Wartime Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic denounced genocide charges against him as “obnoxious” yesterday, entering no plea and telling a UN court he had simply defended his country.
“I would like to read and receive these obnoxious charges against me,” the man known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” said at his first appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) since his arrest last week after 16 years on the run.
Better known from media images as a stocky commander in war fatigues, Mladic appeared before a panel of three judges in The Hague in a gray suit and gold and black tie, markedly older and thinner, but still defiant.
“I defended my people and my country,” the 69-year-old former general charged with Europe’s worst atrocities since World War II said from the dock.
“I did not kill Croats as Croats, I was just defending my country,” Mladic insisted after saluting the judges with his left hand.
He said he was “a gravely ill man” and needed more time to study the “monstrous words” in the indictment before entering a plea.
However, he insisted he did not need help to move around after court guards offered to take his arm and guide him to the dock.
“I am General Mladic and the whole world knows who I am,” he said. “I don’t want to be taken by the arm like I am a blind man. I can walk by myself.”
The judge set July 4 as the date for Mladic’s next appearance, by when he will be required to enter pleas to the 11 charges against him. Failing to do so, an automatic not-guilty plea will be entered for him.