Mladic genocide trial set for May 14: UN court

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Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Ratko Mladic, who faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in Bosnia's bloody 1990s conflict, will go on trial in May, a UN court here said Wednesday.

"The trial shall commence on Monday, 14 May 2012, with the opening statement of the prosecution," the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said in a document filed before the court.

This will be followed by an opening statement by the defence, if any, and by Mladic himself, "if he so wishes," the document said.

Mladic, 69, was arrested in May last year in northeastern Serbia for his part in Bosnia's 1992-95 war that claimed more than 100,000 lives. He had been on the run for 16 years.

The man referred to as "The Butcher of Bosnia" faces 11 counts for some of the worst atrocities committed on European soil since World War II.

This included a genocide charge for masterminding the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995 in which more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered.

Mladic is also accused in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that started in May 1992 and claimed an estimated 10,000 lives.

The prosecution said forces under Mladic's command conducted a "campaign of terror" against civilians by shelling and sniping at them.

He is also charged for men under his command taking hostage over 200 UN peacekeepers and military observers, keeping them in strategic positions as protection against NATO airstrikes.

The court initially announced the trial could start on March 27, but "decided to postpone it to allow all the parties time to complete any outstanding pre-trial preparations," the ICTY said in a statement.

The prosecution said it would call 410 witnesses, of which 168 were expected to appear in court, and hoped to present around 27,906 exhibits.

Mladic's defence has previously requested that the trial start in October, allowing it to review all evidence in the case given by the prosecution.

It also asked that Mladic's health, a constant cause of complaint by the former general, be considered.

The court however was "not convinced that the accused's health condition requires modification of the daily and weekly sitting schedule, namely sitting less than five days per week and for shorter court sessions," it said.

© 2012 AFP

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