migrants Crisis: Over 4,000 Walk From Serbia To Hungary

hungary migrants3Over 4,000 migrants have walked across the border with Serbia just as the authorities in Hungary were completing preparations to seal the frontier.

The number of migrants entering Hungary from Serbia has hit a new record amid tension in eastern Europe over how to deal with the crisis.

Europe is struggling to cope with an enormous influx of people, mostly from Syria, fleeing violence and poverty.

Hungary has been criticised for how it deals with those crossing its border.

Officials estimate that 175,000 migrants have crossed from Serbia into Hungary so far this year.

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has promised to seal the country’s borders and arrest any illegal migrants. The country is close to finishing a 4m-high (13ft) fence along the border with Serbia.

On Friday, footage emerged of migrants being thrown bags of food at the camp amid criticism that they were being treated like animals.

On Saturday, Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, drew parallels between Hungary’s treatment of refugees and Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews.

In response, Hungarian Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, said Mr Faymann’s comments were “slanderous”.