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Trial of 'Butcher of Bosnia' Ratko Mladic enters final stage

Prosecutors have begun their closing arguments in the genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic. The trial has lasted more than four years, with the verdict not expected for another year.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, on Monday began delivering their closing arguments in the genocide trial of Mladic, one of the top suspects in the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Mladic, 74, the commander of the Bosnian Serb separatist forces in the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict, is also accused of being behind a 44-month siege of the capital, Sarajevo, which claimed an estimated 10,000 lives, as well as involvement in other atrocities.

If found guilty, he could receive a sentence of life in prison.

Plan for Greater Serbia

United Nations prosecutor Alan Tieger, beginning his closing statement, told the three-judge panel at the ICTY that Mladic's lawyers were trying to claim that he was not responsible for some of the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II.

Tieger said the defense was trying "to transform General Mladic into a benign but ineffectual officer determined to protect Muslims" against people that included Mladic's former political boss, ex-Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who was sentenced to 40 years in jail by the same tribunal in March on similar genocide charges.

Radovan Karadzic in court (Reuters)

Karadzic was convicted on similar genocide charges

He told the court that Mladic had rather carried out a plan that "radically altered the demographic picture of the portions of Bosnia claimed by the Bosnian Serbs."

"Ethnic cleansing does not appear to be the consequence of the military campaign, but its goal," he said. 

He claimed that Mladic had sought to make the lives of Bosnian Muslims "unbearable" in the course of a plan to establish an "ethnically pure" Greater Serbia where all Bosnian Croats and Muslims had been removed by whatever means.

Mladic denials

Mladic, who appeared at the hearings on Monday dressed in a gray suit and blue and white tie, has denied 11 charges, including two of genocide and others of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He insists that his military campaigns were intended to protect the Serb people as Bosnia disintegrated following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

The prosecutors' closing arguments are expected to take three days, with the defense lawyers - who have repeatedly tried to have the case thrown out - beginning theirs on Friday.

 Cemetery for Srebrenica victims (DW/E.Musli)

The Srebrenica massacre was the worst in Europe since World War II

Long-running trial

Mladic was arrested in Serbia in May 2011, after being on the run from justice for 16 years. His trial began a year later.

The trial is the last case - and one of the most important - still underway at the UN tribunal, which was set up 23 years ago to deal with war crimes that took place during the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s. It has indicted 161 individuals from all sides of the conflict, and convicted 83 of them.

A verdict is not expected until November 2017.

tj/kms (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)

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