Mladic central at Srebrenica: prosecutors
Srebrenica. Source: Wikimedia
Ratko Mladic was described as a central figure in the 1995 massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica.
The tribunal at The Hague heard that rather than the “marginalised figure” his defence team claimed him to have been, Mladic helped orchestrate the killings.
“The cleansing campaign tore apart non-Serb families and communities and left behind destroyed mosques and Catholic churches, the burned-out and empty shells of Bosnian-Muslim villages and mass graves,” said prosecutor Arthur Traldi.
Mladic, frail from a series of strokes when he was arrested in 2011, listened intently and occasionally wiped his brow as prosecutors spoke.
Prosecutor Alan Tieger told the court: “Mladic walked into Srebrenica and vowed that the time had come to take revenge on the Turks.”
He said it led to 8,000 Muslim men and boys, some as young as 12, being “systematically slaughtered”. Tieger quoted Mladic as telling the Bosnian-Serb assembly in 1994 it had an historic opportunity to create “not any kind of state, but an all-Serb state with as few enemies as possible”.
The 74-year-old’s trial for genocide will be the last one heard by the Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia after more than two decades of war crime prosecutions.
The Srebrenica massacre was described as the European worst atrocity soil since 1945. Mladic faces two counts of genocide and nine charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Hearings are expected to conclude on December 15 with a ruling due next year.
Groups of victims’ relatives gathered outside the court. Munira Subasic, leader of the Mothers of Srebrenica group, said: “If Mladic hadn’t come to Srebrenica my son Nermin, whose birthday it is today, would still be alive.”
Former Bosnian-Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in jail in March.
Prosecutors say Mladic and Karadzic worked to create an “ethnically pure” Serb state in Bosnia through the use of “ethnic cleansing”.
Indictments were issued against Mladic and Karadzic before the end of the conflict in 1995. The pair hid in Serbia and were only arrested more than a decade after they vanished.
Bosnia’s war claimed up to 100,000 lives. Established in 1993, The Hague tribunal indicted 161 individuals from all sides of the conflict and 83 have been convicted.