The prosecution’s opening arguments mark the start of the trial of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, the last trial at the Hague Tribunal.
Mladic entered the plea of not guilty to all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the Srebrenica genocide calling the accusations "monstrous”.
Prosecutor Dermot Groome said that the prosecution would prove Mladic's hand in the crimes.
The Hague prosecution began its opening arguments talking about Elvedin Pasic, 14 years old in 1992, whose father was murdered together with 150 men in the village of Grabovica, in central Bosnia.
Prosecutor Groome went on to say this just one example of murders that continued throughout the Bosnian war.
Groome said that by the time Mladic and his troops had "murdered thousands in Srebrenica" they were "well-rehearsed in the craft of murder".
"Four days ago marked two decades since Ratko Mladic became the commander of the main staff of the army of Republika Srpska, VRS," he said.
"On that day, Mladic began his full participation in a criminal endeavour that was already in progress. On that day, he assumed the mantle of realising through military might the criminal goals of ethnically cleansing much of Bosnia. On that day he commenced his direct involvement in serious international crimes."
Speaking of the count of indictment related to the siege of Sarajevo, long standing shelling and sniper fire, the prosecutor said that Mladić “encircled Sarajevo and controlled who would leave and enter the city.”
“Between 1992 and 1996, goals of Bosnian Serbs were to divide Sarajevo and put pressure on the Bosnian leadership. They were denied food, water, humanitarian aid,” said Groome.
The prosecutor also mentioned the killing of civilians during the shelling of the Sarajevo marketplace.
“It was the second time the marketplace became a target. No one knew who was wounded, who was dead. The prosecution will present evidence that will show beyond a reasonable doubt the hands of Mr. Mladic in each of these crimes,” said prosecutor Groome.
The start of Mladic's trial gathered interest from Bosnia, the region and the world, with the Hague Tribunal reporting that around 150 journalists were accredited to follow the opening statements of the prosecution.
Predominantly Bosniak daily newspapers in Bosnia carry interviews with victims ahead of the start of Mladic’s trial, while the Bosnian Serb newspapers mostly have short news items about the start of the trial.
Human rights activists, led by the Society for Threatened Peoples, held a vigil in front of the court building to recall the responsibility of the European powers for the crimes committed in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995. Activist's banners proclaimed “France, Russia, Great Britain and Germany – Guilty TOO”.
Human Rights Watch also issued a press release stating that Mladic’s “trial should lay to rest the notion that those accused of atrocity crimes can run out the clock on justice."
The indictment charges Mladic with genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and several other Bosnian municiaplities in 1992. He is also charged with expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from municipalities under the control of Bosnian Serbs, terrorizing Sarajevo citizens with a campaign of shelling and sniping and taking international soldiers as hostages in 1995.
The Hague prosecutors will present their opening statements on Wednesday and Thursday, May 16 and 17, while the first witness is expected to testify on May 29.
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.