Closing arguments have begun in the four-year trial of the Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic in The Hague. Defense and prosecution will summarize their cases this week. The verdict is expected early in 2017.
The former military leader is charged with genocide, prosecution, murder, deportation, and crimes against humanity.
That is the last major trial for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), following the sentencing of Radovan Karadzic in March 2016 to 40 years in jail.
According to the prosecutors of the ICTY, the 74-year-old Mladic proudly led a campaign to change the demographic picture of portions of Bosnia claimed by Serbia, in extensive ethnic cleansing operations.
Mladic is nicknamed “the Butcher of Bosnia” and held responsible for the murder of 7,500-to-8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. The closing arguments are witnessed by many of their family members. He also led the 44-month long siege of Sarajevo in which over 10,000-to-12,000 people died.
Following a 16-year manhunt, Mladic was arrested in Serbia in May 2011. The tribunal is keen to sentence before the former general dies. His health has been frail.
Mladic is a Bosnian Serb and the son of a partisan killed by the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha troops in 1945. He grew up to become an officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army. In 1991 he led the army’s 9th Corps against Croatian forces at Knin. He was then promoted to general and in 1992 became the commander of tthe new Bosnian Serb army.