Mladic ejected from court for challenging massacre witness
Wartime Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic was removed from a UN war crimes court Wednesday for challenging harrowing testimony from a survivor of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Mladic, who is on trial at the court in The Hague on various charges, including genocide, over the 1992-95 Bosnian war, began muttering as the witness started testifying about Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
There were conflicting reports as to what Mladic actually said, with the witness saying he heard him utter the word "lies" as well as "fuck your mothers" as he left the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) courtroom.
Mladic's lawyer however said the Bosnian Serb ex-general had merely accused the witness of regurgitating testimony "learnt by heart".
"There is no need to explain that these types of comments are inappropriate," a clearly annoyed judge Alphons Orie said as he ordered Mladic out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors on Wednesday moved their focus in the case against Mladic to the July 1995 slaughter of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
The enclave in eastern Bosnia was supposed to be under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers when it was overrun by the Bosnian Serb army under Mladic's command on July 11 that year.
Over the next few days, children and women were rounded up and forced onto buses while men and boys were murdered and their bodies dumped into mass graves in one of the darkest periods of the Balkans country's brutal three-year war.
The witness, who continued with his testimony after Mladic was removed from the courtroom, said he survived the massacre by playing dead.
"They fired a burst and I dropped to the ground. Another man fell on top of me. I could sense his blood.
"There were a lot of dead bodies. Brains were splattered all over," said witness RM-346, who, although seriously wounded, managed to flee hours later.
Dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia", the 71-year-old Mladic faces 11 charges including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia's war which left 100,000 dead.
The witness said Mladic was present at the killing of a prisoner at a football pitch, where several prisoners were being held before the executions started.
"He stood up and said something and was singled out," the witness said, adding "he was beaten with rifle butts and then one of the soldiers took out a handgun and shot him dead."
"Mladic was present but did not react at all," the witness claimed.
Mladic's lawyers are trying to prove their client was not there when the incident happened.
Last year, Judge Orie ordered courtroom surveillance for Mladic because of "disruptive behaviour."
On the opening day of the trial last May, a widow of the Srebrenica massacre alleged Mladic made a "throat-slitting" gesture at her.
One of the last suspects wanted by the ICTY, Mladic was finally arrested in May 2011 in northeastern Serbia after 16 years on the run.
Prosecutors began by examining his role in removing Muslims, Croats and other non-Serbs from territory claimed by Bosnian Serbs following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.
They now move onto specific incidents like Srebrenica followed by the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during which 10,000 people died.
The Srebrenica testimony is expected to last several months, prosecutors said.
Mladic has declined to plead to the charges. If convicted, he could face life in prison.