Last updated at 7:23 PM on 3rd June 2011
- Charged with the worst act of genocide since the Second World War
- Becomes belligerent and refuses to cooperate
- Victims fear 'Butcher of Bosnia' may never finish trial
- 'I defended my people, my country, now I am defending myself,' he tells court
An arrogant Ratko Mladic faced a UN war crimes court yesterday to denounce genocide charges against him as 'obnoxious' and 'monstrous'.
The man labelled the 'Butcher of Bosnia', who is accused of orchestrating the murders of 100,000 people in some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War, claimed he was gravely ill.
But the former Bosnian Serb army commander quickly regained his swagger to taunt the mothers of Bosnian Muslims killed in the Srebrenica massacre.
Salute: Former Serbian general Ratko Mladic after entering a war crimes court at The Hague
Defiant: Mladic was awkward and belligerent at the court. He saluted the gallery, pointed his finger and branded the charges 'obnoxious' and 'monstrous words'
A woman in the public gallery caught
the 69-year-old’s eye and made a throat-cutting gesture. An unrepentant
Mladic smiled coldly back at Kada Hotic, whose son was killed by his
troops in July 1995.
Later he told the packed courtroom:
'The whole world knows who I am. I defended my people, my country... now
I am defending myself. I want to live to see that I am a free man.'
As he left the court in The Hague,
Mladic turned to the loved ones of his victims and gave two military
salutes, again smiling grimly, before being escorted back to his prison
Since his arrest last week, Mladic's
family have claimed he suffered two strokes while on the run for 16
years from charges related to war crimes in the 1992-95 Bosnian War.
These include the 'ethnic cleansing'
of non-Serbs, the shelling and sniping campaign that terrorised Sarajevo
for four years, and the 1995 slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in
Mladic, who faces 11 charges, arrived
in court wearing a military forage cap with a suit and tie, and began
the hearing with a mock salute.
Unsteady: Mladic needed to be helped to his feet by two policeman who stood either side of him for the entire hearing. His family say he has suffered strokes while on the run
He told Judge Alphons Orie he was
gravely ill and after making a hand signal for a 'timeout' to his
lawyers, Mladic demanded a ten-minute private session to discuss his
The once burly and intimidating
Mladic's speech was slightly slurred and he appeared unable to use his
right hand fully, but he was strong enough to dismiss the charges.
He shook his head in denial as the
judge listed the allegations and insisted he did not want to hear 'a
single letter or word of that indictment' read out to him.
When asked if he wanted to enter pleas, he said he wouldn't respond to 'obnoxious charges' and 'monstrous words'.
After Mladic said he would not enter pleas, Orie said he has 30 days to do so and scheduled a fresh hearing for July 4. If Mladic continues to refuse, the court will file not guilty pleas on his behalf.
He told the court he had been treated
with 'fairness and dignity' since his arrest in a Serbian village but
had one request: 'I don’t want to be helped to walk as if I were some
blind cripple. If I want help, I'll ask for it.'
Relatives of victims had gathered outside the courtroom in the Netherlands to see Mladic, who is due to appear again next month.
Case: Officials at The Hague prepare for the investigation into the alleged crimes against humanity, including the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys
Heavily protected: Police jeeps take Mladic from prison in Scheveningen to the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague today where he faced war crime charges
Munira Subasic, whose son and husband
died in Srebrenica, said: 'In 1995 I begged him to let my son go. He
promised to let him go. I trusted him at that moment.
'Sixteen years later, I am still searching for my son’s bones.'
Wearing a grey suit, tie and cap, he stood looking bullish between two guards, who each held one of his arms to support him, as the hearing started. He took off the cap when he sat down to reveal a nearly bald head.
He spoke slowly - his stare as steely as during the war when he was the strutting leader of the Bosnian Serb army - and appeared to understand the proceedings clearly.
'I am Gen. Ratko Mladic,' he said in Serbian as Orie asked him to confirm his name.
Peace at last: Bosnian Muslim woman, Suhreta Malic, survivor of the Srebrenica 1955 massacre, releases decades of hurt in an outburst of joy as she watches the live television broadcast of the tribunal
Solidarity: A group of Bosnian Muslim women from Srebrenica sit together and watch on TV the trial of Mladic
Mladic's one-time political boss,
former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic also appeared in a
neighbouring courtroom at the war crimes tribunal for his own trial on
identical charges of masterminding Serb atrocities.
He too is accused of ethnic cleansing purges of non-Serbs, the shelling and sniping campaign that terrorized Sarajevo and for his part in the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.
Mladic and Karadzic were indicted together in 1995, but their cases were separated after Karadzic was arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008.
Mothers and widows from Srebrenica
were among the dozens of people watching the arraignment from a public
gallery separated from the courtroom by a wall of bulletproof glass.
One man stood outside court with a white banner emblazoned in red letters with the text: 'Mladic, Butcher of Srebrenica!'
Victims of the Bosnian war gathered
outside the courtroom this morning to await the start of UN criminal
proceedings against Mladic.
Charge: General Ratko Mladic is seen in this 1995 at the end of the period which he is alleged to have committed the war crimes, and right, he is arrested in Belgrade, Serbia on May 26
High risk: Serb Gendarmerie troops secure the area after the arrival of the convoy thought to have been transporting Mladic to the plane that carried him to the Hague
They expressed fears that Mladic may be too ill to complete the trial process that is expected to take years. That fate overcame former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006 before his trial could finish.
Axel Hageldoorn, a lawyer representing victims, said: 'It's a big relief that he finally can be brought to court. But we are a bit concerned he is too sick to follow the trial to its end and there will be no verdict.'
Munira Subasic, Head of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association, said she had mixed feelings about Mladic's appearance.
'Happy to be here to see, once again, the bloody eyes of the criminal who slaughtered our children in 1995,' she said.
GENOCIDE AND COMPLICITY IN GENOCIDE: For leading Bosnian Serb forces who massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 and ethnically cleansed towns and villages in Bosnia of non-Serbs throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
PERSECUTION: For killing, torturing, raping, deporting and illegally imprisoning Muslims and Croats.
EXTERMINATION, MURDER, CRUEL TREATMENT: For widespread killing of non-Serbs in towns and villages targeted by Bosnian Serb forces and for the deadly campaign of sniping and shelling during the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.
TAKING HOSTAGES: For taking hostage United Nations military observers and peacekeepers.
'And I am sad because many mothers didn't live to see this - mothers who found bones belonging to their children, buried them without heads and hands and the only wish they had was for him to be arrested. But they didn't live to see it.'
Subasic was overcome by emotion as Orie read out details of the Srebrenica massacre, appearing to wipe tears from her face.
Mladic's lawyer says he has a document proving the war crimes suspect has been battling cancer and that he was treated at a Serbian hospital in 2009.
Milos Saljic said Mladic has suffered from lymph node cancer and that he underwent surgery and chemotherapy for it in 2009.
The lawyer showed what he called a photocopy of a doctors' diagnosis saying that Mladic was in a Serbia hospital between April 20 and July 18, 2009.
The document had blacked out a letterhead and signatures to hide the names of the hospital and the doctors who allegedly treated Mladic.
Serbia handed over the wartime Bosnian Serb army commander to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on Tuesday after he spent 16 years on the run.
The country extradited Mladic to the court on Tuesday, five days after arresting him and ending his long flight from international justice. Saljic had argued that Mladic should not be extradited because of his ill health.
Mladic evaded capture despite his long-held status as Europe's most-wanted fugitive, charged with orchestrating Serb atrocities and forcing 1.8 million people from their homes.
He remained in the tribunal's detention unit close to the North Sea coast on Thursday, which one former detainee, Naser Oric, described as like 'a first class hotel' with satellite television and a computer in each 15 square yard cell.
They are unlocked throughout the day to allow the inmates to mingle. There is no segregation along religious or ethnic lines, and Oric and a former jail employee say the ethnic hatreds that fuelled the Balkans wars largely evaporate once the former fighters are inmates together.
Mladic was flown to The Hague earlier this week after judges rejected his appeal to stop the extradition just hours after it was received.
Meeting with a monster: Eight-year-old Izudin Alic is patted on the head by a grinning Ratko Mladic in 1995 just days before some 8,000 Muslims were slaughtered
Horror: Forensic experts examine dozens of bodies buried after the Srebrenica massacre
Earlier Mladic was briefly released from the jail cell, travelling in a secret high-security convoy to a suburban cemetery where he left a lone candle for the daughter who killed herself during Bosnia's bloody ethnic war.
His 23-year-old daughter Ana, a medical student, committed suicide in 1994 with her father's pistol. She reportedly never wrote a suicide note.
At the black marble grave, Mladic left a lit candle and a small white bouquet of flowers with a red rose in the middle.
'We didn't announce his visit to the grave because it is his private thing and because it represented a security risk,' a Serbian official said.
'The whole operation lasted for exactly 22 minutes and passed without a glitch. He was at the grave for a few minutes.'
Earlier this month the eight-year-old boy who was pictures being patted on the cheek by Mladic in 1995 recalled the day he came face-to-face with the leader.
Playing to the cameras, Mladic is seen patting the young Izudin Alic on the cheek as he assures him that everyone in the Srebrenica area would be perfectly safe.
Just hours later, Mladic oversaw the brutal murder of 8,000 Muslim men and boys including Izudin's father and uncle whose bodies were slung into a mass grave
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The comments below have been moderated in advance.
I find it hard to believe that, whatever you think of them as leaders, people are putting Bush and Blair in the same category as someone who intentionally masterminded horribl atrocities, ethnic cleansing, and massacres that included children. Pol Pot, Hitler, Saddam Hussein -- just a few examples of defiant, unrepentent, and ruthless dictators that were savage murderers. Blair and Bush just don't quite fit in the same category, no matter how wrong you think the war in the Middle East has been. Red arrow away.
- Mcate, Georgia, USA, 03/6/2011 13:46
Where are the Bosnian and Croatian war criminals? How many Serbian women and children were raped and slaughtered by the Muslims? Attrocities were committed by all sides, but I only seem to remember Serbian leaders being taken to the Hague. What a farce.
- Paula, Lisbon, 03/6/2011 13:45
I do not like show trials. Whilst this man was obviously involved in some heinous activities so were others. What has happened to the Croatian abd Kosovan leaders who ordered the murder of 18,000 Serbs, for example ? Nothing is heard of them. Mladic was thrown to the wolves to faciltiate Serbia's entry into the EU; and if this had not applied, he would still be free. maybe wrongly - but there we are. Holier than thou is despicable.
- kevin webb, accrington lancs, 03/6/2011 13:41
He wasn't exactely living in hiding was he? He was living with his family in his house in a village, so the Serbian authorities knew very well were he was. They just traded him for the dubious honour of becoming another bankrupt member of the European Desunion.
- Maria, Brussels, 03/6/2011 13:37
No one would have believed it would happen in Germany and it did, they said it couldn't happen again, Cambodia, Irag (Kurds) and numerous African states have all had their share of genocide, we are now putting into place all the conditions for it to happen in Europe and the UK in particular; mass immigration, , public services buckling under the pressure of immigration,unemployment, particularly amongst the young, higher taxes on drink, smoking & travel, both cars and airlines, fuel costs rising, food prices rising, the indiginous people are not getting a good deal yet human rights are still making a mockery of everything and yet we are still shipping unskilled drains on our country, failing to control illegal immigration, failing to expel the bad ones and finally a series of governments not listening! We need to act at this level, uncontrolled (or deliberate by Blair) immigation has led to the majority of new births being from overseas born mothers...We need to act peacefully NOW.
- Sad but true, Sheffield, 03/6/2011 13:30
leave the guy alone, he said he's sorry - Paul QPR, thame, 3/6/2011 10:19 Yes because saying 'sorry' excues genocide doesn't it?
- Hmmm, UK, 03/6/2011 13:26
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