WORLD

Long-awaited Mladic war crimes trial opens in The Hague

Ratko Mladic, who is accused of orchestrating a horrific campaign of ethnic cleansing during the bloody civil war that ripped apart Yugoslavia, went on trial Wednesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, CNN reports. Prosecutors say Mladic’s campaign included the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.The 70-year-old former Bosnian Serb general has been indicted on 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the 1992-95 war.He is also charged in connection with the 44-month siege of Sarajevo during which more than 10,000 people died.On Monday, his lawyers filed a petition to delay his trial by six months, contending the prosecution failed to share evidence in a timely manner and that the presiding Dutch judge was biased because of his role in other trials of Serbs. But the trial opened as scheduled on Wednesday morning. Gen Mladic, dressed in a dark grey suit, applauded and gave a thumbs-up as the judges walked in, BBC reported on the other hand. The prosecution opened the hearing at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) with an audio-visual presentation laying out the case against Gen Mladic. Prosecuting counsel Dermot Groome said they would prove Gen Mladic’s hand in the crimes.“Four days ago marked two decades since Ratko Mladic became the commander of the main staff of the army of Republika Srpska – the VRS,” he said. “On that day, Mladic began his full participation in a criminal endeavour that was already in progress. On that day, he assumed the mantle of realising through military might the criminal goals of ethnically cleansing much of Bosnia. On that day he commenced his direct involvement in serious international crimes.”Mr Groome said that by the time Gen Mladic and his troops had “murdered thousands in Srebrenica” they were “well-rehearsed in the craft of murder”. He then showed judges video of the aftermath of a notorious shelling of a market in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which dozens of people died.Mr Groome said Radovan Karadzic’s choice of Gen Mladic was not random but because he could help to achieve the strategic goals of Bosnian Serbs.Mladic’s trial begins after a landmark war crimes ruling last month, when another international tribunal found former Liberian President Charles Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone’s notoriously brutal civil war, CNN informs. Mladic eluded authorities for nearly 16 years until his capture in May 2011, when police burst into the garden of a small house in northern Serbia.Gen Mladic suffered at least one stroke while in hiding and remains in frail health. The architect of the Balkan wars, former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, died in detention in his cell in 2006, before receiving a verdict.

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