Mladic arrives in Netherlands to face war crimes charges

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Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic arrived in the Netherlands on Tuesday to face genocide and war crimes charges in The Hague after almost 16 years on the run.

Television images showed a plane with "Republic of Serbia" written on the side touch down at Rotterdam airport at 7:45 pm local time (1745 GMT) and taxi to a heavily guarded hangar followed by two black jeeps.

A Dutch police helicopter was waiting on the tarmac to take Mladic, 69, to the UN detention unit in The Hague, the seat of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The prosecution has charged Mladic, former head of the Bosnian Serb army, with genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts and cruel treatment for his part in a plot to achieve the "elimination or permanent removal" of Muslims from large parts of Bosnia in pursuit of a "Greater Serbia".

He is accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

He is also charged for the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

Earlier Tuesday, Serbian judges rejected Mladic's appeal against a transfer to the UN-backed ICTY to stand trial for alleged atrocities committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Europe's most wanted man was arrested in the village of Lazarevo in northeast Serbia on Thursday and detained by the Serbian war crimes court in Belgrade until his departure.

The ex-general's appeal on the grounds of his "alarming" health failed and he was declared fit to face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

In The Hague, Mladic will join the former Bosnian Serb political chief Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial.

Wanted on 15 counts, Mladic risks a life sentence if found guilty.

Upon his arrival, he will be read his rights and asked if he wishes to talk to a lawyer. Under the tribunal's rules of procedure, he will then appear before a three-judge bench "without delay".

On his initial appearance, Mladic will be asked to plea to the charges on the indictment.

If he refuses, he will be given another 30 days to reconsider, after which the court will enter a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Mladic has already declared through his son Darko Mladic that he had "nothing to do" with the Srebrenica massacre.

Earlier Tuesday Mladic visited the grave of his daughter Ana, who committed suicide aged 23 reportedly because of accusations against her father.

The retired general was returned to his detention cell, and later in the afternoon flown by plane to the Netherlands.

Serbia generally remained peaceful following news of Mladic's arrest and extradition.

Thousands of Bosnian Serbs rallied on Tuesday however to show their support for Mladic.

Police said up to 10,000 protesters gathered in Banja Luka, the capital of the Bosnia Serb entity Republika Srpska, to decry Mladic's arrest in Serbia last week and hail him as "brave son".

© 2011 AFP

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