I have only defended my people, Mladic says at trial
The Hague: Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Gen Ratko Mladic went on trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal on Wednesday. He is accused of 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and indulging in campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The ailing 70-year-old Mladic was wearing a dark grey suit and tie and looked healthier than at previous pre-trial hearings.
While making appearance at the UN court, he gave a thumbs-up and clapped towards the court as the judges walked in and the trial got under way.
"I did not take part in any crimes. I have only defended my people," Mladic said during the court proceedings.
In another video, he is heard boasting, "whenever I come by Sarajevo, I kill someone in passing ... I go kick the hell out of the Turks."
But, Mladic has always denies any wrongdoing and has called the accusations ‘monstrous’ saying he acted to defend Serbs in Bosnia. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The audio-visual presentation was broadcasted at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Later, the trial was adjourned until Thursday.
Mladic's trial opened as the case against his former political master, Radovan Karadzic, has reached its halfway stage at the same court. Both men face virtually identical 11-count indictments alleging they masterminded the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia.
Karadzic and Mladic were indicted together 17 years ago, but their cases were split when Karadzic was captured in Serbia in 2008 and transferred to The Hague. It was another three years before Mladic was finally arrested in a village near Belgrade, ending 15 years as one of the world's most-wanted fugitives.
In Srebrenica, widows and mothers of the massacre victims gathered to watch the trial together and reacted with outrage to Mladic's calm demeanour and apparent lack of emotions.
"This is so painful for us. It really hurts. We did not lose some chicken. We lost our sons," said Suhreta Malic, who lost her children and over 30 other family members in the massacre. Crying, she sat in front of the TV with the photos of her dead children in her hands.
Mladic's 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 UN court and international justice as Mladic is the last suspect from the Bosnian war to go on trial.
Mladic has been dubbed as the "Butcher of Bosnia" and has been said to have played a major role in the Srebrenica tragedy of July 1995, when almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.
For the quest of "Greater Serbia" Mladic is said to have ordered his troops to "cleanse" Bosnian towns, driving out Croats and Muslims. In the Balkan country's 1992-95 war, 100,000 were killed.
(With agency’s inputs)