Mladic appears at UN court on genocide charges

3rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Wartime Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic made his first appearance before a UN court in The Hague Friday after 16 years on the run from genocide and war crimes charges.

The man dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", better known from media images as a stocky commander wearing war fatigues, appeared before judge Alphons Orie in a grey suit and gold and black and gold tie, markedly older and thinner.

"I am General Ratko Mladic," he told the court.

For long Europe's most wanted man for atrocities committed during Bosnia's 1992-95 war that killed 100,000 people, Mladic was arrested in northeast Serbia last Thursday.

The 69-year-old is accused of masterminding the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys -- Europe's worst mass killing since World War II -- and the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 died.

He was flown to the Netherlands on Tuesday to stand trial before the ICTY after Serbian judges denied his appeal on health grounds and found him fit to stand trial.

Mladic will be asked Friday to plead to 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"The purpose of the hearing is to inform you of the charges against you and to ask for your entry of a plea, as well as to verify that your right to counsel is respected," judge Orie said, adding: "It will take some time before the trial itself will start."

© 2011 AFP

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