'Mladic must answer for these crimes': Former Bosnian Serb general awaits war crimes verdict

Ratko Mladic, the 74-year-old former Serbian general, arrested in 2011 and put on trial a year later, will learn his fate when the UN tribunal in the Hague delivers its sentence on Wednesday. Survivors of the war tell CBC News about their ordeal as prisoners and what the verdict means to them.

Ex-commander faces life in prison if convicted, charged with 11 counts of genocide and war crimes

Former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic will learn his fate when the UN tribunal in the Hague delivers its sentence Wednesday. (Martin Meissner/ Associated Press)

Enes Paratusic, who was tortured, beaten, and nearly starved to death years ago during the Bosnian war, says true justice for Ratko Mladic would be forcing him to live near the graves of his victims.

"They should build a house there for him and let him live with those people. Let him look at that," said the Hamilton, Ont., resident.

"He doesn't deserve to be killed. It's too good, too fast."

On Wednesday, the 74-year-old former Serbian general, arrested in 2011 and put on trial a year later, will learn his fate when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia delivers its sentence in The Hague.

Butcher of Bosnia

Known as the "Butcher of Bosnia," Mladic faces life in prison if convicted, charged with 11 counts of genocide and war crimes for the 1992-95 war's worst atrocities. The UN's case information sheet says that includes the detention of thousands of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats calculated "to bring about their physical destruction," and the slaughter by his troops of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

"Ratko Mladic must answer for these crimes. As the most senior officer of the Bosnian Serb Army, Mladic must be held accountable for these crimes," said David Pettigrew, a philosophy professor at Southern Connecticut State University and member of the Bosnian-American Genocide Institute and Education Center.

A Bosnian woman pray near a grave of her relative at the memorial centre of Potocari near Srebrenica on Tuesday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Mladic's trial lasted 530 days, included nearly 600 witnesses and just under 10,000 exhibits. It is the last major case for the Netherlands-based tribunal, which was set up in 1993 to prosecute those most responsible for the worst carnage in Europe since World War II.

"The broad and comprehensive nature of Mladic's indictment holds the possibility of providing justice for those who did not survive in Srebrenica, but also in Prijedor, Foca, Sarajevo, and in virtually every town and in every place of pain," Pettigrew said.

"Such a judgment becomes one of the most important ways to respond to the memory of the victims and to the suffering of the survivors."

'Lost my friends'

For Paratusic, Mladic stole 20 years of his life. 

"I lost my town. I lost my friends. My family is all over. It took me 20 years just to calm down, just to get my name back to talk normal, to think normal."

Enes Paratusic spent seven months in a series of detention camps during the Bosnia war. (Mark Gollom/CBC )

In 1992, Paratusic, a Bosnian Muslim miner living in the Bosnia and Herzegovina town of Prijedor, was arrested by Serbian forces and taken to the factory where he had been employed. It had become a makeshift detention camp, one of three he would be imprisoned in for the next seven months.

During that time, he said he was beaten and tortured, squeezed into rooms with hundreds of other inmates, often forced to sleep standing up, and given very little food to survive.

"You cannot think. You only think about the food, that day, whether you're going to make it through or not," he said.

"The worst thing is when they call your name. That's the worst thing that can happen to you. They call you out. One time, maybe you survive, second time, you're out."

'You don't forget those things'

Hamilton resident Maid Bahonjic, a Bosnian Muslim from the same town as Paratusic and also a survivor of the war, said he believes justice will be served to some extent if Mladic is convicted.

Only one word comes to mind when Bahonjic thinks of Mladic. 

"Monster, because he is a monster. You know he'd like to eradicate the whole nation in the land they existed for centuries."

Bahonjic was a 22-year-old police officer in 1992 when he was arrested at his home. He too would end up in three camps during a seven-month period.

"They were all the same — interrogation, torturing, killing."

Maid Bahonjic, a Bosniak Muslim from the same town as Paratusic and also a survivor of the war, said he believes justice will be served to some extent if Mladic is convicted. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

He also was beaten, and forced to remove bodies in the camp.

"For example you go for lunch ... they pick you up from the [lunch] table and say, 'Let's go and pick up some dead people."

The first month as prisoner, he said, was "pretty scary" because he was afraid he would be killed. But after a month, the main concern was getting enough food just to survive another day. 

At 7 p.m. each night, guards would call out names of prisoners, including the names, he said, of one or two former police officers.

"And they would never come back.

"You cannot really prepare yourself for that. But you know that your time is going to come. And then you know you just wait for that."

The scars of the war are always near the surface. 

"I don't need much to remember," he said. "It's always there. You don't forget those things."​

With files from The Associated Press, Reuters