The trial of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief facing charges of genocide and other war crimes, got under way today in the United Nations tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.
The trial “started with the opening statement of the prosecution in which they laid out all the evidence which they have gathered and are planning to present in the cause of this trial, where they are charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity,” said Nerma Jelacic, a spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague.
Mr. Mladic is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of laws and customs of war. The alleged crimes were committed over a three and half-year span across Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 1992 to 1995.
“At a certain point the judge cautioned not only the accused, but also the members of the public viewing from the public gallery that they were to stop gesturing at each other and communicating through the glass partition,” Ms. Jelacic said in an interview with UN Radio.
Prosecutors told the court in February that they expect to call more than 400 witnesses and present nearly 28,000 exhibits during the trial, and they anticipate they will need about 200 hours of tribunal time to present their case.
The indictment against Mr. Mladic alleges that the 68-year-old led forces that conducted the notorious massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the supposed safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995. The former army chief also faces charges for the shelling of and sniping in the city of Sarajevo during the protracted wartime siege of the city.
The indictment also lists more than 70 incidents of murder in 20 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and accuses forces under Mr. Mladic’s supervision of torturing, mistreating and physically, psychologically and sexually abusing civilians confined to detention centres.