UN prosecutors will open their case against Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Ratko Mladic today, with their first witness telling how he survived the execution of 150 people by Bosnian Serb soldiers.
Elvedin Pasic was a 14-year-old Muslim boy when Bosnia’s bitter war broke out in 1992. When it ended in 1995, about 100,000 people had been killed and 2.2 million others left homeless.
Now 34, Pasic “will describe the destruction and damage to residential property, attacks on villages [and] the persecution of non-Serbs,” prosecutors said in a witness list before the court.
Having previously testified in other trials, Pasic will recall how he was separated from other men in his family and consequently “survived the execution of around 150 persons in November 1992 in the village of Grabovica,” in southwestern Bosnia.
His testimony will be followed by that of UN adviser David Harland, who will talk about the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where on average 1,000 shells per day landed between 1993 and 1995, with the exception of lulls during a 1994 ceasefire.
Also on the list of first seven witnesses to testify against Mladic before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is Eelco Koster, a former Dutch UN peacekeeper during Bosnia’s 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The murder of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in mid-July 1995 after Bosnian Serb troops ovverran some 450 UN blue helmets guarding the “protected” enclave in the country’s east was the worst single atrocity committed on European soil since World War II.
“In the first segment, we are planning to give an overview of events” said Frederick Swinnen, special adviser to the ICTY’s chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz.
“We will then move into the specifics of the indictment,” Swinnen said.
Mladic, now 70, has been indicted on 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Balkan country’s war.
Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic is already on trial before The Hague-based ICTY. Both men are believed to be the main players in a joint criminal plan to rid multi-ethnic Bosnia of Croats and Muslims.
Dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia,” Mladic faces charges relating to the tragedy at Srebrenica and the terrorizing of Sarajevo’s citizens through a 44-month shelling and sniping campaign that killed 10,000.
Prosecutors also hold him responsible for taking about 200 UN peacekeepers hostage to use them as human shields.
Mladic allegedly also ordered his troops to “cleanse” Bosnian towns, driving out Croats, Muslims and other non-Serb residents.
After the war, the Bosnian Serb general continued his military career, but went into hiding in 2000 after then-Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic’s government fell.