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Court hears details of Srebrenica massacre

May 17, 2012 at 7:15 AM   |   Comments

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, May 17 (UPI) -- The war crimes trial of ex-Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was suspended indefinitely Thursday in a dispute about disclosure of evidence.

The presiding judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia indefinitely postponed the presentation of evidence scheduled to start later this month because of "significant disclosure errors" by prosecutors in turning over evidence to defense lawyers, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported.

Mladic, captured in 2011 after years in hiding, has refused to enter a formal plea on the 11-count indictment of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1990s Bosnian conflict. When his trial opened Wednesday, the court entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

The ruling came at the conclusion of the second day of the trial at The Hague, Netherlands, when judge Alphons Orie said he was delaying the tribunal because prosecutors didn't share all their evidence with Mladic's lawyers.

Judges were still analyzing the "scope and full impact" of the error, Orie said, adding he wanted to set a new date "as soon as possible."

The delay had been expected. Mladic's legal team had tried to force the delay for the same reason earlier. Prosecutors have admitted the errors without explanation and did not object to the delay in the presentation of evidence.

Prosecutors spent the first two days of the trial outlining their case, including presenting details about events leading to the slaughter of 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica Thursday.

Mladic was expressionless as prosecutors recounted the massacre, considered one of Europe's worst atrocities since World War II, during his trial on charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in the 1990s Bosnian war, The New York Times reported.

The tribunal heard the prosecutor list the atrocities allegedly committed by soldiers in Mladic's command as Bosnian Serb forces carried out an ethnic cleansing during the war, including the 44-month reign of terror against civilians during the siege of Sarajevo, the Times said.

As early as November 1992, Bosnian Serb commanders issued a directive to force Muslims in towns, including Srebrenica, to "abandon the area" as part of the ethnic cleansing policy. In 1994, other directives to Bosnian Serbs indicated the Muslim population of Srebrenica, which had become an enclave under the protection of U.N. forces, should be left with "no hope further survival or life," the Times said.

Prosecutor Peter McCloskey said the United Nations "created a ticking time bomb because they sent too few troops to Srebrenica to protect the population" or disarm Bosnian Serb forces surrounding them. The campaign to cleanse Srebrenica of Muslims began in July 1995 when Bosnian Serb troops overran posts held by Dutch peacekeepers, seizing some of them as hostages.

"At this time Mladic is fully aware" of the campaign, McCloskey said.

The court also was shown a video dated July 11, 1995, of Mladic entering Srebrenica, urging soldiers to advance and congratulating them. During the next five days, Mladic's troops systematically captured and killed thousands of Muslim men and boys trying to flee through the surrounding forests, the prosecution said.

Topics: Ratko Mladic
© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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