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Mladic trial hears Srebrenica evidence

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    Prosecutors in the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic have laid out detailed evidence of his alleged responsibility for the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

    But the presiding judge scolded prosecutors for “serious errors” in the evidence made available to the defence team, and said the court might delay the next phase of the trial as a result.

    Mr Mladic is on trial for crimes against humanity, including genocide, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. He was the commander-in-chief of the army that carried out widespread atrocities in an effort to create an ethnically pure Bosnian Serb state during the 1992-95 Bosnian civil war.

    After more than a decade in hiding in Serbia, he was arrested and extradited to The Hague in May 2011.

    Prosecutor Peter McCloskey on Thursday recounted in brutal detail Mr Mladic’s forces’ capture of the UN-protected enclave at Srebrenica, and the round-up and execution of its able-bodied men. But he said the historical facts of the atrocities at Srebrenica were not the main point, as they had been established during earlier trials at the court.

    Rather, the task for the prosecution is to prove that Mr Mladic exercised command control over the atrocities, he said.

    “The crime will not be the main focus of this prosecution. This case will concentrate on one thing: the individual criminal responsibility of Ratko Mladic,” Mr McCloskey said.

    To that end he showed written orders and maps signed by Mr Mladic, video footage of his actions in the town and radio intercepts of his communications with officers. He said other officers will testify as witnesses that Mr Mladic gave the orders to execute the Muslim men.

    But Mr Mladic’s counsel, Serbian lawyer Branko Lukic, in a filing last month said that prosecutors had made labelling errors rendering it impossible for him to identify the evidence that will be presented. He has also objected that 221 of the 411 witnesses the prosecution plans to call will be unavailable for cross-examination.

    Presiding judge Alphons Orie agreed on Thursday that prosecutors had made “serious errors”, and said he would meet later in the day with the prosecution and defence teams to decide whether to postpone the next phase in the trial.

    Mr Orie's stance undercut Mr Lukic's request earlier this month that the Dutch judge be removed from the case because of possible bias, as Dutch troops had been protecting the Srebrenica enclave when it fell. The court rejected the request

    The massacre at Srebrenica forms one of three specific crimes in the prosecution’s case. On Wednesday prosecutor Dermot Groome covered the first two, the shelling and sniping of civilians during the siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995, and the taking hostage of UN soldiers and observers by Mr Mladic’s forces.

    As Mr McCloskey described the conquest of Srebrenica and the atrocities that followed, the 70-year-old Mr Mladic sat frowning and chewing on the tip of his glasses. There was no repetition of the improprieties seen on Wednesday, when Mr Mladic responded to rude gestures from Bosnian Muslim spectators in the courtroom by suggestively drawing his finger across his throat.

    Mr Mladic, who has refused to formally enter a plea to any of the charges, declined to make a statement during the prosecution’s presentation. The defence rests on Mr Mladic’s alibi that he was not in Srebrenica during the bulk of the massacres, having travelled to Belgrade three days after the town fell.

    The prosecution does not contest the point. But it presented evidence that the massacres began while Mr Mladic was in the town, that he had planned the entire operation in detail, ordered the delivery of the buses used to transport detainees and remained in communication with officers on the ground while in Belgrade.

    The tribunal, established in 1993, has so far indicted 161 people on war crimes charges and convicted 64. Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, has been on trial at the court since 2009 but has refused to defend himself; an appointed counsel is scheduled to begin his defence in October.
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    The Czech Republic welcomes the progress made in the trial, and hopes for a swift and fair outcome. The Czech Republic also hopes that Serbia shall become a full EU member as soon as possible.
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    Bangladesh hopes that Mladic receives the suitable punishments for 'his' actions, if found guilty and we hope that the trial continues as soon as possible.
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    Switzerland hopes that the trial of Mr Mladic is fair and we hope Serbia shall become a full member of the EU as well.
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    The Holy See expresses its approval at the bringing to trial of this man, and hopes that others involved in atrocities will be brought to justice.

    Tuvalu affirms its belief in the ICC, and hopes that this trial, and the demonstration that the rule of law will be upheld, will give some solace to those harmed by this man.
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    Greece wishes for a fair and just trial in the Mladic case.
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    The MHoC welcomes the beginning of this trial. Justice will eventually be discovered no matter how long it takes for that to happen.


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Updated: May 27, 2012
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