U.N. rights chief and genocide prevention adviser welcome Mladic conviction

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Final judgement against Bosnian Serb military leader Mladic, in The Hague

GENEVA (Reuters) - U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Tuesday that a ruling upholding the conviction of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic for genocide and war crimes meant the international justice system had held him to account.

United Nations war crimes judges in The Hague upheld a life sentence for Mladic, who led Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, rejecting all grounds of his appeal.

"Mladić’s crimes were the abhorrent culmination of hatred stoked for political gain," Bachelet said in a statement. "Today’s decision is about his individual responsibility for his dreadful acts, not about collective punishment or apportioning guilt to any particular community."

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, special adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General on prevention of genocide, said in the joint statement issued in Geneva that the verdict sent an important message to the western Balkans, where "genocide denial" was on the rise.

Posters, graffiti, plaques, paraphernalia and other materials glorifying war criminals continue to appear in various towns in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including in Foča, where survivors are confronted with a mural portraying Mladić, the statement said.

"Justice alone will not lead to reconciliation, but there can be no real reconciliation without justice," Nderitu said. "For this reason, accountability constitutes an important step on the path towards reconciliation and therefore a critical component of prevention."

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey)