Ratko Mladic Begins War Crimes Defence

Former Bosnian Serb Army chief Mladic has begun his defence at the Hague Tribunal against charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 conflict.

The 72-year-old former Bosnian Serb commander called his first defence witness at the UN-backed court in The Hague on Monday as he seeks to prove that he is innocent of some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war.

He is on trial for genocide in Srebrenica and seven other municipalities, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising the residents of Sarajevo through a lengthy campaign of shelling and sniping, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

Mladic called Mile Sladoje, a former Bosnian Serb Army officer in the Sarajevo area during wartime, as his first witness. Sladoje testified that he was never ordered to target civilians in the besieged city.

He said that Serb forces only responded to fire coming from Bosniak troops who had set up their positions in civilian areas of Sarajevo, adding that “there was no part of town which had a [Bosnian] army unit or an army base”.

The Tribunal has allowed 207.5 hours for Mladic’s defence to examine his proposed 336 witnesses, the same amount of time that was given to the prosecution in the case.

The names of the witnesses are not yet known, although according to his lawyers, 122 of them have already testified in the defence of former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic at the Hague court.

The former Bosnian Serb military chief’s trial started in 2012, after he spent more than a decade on the run.

Last month, , saying that the prosecution had presented enough evidence so far to suggest that the wartime general could be found guilty of the charges in all 11 counts of his indictment.

Mladic has condemned the Hague Tribunal as a “devil’s court” created only to prosecute Serbs, and has said that he does not recognise it as legitimate. His trial has been suspended several times because he has suffered from health problems.

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