Mladic trial: first witness recounts escape from massacre during Bosnian war
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia heard a first witness today in its pursuit of a genocide verdict to prove ethnic cleansing campaign was 'joint enterprise.'
For more than three hours on Monday, the first witness in Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic's war crimes trial Elvedin Pasic told a harrowing story of wandering for months through fields and towns of Bosnia at age 13 with his family, before finally being rounded up - then escaping a massacre by Serb soldiers of some 150 Muslim men, including his father.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Mladic, captured in June, 2011 after 15 years on the run, faces 11 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity in one of the final trials of the Yugoslav tribunal, set up by the UN in 1993 as the first court of its kind. As his trial resumed today, hundreds of Bosnians gathered in the streets of Sarajevo to remember the killing of some 7,000 men in Srebrenica, the worst single act of brutality in Europe since the Nazi period.
The opening of the Mladic trial has gone through a series of embarrassing delays. In both May and June prosecutors failed to turn over parts of key documents, requiring a restart today.
Mr. Pasic, now 34, testified about ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and described life near Grbavica before the war as a time of ethnic harmony. He had many Serb and Croat friends and schoolmates – “we played basketball [and] shared everything … shoes and shorts, we had a great time" – before he was forced to escape his home and go on the run.
In perfect English interrupted by frequent bouts of emotion, he recounted how Serbs from neighboring towns had began to make tank trenches in the woods, frequently invaded Muslim homes to search for weapons, and helped Serb paramilitary shell and torch his town with the aim of carving out a racially pure "Greater Serbia" in the Balkans starting in the summer of 1992.
Mladic prosecutors intend to demonstrate a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign that went beyond a few key individuals and required the willing compliance of many figures in the military, media, politics, and broader society. The tribunal has spearheaded the use of a legal strategy known as "joint criminal enterprise" to prove crimes against humanity.