Mladic Denies Charges of Genocide, Delays Plea

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Former Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic has told a war crimes court in The Hague that he fought for his country and his people, not for himself, during the fall of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Former general Mladic appeared before the United Nations tribunal early Friday, for the first time since he was captured last week after 16 years on the run.

He denied the charges of genocide and war crimes against non-Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and declined to enter a plea until he had more time to study what he called “obnoxious” and “disgusting” charges. Mladic also said he was gravely ill, but only agreed to discuss his medical problems out of the public eye, with the judges.

Alternately subdued and feisty, Mladic told the court he did not want a single letter or sentence of the indictment read in court. But Presiding Judge Alphons Orie ignored the request and read all 11 charges anyway.

The next court session is scheduled for July 4. If Mladic refuses to enter a plea to the charges then, a court-appointed lawyer will automatically enter a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Widows and mothers of the victims of the Bosnian war who attended the Friday hearing cried and shouted at the defiant Mladic, calling him “monster” and “butcher.” Kept behind a soundproof glass, it was not clear if he could hear them.

Mladic is accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys and the nearly three-year siege of Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, in which 10,000 people died.

Serbian President Boris Tadić told reporters Friday that Serbia has proven to be serious about improving its international reputation by arresting Mladić.

He told journalists that Serbia did not have the same government during the past 16 years while Mladic was on the run, but that it has undergone a democratic revolution since then.