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Ratko Mladic’s genocide trial gets under way
Question of the Day
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Twenty years after his troops began brutally ethnically cleansing Bosnian towns and villages of non-Serbs, Gen. Ratko Mladic went on trial Wednesday at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal accused of 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The ailing 70-year-old Mladic’s appearance at the U.N. court war crimes tribunal marked the end of a long wait for justice to survivors of the 1992-95 war that left some 100,000 people dead. The trial is also a landmark for the U.N. court and international justice — Mladic is the last suspect from the Bosnian war to go on trial here.
“First of all we are expecting from this trial the truth,” said President Bakir Izetbegovic . “The truth and then justice for the victims, for the families of the victims. It is the worst period of our history.”
But in the former Serb stronghold of Pale, people who gathered to watch the trial on TV applauded as they saw their general enter the courtroom.
Mladic, in a suit and tie and looking healthier than at previous pretrial hearings, but still a shadow of the burly strutting wartime general.
He suffered a stroke while in hiding and has had other health problems since arriving in The Hague.
He gave a thumbs-up and clapped toward the court’s public gallery as the trial got under way. He occasionally wrote notes and showed no emotion as prosecutors began outlining his alleged crimes.
One woman in the public gallery called him a “vulture” as prosecutors began two days of laying out their case for judges.
After a break in proceedings, Presiding Judge Alphons Orie of the Netherlands rebuked Mladic and the public about “inappropriate interactions” and said he could shield Mladic behind a screen if it continued.
Earlier, Orie said the court was considering postponing the presentation of evidence, due to start May 29, due to “errors” by prosecutors in disclosing evidence to the defense. Prosecutor Dermot Groome said he would not oppose a “reasonable adjournment.”
Groome began his opening statement by focusing on the plight of a 14-year-old boy whose father and uncle were among 150 men murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in November 1992, part of a pattern of atrocities aimed at driving Muslims and Croats out of territory coveted by Serbs.
“The world watched in disbelief that in neighborhoods and villages within Europe a genocide appeared to be in progress,” he said.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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