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Bosnia’s Ratko Mladic Stands Trial on Genocide, War Crimes Charges

May 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: Srebrenica, the siege of Sarajevo, the still raw feelings from the Bosnian War — the past returned today to a courtroom in the Netherlands.

MAN: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is now in session.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic was once one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives. Today, after more than 15 years on the run, he finally went on trial before an international court at The Hague in the Netherlands.

A prosecutor opened the case.

DERMOT GROOME, prosecutor: Your Honors, two decades ago this past month, Bosnian Serb leaders commenced an attack on their fellow citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, civilians who were targeted for no other reason than they were of an ethnicity other than Serb.

JEFFREY BROWN: Mladic faces 11 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes tied to the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s. His forces besieged Sarajevo for 44 months and they carried out the mass killing of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July of 1995. It was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

He was arrested just a year ago this month in Serbia.

Today, a group of Muslim women watched the trial on television from a home in Srebrenica.

FAZILA EFENDIC, Srebrenica: (through translator): I am furious. Why were they waiting so long for this? Why did we have to wait for so long for him to be arrested? Why did we have to wait for a whole year to begin this trial? I wish he doesn’t die. I wish him to suffer. I beg God to punish him.

JEFFREY BROWN: But in the town of Pale, this group of Bosnian Serbs applauded Mladic as they watched the court proceedings.

MILAN IVANOVIC, Bosnian Serb (through translator): The international community and The Hague are still leading anti-Serb politics. They never mention the opposite side, while this great man, our general, is kept behind bars in very bad health.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now 70 years old, Mladic has denied any wrongdoing, insisting he only defended Bosnian Serbs.

Meanwhile, the Bosnian Serbs’ overall leader, Radovan Karadzic, is also on trial at The Hague. He was arrested in 2008. Former Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic died in prison in 2006 before a verdict was reached in his case.