On the second day of the trial of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, the Hague prosecution focuses on his role in the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995.
Following the completion of the Hague prosecution’s opening statements, the presiding judge, Alphons Orie, announced that the start of the presentation of evidence, originally scheduled for May 29, has been suspended until further notice.
“In light of serious omissions by the prosecution in regard to disclosure of evidence, we have decided to suspend the beginning of the evidence presentation process,” said Orie.
The prosecution was supposed to turn over all the evidence to the defence two weeks before the start of the trial but they realised a few days ago that not all the evidence had been entered into the system.
On the second day of the trial, Prosecutor Peter McCloskey said that the prosecution would focus on linking Mladic with the crimes committed in and around Srebrenica.
"This was and will remain genocide... the evidence of this crime is overwhelming,” McCloskey added.
The prosecutor said that the Bosnian Serb army was not an "army out of control" and that Mladic had been on the ground and in command.
"We have radio intercepts of VRS [Bosnian Serb] soldiers and officers discussing murders. We have video of two of the actual executions themselves. So let me be perfectly clear, the crime will not be the main focus of this prosecution. This case will be primarily about one issue -the individual criminal responsibility of Ratko Mladic," McCloskey said.
Mladic stands accused of orchestrating the slaughter of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys after the UN safe haven of Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
McCloskey quoted from Mladic’s directive to the Bosnian Serb forces for the attack on Srebrenica, known as Operation Krivaja-95.
"We must attain our final goal, an entirely Serbian Podrinje... There will be no retreat when it comes to the Srebrenica enclave.... The enemies lives must be made impossible," stated Mladic’s directive.
Mladic entered the plea of not guilty to all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the Srebrenica genocide, committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
In its opening statements on Wednesday, the Hague prosecution said they would show Mladic’s “hand in each of the crimes he is charged with”.
Speaking on Wednesday, prosecutor Dermot Groom said that by the time Mladic and his troops had "murdered thousands in Srebrenica" they were "well-rehearsed in the craft of murder".
Groom emphasized Mladic’s guilt for the “shelling and sniping campaign on Sarajevo”, and for terrorizing civilians within the city. He said that Mladic encircled Sarajevo and controlled who would leave and enter the city, adding “Mladic himself described it as a mouse trap.”
The prosecution outlined the six strategic goals that the then Bosnian Serb leadership wanted Mladic to achieve. The overarching one was “ethnically cleansing much of Bosnia."
The Hague prosecution said on Wednesday it would prove that around 200 members of the UN peacekeeping force had been taken hostage between May 26 and June 19, 1995.
Even though he had asked for the trial to be postponed in order to have more time to prepare for it, Mladic attended the first day of proceedings. A large number of international journalists as well as representatives of victims associations from Bosnia also attended the start of the trial.
During the presentation of the opening statements, Mladic and the attending victims were warned not to use gestures, otherwise a screen would be placed between them.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.
Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.
The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.