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Ratko Mladic Sentenced to Life in Prison. Aired 2-2:30p
Aired November 22, 2017 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNKNOWN MALE: For having committed these crimes, the chamber sentences, Mr. Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment.
AMANPOUR: Reaction from Srebrenica, at long last justice, Ratko Mladic, the commander behind the massacres there and across Bosnia is convicted of
genocide and crimes against humanity. He was particularly brutal and cruel; my memories of meeting him decades ago and covering the worst
atrocity in Europe since World War II.
RATKO MLADIC (through translator): I defended my people and only my people can judge me.
AMANPOUR: At last reaction from Lord Paddy Ashdown whose mission was heal the wounds of post-war Bosnia; he saw the horror and the devastation first-
hand. Good evening everyone and welcome to the program, I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. At last justice has been served, Ratko Mladic the
former Bosnian Serb commander was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and a host of other war crimes. He was sentenced to life
in prison over his role in the atrocities committed during the Bosnian war.
Alphons Orie: Count two, genocide; count three, persecution a crime against humanity.
AMANPOUR: There the judge of the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague went on to read nine more charges for crimes that he said ranked
amongst the most heinous known to humankind. And in Srebrenica itself the mothers, the widows, the sisters of the victims couldn't hide their emotion
when those charges were read out. But Mladic wasn't actually in court to hear the verdict, having infuriated people by giving a thumbs up at the
start, he later had to be removed after this outburst.
UNKNOWN MALE: Mr. Mladic if you.
UNKNOWN MALE: .if you continue like this, we adjourn, Mr. Mladic will be removed from the courtroom.
AMANPOUR: So he was shouting at the court that he didn't believe the charges, that they were all lies he said, pure lies. I met the man who
came to be known as the Butcher of Bosnia in 1993. From the start he came across as a swaggering bully who thought that he could win over anyone with
his idea of humor, even about his ethnic cleansing.
MLADIC (through translator): We'd be poor without the Muslims, good to have them around, but in a smaller concentration.
AMANPOUR: Chilling words from the man they called the Butcher of Bosnia, General Ratko Mladic. The snide humor masked his killer instinct, it
defined Mladic and it made him an uncomfortable man to confront. And we'd see the preening smile again and again as the war unfolded. Indeed the
Muslims, the Bosnian government says, I've been covering the Bosnian war for more than a year by the time I met him, living in this shelled, sniped
and besieged city of Sarajevo. A year of witnessing the ferocious war machine that the Bosnian Serb commander had unleashed and he did not like
MLADIC (through translator): What's the lady's name?
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Christiane.
MLADIC (through translator): Christiane. I like (killing this Christina).
MLADIC (through translator): It won't difficult for her to understand because when I saw her first reports from Sarajevo, I was very angry.
AMANPOUR: Mladic was commanding the Bosnian Serb military mission to carve out their own ethnically pure republic and join it into a greater Serbia.
This was a daily occurrence dodging bullets as we covered the unfolding tragedy. For the Bosnian Muslims, the villain was clear.
They're your own people and your soldiers, to them you're a great man, you're a hero; to your enemies you're somebody to be feared and somebody to
be hated. How do you feel about that?
MLADIC (through translator): Very interesting question. First things you say are correct.
AMANPOUR: Prosecutors say what Mladic believed to be his greatness was in fact ethnic cleansing and genocide. It would reach its climax with the
massacre at Srebrenica, July 11th, 1995 more than three years into this brutal war. It was meant to be a U.N.-protected zone for Muslims. When
Mladic's forces overran U.N. positions and invaded the tiny enclave, they handed out candy and General Mladic promised the town's people they would
AMANPOUR: Of course, they were not. His soldiers slaughtered more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys who tried to flee. Hurem Suljic was one who
miraculously survived the massacre. I tracked him down in the Bosnian-held town of Tuzla four months later.
HUREM SULJIC (through translator): The Serbs said don't look around. Then I heard a lot of shooting and bodies fell on top of me. They were the
people standing behind me, I fell too.
AMANPOUR: Here he says, he saw Mladic one last time.
SULJIC (through translator): He stood there and waited until they killed them. When they killed them, he got back in his car and left.
AMANPOUR: After that massacre, the U.S. led a bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb military position and peace negotiations that eventually ended
the fighting. Mladic became a wanted man and soon went into hiding. I never knew if I would see him again the man with whom I'd stood on a
Bosnian hilltop at the height of the war. But it was with deep satisfaction that I watched Mladic stand in the dark at The Hague to
finally face the justice he so brutally denied others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): General Ratko Mladic.
AMANPOUR: America calls him a war criminal and under any kind of U.N. tribunal he may have to prosecuted, what does he think about that? That's
a tough question, but he's a tough man and he (can answer).
MLADIC (through translator): Yes, I can take it, I've taken more rough ones, I can take hers too.
MLADIC (through translator): I defended my people and only my people can judge me. And there's no greater honor than defending your people.
AMANPOUR: So he scoffed at me 18 years ago to the day after that interview, he was actually entering his not guilty plea and today Mladic
has finally appeared and pleaded not guilty as I said, but he did in fact get convicted. Joining me now is Paddy Ashdown, we first met in Bosnia
where as leader of Britain's' liberal Democrats, he came to investigate the Bosnian Serb concentration camp, but we were of course shown a model
prison. Not the camps where the true horror of the Bosnian Serb project was on display like this one outside Sarajevo full of emaciated figures.
After the war, Ashdown was named International High Representative to rebuild Bosnia and its institutions and he joins me here now. Paddy
PADDY ASHDOWN: Nice to be with you.
AMANPOUR: On this day, right?
ASHDOWN: Anybody who was there at that time as you were so often and I was often frequently will be -- see this as a great day. I mean it was a day
frankly I didn't think actually would come. I was afraid -- I didn't, I mean I was given evidence three times at the tribunal; once against Mladic,
once against the Kurds and once against another Serb and I didn't think they'd get. When I was in Bosnia, I worked very hard to make sure that we
set the context in which he could be captured so I was delighted he was and delighted this long process, careful, steady, meticulous process been
brought to an end and this man is where he should be in jail for the rest of his life.
AMANPOUR: Give us a sense of -- you met him obviously several times during the war, you saw my interview with him just a year into the war and I met
him many times afterwards. If he was a swaggering bully.
ASHDOWN: He certainly was. I met him twice; once when I went out there in '92 and I was actually in by (carriage) before (carriage) was stopped,
allowing me to come to the Serb side, I had to make my own way there. The second time was arguably more chilling and I think you may have been there
because it was (Blizanci) and the years 1993, 1994 the Serb army has now taken (Blizanci) and its closing in on (Engemann), it's closing the ring
AMANPOUR: It's getting closer and closer to Sarajevo.
ASHDOWN: And it's bombarding with very heavy rate artillery, 115 millimeter artillery pieces, the city down below. Little story, the Serbs
had just trying to capture Sarajevo the day before and been beaten back by the Muslims, lost two brigadiers. I chided Mladic; I said you can't take
Sarajevo. He told me a chilling story; he said I'm Russian friend. What that means if I have an enemy in my sights and I can shoot him in either
the head or the testicles, I shoot him in the testicles. If he's shot in the head, it takes one man, two men an hour to dig a grave for. If he's
wounded, then that way he takes 50 men six months to put right. I'm leaving Sarajevo because then you have to feed it and while you're so very
busy feeding it I can get on with doing what I want to do.
And I rang the Prime Minister not long after that and said this man will eventually cause a terrible massacre in one of the safe havens and so it
turned out to be.
AMANPOUR: You say your rang the Prime Minister and heard for yourself him actually describing his project in so many words. I heard it in my
interview, he said we like the Muslims, but not in such big numbers. So he was actually saying it, but you remember your Prime Minister, the American
President, the French President, the Germans, nobody wanted to confront and intervene to stop this war.
ASHDOWN: Yes they called me a warmonger in the House of Commons because I went -- I was known at the Member of Parliament for Sarajevo because I kept
on raising questions that Prime Minister's -- the Labor Party in fact is involved with (that) saying warmonger you want to bring back the body bags.
I tell you what, there's an even more terrible story, Easter 1995 right at the end of the war I'm wrung by Prime Minister Major who says we're going
to reinforce British troops. I said actually you're ready for withdrawals and I think you have taken the decision that you would not defend the safe
havens. And a fact I discovered after is that a secret decision was taken by the Prime Ministers and then inevitable consequence of that was the
Ratko Mladic found out and the Dutch troops were -- they got the blame, but actually it was the leaders behind it.
AMANPOUR: Yes and several months after you had that call (indeed).
AMANPOUR: That's it where we were together and we saw one of the concentration camps.
ASHDOWN: I mean let's talk about a (happy, happy) -- I saw the (wives of the Sarbanes or the mothers of Sarbanes) and for anybody who believes that
a system of international law needs to be made and for anybody who bled in Bosnia, this is a good day, a day when justice was done.
AMANPOUR: So let us talk about then because you said I can rebuild I think as many institutions as I can but I can't -- if I can't change people's
minds and hearts it won't matter. Well today while most of the world was celebrating this, the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs were pretty much
ignoring, they didn't see it on live television.
ASHDOWN: Christiane as you know I.
AMANPOUR: But the war is almost still going on in Bosnia politically.
ASHDOWN: No, no it's not, there are free elections and they're -- but what's happened is the Bosnia state we tried to create has been allowed to
unravel because frankly the international community has given up the will to drive the process forward. I think when I left as high representative I
thought the job was done. Look here's a thought for you, I first marched into my home city Belfast in 1970.
AMANPOUR: As a soldier.
ASHDOWN: As a soldier to keep the peace. I never would have believed that nearly 50 years that war was still going under the surface. It takes a
long, long time to leach away the enmities of war in the American Civil War; you still feel the effects today. The international community has to
have strategic patience to see this through to a sustainable peace. I'm very clear that the small minority who saw this - (denying this needs) to
happen are a minority, they're aging, they're dying, they'll been seen as history. Those who want to build a future in Bosnia will look at this as
an act that helps the sustainable peace be established.
AMANPOUR: And what about the signal it sends in terms of justice and accountability to the ongoing crimes against humanity that are being
committed? I mean Bashar Assad for instance.
ASHDOWN: Yes, so important, so important because I think if you -- look it's been imperfect, it's taking a long time, law always does to assemble,
but actually that's going to be handed on to the International ICJ, the International Criminal Court and that will deliver judgments. I've got
time to tell you a little story. Here I am in the villages south of (Prishtina) in the beginning of the Kosovo war, before the war started and
the Albanian villages, the Kosovo village is being bombarded by the main battle units of the Serb army.
I went to visit them the day after and I went to visit Mladic the day after that and then gave evidence against him at the War Crimes Tribunal, what
astonished me Christiane was that when I saw the Serb military artillery commanders, they were more frightened of being indicted by the ICTY than
they were a big bomb by NATO. By setting those rules, you'll not just punish people after the event you begin to influence the effect of people
commanding troops in war during the event.
AMANPOUR: That is such an important story and I think also perhaps -- obviously the mothers of Srebrenica, the people now who are victims of
chemical warfare and other atrocities against civilians in Syria. Clearly they're impatient for justice, but I think you're saying that it takes a
long time but it will come.
ASHDOWN: It takes time, it takes time to come and it takes time to assemble, but what is true is that I and many others never thought that the
three great architects of that crime, Malkovich, Karatisian and Ratko Mladic would be brought to justice and they have been. And anybody who
like you and I has looked into those mass graves, seen those broken bodies, the dolls of the young children that were killed knows that a retribution
has been delivered and who can not be glad about that?
AMANPOUR: You're absolutely right it is a great day today.
ASHDOWN: Tis a good day. For people like you and I and others around.
AMANPOUR: For the victims.
ASHDOWN:.the victims of Srebrenica, I weep for them today but it was so good to see the (inaudible) welcome mat because they feel nothing can bring
back their husband, their grandfather, their son, but if the man who perpetrated those horrors upon them is brought to justice.
AMANPOUR: And I just wonder as military man what you thought of -- I interpret it as cowardice, he wasn't in the room to hear the verdict. It
looked like he threw a tantrum at the last moment.
ASHDOWN: He was playing to his audience. You remember how they did that. But yes, I mean if he was as big a man as should, he should have stood
there and taken it, instead of which he was absent on duty. (Inaudible) that deserved it--
AMANPOUR: Thank you. And when we come back, the most important voices, as we've said, those of the survivors. We go live to Bosnia with a special
report on this historic day.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. A cathodic moment today for the mother and the relatives of victims of the Srebrenica massacre.
AMANPOUR: A day they've waited nearly a quarter century for as they watched Ratko Mladic, the brutal Bosnian Serb general convicted of genocide
for atrocities committed during the Bosnian war and sentenced to like in prison.
In Sarajevo, meanwhile, emotions are more complicated. Melissa Bell is following the reaction there.
MELISSA BELL, CNN COORESPONDENT: They gathered in Sarajevo, in Srebrenitsa and in the Hague. Victims of the Bosnian War who waited more than 22 years
to see this man hear his verdict.
But until the very end of the trial of the former Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, made for difficult viewing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Mladic will be removed from the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BELL: A little earlier, Mladic's lengthy toilet break had sent this group of rape and concentration camp survivors in downtown Sarajevo. No one,
they said, had ever allowed them a toilet break.
There was anger too when the first charge of genocide relating to six towns, other than Srebrenitsa, was thrown out. Among those towns,
Visegrad, where (Meliha Merchich) saw her family killed in 1992.
UNKNOWN FEMALE (through translator): I am a second time victim of the system. The system and the politics of the international community, and
this verdict of lifelong imprisonment means something to me, but they should have included genocide in all of the towns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALPHONS ORIE, JUDGE: For having committed these crimes, the chamber sentences Mr. Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BELL: In Srebrenitsa the final verdict also felt bitter sweet for some. (Bita Smolovich) lost more than 50 members of her extended family in the
Srebrenitsa massacre. She lost her husband as he tried to flee Mladic's men more than 22 years ago.
UNKNOWN FEMALE (through translator): Nothing can be done to take that back and there's no punishment that could be handed to him for him to feel
something. I don't know how he could feel our pain. There's nothing, but still, it does mean some justice is done.
BELL: And for those here at the market in Sarajevo bombed by Bosnian Serbs, not once but twice, during the war had part of the charges against
Mladic, there was also relief. One man showed us the name of his sister who died here in the 1994 bombing that killed 68 people. He too was here
UNKNOWN MALE (through translator): I was walking, people were screaming. I saw they were dragging people without legs, without heads, a river of
blood was flowing. God help us. And then I remembered, where is my sister and she died right her. Right here.
BELL: Another survivor who was back at this market today pointed out the great diversity of those who'd lost their lives on that day in 1994.
They'd been Croats he said, and Serbs and Muslims, a reminder he pointed out of all that had always made Sarajevo so special and precisely he said,
what Ratko Mladic has sought to destroy. Melissa Bell, CNN, in Sarajevo.
AMANPOUR: Melissa, as I see you in front of that market, I will never forget that it was a bloody, bloody scene and we never saw produce like
that. It was a city under siege and there was nothing in the market, just about, during the war. It's an amazing, amazing scene.
You've traveled around, what have you seen in Bosnia over the last few days as you've prepared to get people's reaction for this verdict.
BELL: You know Christiane, in a word, a great deal of emotion. It's very difficult up here tonight looking over Sarajevo at this peaceful city to
image that it was ever the scene of the sorts of horrors that you saw and that you describe.
A 44 month siege that left not only 10,000 dead, but so many in the city profoundly traumatized and forever and yet there are those scars down there
in the city when you look closely by day, what we saw today and all across (inaudible) and it's capital at 10 a.m. as the survivors and the victims
gathered to hear that verdict, were the emotional scars, the psychological wounds that almost became more apparent, perhaps, than they are day-to-day
just for a short while, while they waited for that crucial verdict to come out. A verdict that they all hoped would help to put some of those ghosts
finally to rest.
AMANPOUR: Melissa, thank you so much. Really important reporting from there, on this incredible day. And up next, the people who's suffering has
lasted decades despite today's triumph for justice, we image the pain of those people who will never get their loved ones back.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as they U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, labels what's happening to the Rohingya Myanmar Muslim minority
as ethnic cleansing and the victims of Bashar Al Assad's murderess war against Syrian civilians await their chance for justice, imagine a world
without the kind of vital accountability we saw (meted) out at the Hague today.
At the 20th anniversary of genocide in Srebrenica before today's verdict, I went to speak to the families and the survivors to listen to them explain
why there can never be peace without justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: (Samire Amarovich) lost her 22 year old son that day and she's come with her sisters to remember. That there is her son's headstone and
he's buried under this mound. Where they're sitting right now is where they hope they'll be able to bury (Samire's) husband. He has yet to be
found, yet to be identified.
UNKNOWN FEMALE (through translator): This day means a lot to me. The day of remembrance and the more people I see coming here, the more relieved I
feel because I know we are not forgotten.
AMANPOUR: President Clinton spoke and said, he loved this place. That what he did, gathering a coalition to confront the Bosnian Serbs after
Srebrenica and then later on in Kosovo were among the most important things he did with his presidency. And he issued this heartfelt plea.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I am begging you not to let this monument to innocent boys and men become only a memory of a tragedy. I ask
you to make it a sacred trust.
AMANPOUR: It is extraordinary to think that all these years later, two decades later, remains are still being found, have yet to be buried and
there are another 1,000 victims who have not even been identified yet.
But as the Serbian Prime Minister came to pay his respects, the grieving families her in Srebrenica could contain themselves no longer. Booing and
hissing and even pelting him. They were angry that under Serb pressure, the Russian's vetoed the U.N. resolution calling this a genocide.
The Prime Minister and his people fled and left the scene. Afterwards, I asked President Clinton what all this meant.
CLINTON: Who would have thought when you were asking me questions about this 22 years ago, that after 22 years the question of identity would still
be at the root of most of the world's problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Identity indeed. And Mladic's conviction and sentencing should also send a clear message to the rest of the world's tyrants, that they can
run but they cannot hide from their crimes forever.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid of Jordan praised the ruling saying, "Today's verdict is a warning to the perpetrators of
such crimes that they will not escape justice no matter how powerful they may be, nor how long it may take, they will be held accountable." So one
down today, many more still to go.
And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to us online and watch our podcast. Thanks for watching, good bye from