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UN War Crimes Court Expels Mladic, Enters Not-Guilty Pleas

  • RFE/RL

Ratko Mladic refused to enter a plea

Ratko Mladic refused to enter a plea

The UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague has entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of Ratko Mladic to the 11 charges against him, which include genocide.
The former Bosnian Serb military chief is accused of war crimes relating to the bloody siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.
Judge Alphons Orie on July 4 formally entered the not-guilty pleas -- in line with court rules for suspects who refuse to plead -- after expelling Mladic from the courtroom for refusing to enter a plea and repeatedly disrupting the hearing.
"You're not a court!" Mladic shouted before being led away.
The 69-year-old had earlier threatened to boycott the hearing, the second since he was arrested and extradited from Serbia in May after 16 years on the run.
He struck a defiant tone throughout the hearing, first refusing to remove his cap before demanding a different legal representation and requesting a one-month delay for his plea.
The tribunal refused to grant the delay and said Mladic would be represented by a court-appointed lawyer until the court checked the credentials of the two lawyers, a Serb and a Russian, he wants for his defense.
Watching In Bosnia
Mladic, who has rejected the charges against him as "obnoxious" and "monstrous," has the option of changing the not-guilty pleas at any time.
The date for the next pretrial hearing can be set once the court rules on whether to approve Mladic's preferred lawyers.
In Sarajevo, residents watched a broadcast of the hearing on a giant screen.
Like many Bosnians, Fikret Grabovica, whose 11-year-old daughter was killed by mortar shelling in 1993, voiced hopes that the trial will bring justice and relief to the victims' families.
"For the past 20 years, there's been a fight here between truth and lies, between justice and injustice. All we want is truth and justice, and that all those responsible for the crimes are finally arrested so we have the conditions for a better life for future generations," Grabovica said.
The trial was closely watched in Serbia, too, where many consider Mladic a hero and say he merely defended his nation during the Bosnian war.
The stakes are high for the Serbian leadership since the trial could reveal evidence that Belgrade knew about or even ordered the mass killings.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that Serbia failed to prevent genocide but was not responsible for it, preventing Bosnia and Herzegovina from seeking compensation for the massacres.
with agency reports
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