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Former Serb Military Commander Back in Courtroom for Closing Arguments

  • VOA News

FILE - In this image taken from video former Bosnian Serb army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic smiles during his appearance at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, Jan. 28, 2014.

Former Serb military commander Ratko Mladic is back in The Hague Monday as his trial for genocide and war crimes in the 1990s' conflict nears an end.

More than four years after Mladic's trial opened at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), prosecutors will begin three days of closing arguments and will likely call for a long prison term.

Mladic, 74, has denied 11 charges including two of genocide, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-'95 Bosnian conflict, which saw Europe's worst bloodshed since World War II.

The defense, which has repeatedly sought to have the case thrown out or the judges dismissed, will then have three days to conclude their case, starting Friday.

The defense has maintained that Mladic and his forces were acting in self-defense to protect against attacks by Bosnian Muslim forces and that he is the victim of a "political" trial.

He is primarily accused of being behind the punishing 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which claimed an estimated 10,000 lives when residents were terrorized by a relentless campaign of shelling and sniping.

Mladic also stands accused for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were rounded up and shot when his forces overran Dutch U.N. peacekeepers in what was supposed to be a U.N. safe-haven.

Mladic, once dubbed "The Butcher of Bosnia," came to symbolize a barbaric plan to rid multi-ethnic Bosnia of Croats and Muslims, fueled by the desire for a "Greater Serbia" to establish an ethnically pure state.

More than 100,000 people died and 2.2 million others were left homeless in the conflict, one of several that erupted while Yugoslavia was disintegrating.

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