Ratko Mladic calls genocide charges 'monstrous' lie

Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic faced the UN war crimes tribunal today as a defiant general who never lost a battle, denying the charges against him as "obnoxious" and "monstrous".





Wearing a military forage cap, which he later removed, Mladic began the hearing with a brief salute.



"The whole world knows who I am. I am General Ratko Mladic," he said at the end of his first appearance.



"I defended my people, my country ... now I am defending myself," he told the court and a rapt public gallery.



"I just have to say that I want to live to see that I am a free man."



As expected, he declined to enter a plea and the court set his next hearing for July 4.



Mladic told Judge Alphons Orie he was gravely ill and "in a poor state". He said indignantly that he did not want to hear "a single letter or word of that indictment" read out to him.



He shook his head in denial as Orie, reading a summary, described the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995 of which he is accused.



"He showed no remorse, he mocked the court," said Ramiza Gurdic whose two sons and husband were killed by Mladic forces.



"It took him only three days to kill thousands of our loved ones and now he says he needs two months to read the indictment," she said as she watched Mladic on television in Sarajevo.



Once a burly and intimidating figure on the battlefield, Mladic appeared older than his 69 years. His mouth seemed to droop slightly at one corner and his words were slightly slurred, the possible result of a stroke.



After making the basketball hand signal for a "timeout" to his lawyer Aleksandar Aleksic, Mladic obtained a 10-minute private session with microphones turned off, to discuss his health problems.



Afterwards he told the court he had been treated with "fairness and dignity" since his arrest, 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," he said.



Mladic is also charged with crimes against humanity for the 43-month siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995 in which some 12,000 people were killed.



Orie cited a charge that Bosnian Serb forces carried out a sustained campaign of "sniping and shelling to kill, maim, wound and terrorize" the people of the Bosnian capital.



Dressed in a grey striped suit with a gray shirt and sober black checked tie, Mladic frequently wiped his cheeks and mouth, stroked his chin and placed his hand on his forehead.



He listened intently to the judge, occasionally nodding or shaking his finger.







Mladic was arrested last week in a Serbian village and extradited by Serbia on Tuesday, to become the tribunal's biggest case. His capture came nearly 16 years after The Hague issued its indictment against him.



A career soldier, he was branded "the butcher of the Balkans" in the late 1990s for a ruthless campaign to seize and "ethnically cleanse" territory for Serbs following the break-up of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav federation of six republics.



Serb nationalists believe Mladic defended the nation and did no worse than Croat or Bosnian Muslim army commanders, as the federation was torn apart in five years of conflict that claimed some 130,000 lives, destroying towns and villages.



Ending years of anxious waiting to see him to brought to justice, relatives of victims watched Mladic in court.



"I came here today to see if his eyes are still bloody," said Munira Subasic, whose 18-year-old son and husband were both killed by Serb forces in Srebrenica.



"In 1995 I begged him to let my son go. He listened to me and promised to let him go. I trusted him at that moment. Sixteen years later, I am still searching for my son's bones."



The International Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, set up in 1993, expects to wind up its work by 2014. It has issued 161 indictments and has now accounted for all but one fugitive.



Serbs say the fact that two-thirds of them were Serbian is proof of the court's bias. Hague prosecutors say it is a reflection of which side carried out the biggest war crimes.



The court has also been criticised for the slowness of its trials which can take up to four years.



"That is the bigger concern - whether they will finish this process," said lawyer Axel Hagedorn.



For most of his years at large, Mladic managed to live discreetly and safely in Belgrade, relying on loyal supporters who consider him a war hero, not a war criminal.



But as pressure mounted on Serbia to arrest him or watch its bid for European Union membership wither, his network of support dwindled, and at the end he was captured alone.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkClue: You'll either love them or you'll hate them
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
News
newsIf you're India's Narendra Modi, it seems the answer is a pinstripe suit emblazoned with your own name
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project