By Lisa Bryant
War crimes tribunals in The Hague are hearing cases against former Bosnian-Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and former Liberian president Charles Taylor.
Radko Mladic is facing 15 charges:
Counts 1, 2: Genocide, Complicity in Genocide for a campaign to destroy Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.
Count 3: Persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds.
Counts 4, 5, 6: Extermination and Murder of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats or other non-Serbs.
Counts 7, 8: Deportation and Unlawful Attacks for the forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats or other non-Serbs.
Counts 9 to 14: Terror and Unlawful Attacks.
Count 15: Taking of U.N. Hostages.
Two decades after the start of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s civil war, Ratko Mladic — the man accused of some of its worst atrocities — went on trial Wednesday in The Hague.
Mladic’s trial started with opening arguments by the prosecution. The former Bosnian-Serb general faces 11 counts of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. He strongly rejects the accusations, and the court has entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Dressed in a grey suit, the 70-year-old Mladic gave a thumbs-up as he entered the court room. He appeared defiant as prosecutor Dermot Groome related some of the war’s bloodiest atrocities in graphic detail, using pictures and video clips.
One of the crimes of which Mladic is accused is a 1995 bombing of a Sarajevo market that killed more than 30 people and wounded more than 70 others. Groome read out a witness account of the incident.
“When I got to that place, or rather a few steps before, I saw a great mess and commotion,” said Groome. “There was blood all over the place, flowing in the streets. Bits of human flesh scattered around. Bits of clothing torn and scattered all over.”
The prosecution claims Mladic helped mastermind a brutal “ethnic-cleansing” campaign to drive Bosnian Muslims and Croats from land that the perpetrators wanted only for Serbs. Among the most horrific charges against him relates to the killing of roughly 8,000 men and boys in the city of Srebrenica.
Captured a year ago, Mladic is the last of the major figures to face trial for the Bosnian conflict. Mladic’s boss, former Bosnian-Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, is already on trial before the Hague tribunal.
The opening of the Mladic trial coincided with the appearance of former Liberian president Charles Taylor before another court in The Hague. In a rambling address, Taylor claimed witnesses for the prosecution had been paid and coerced to testify against him.
Judges found Taylor guilty last month of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone.
Judges are scheduled to sentence Taylor later this month. Both the defense and prosecution are expected to appeal.