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Ratko Mladic opens defense at UN genocide trial

[JURIST] Former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] began his defense case before the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Monday with testimony of Mile Sladoje, a former Serb army officer who claimed that he was never ordered to shoot civilians during the the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC backgrounder]. Mladic faces an 11-count indictment, alleging that he was responsible for the massacre as well as a Serb sniping and mortar campaign. The former general, however, denies these charges, insisting instead that his troops were acting in defense of the Serbs. To support this assertion, Sladoje's testified that he never received nor issued any orders to open fire on civilians during the time of the conflict. If convicted, Mladic faces a maximum life sentence.

Mladic has been engaged in a tumultuous relationship with the ICTY, both in regards to his own case and to those of his former compatriots accused of similar crimes. The ICTY determined during a session in April that sufficient evidence exists to uphold charges on two counts of genocide [JURIST report]. In January Mladic refused [JURIST report] to testify at the trial of Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile], also accused of direct complicity in the Srebrenica massacre, stating that to do so would prejudice his own case, despite having been ordered [JURIST report] by the tribunal in December to do so. In August Mladic's cousin, in exchange for a suspended sentence, admitted to having harbored the suspected war criminal for five years prior to his arrest [JURIST reports] in 2011. Mladic's trial before the ICTY commenced in June 2011 and has since been postponed and resumed multiple times and for a variety of reasons, including evidentiary issues and the accused's health conditions [JURIST reports].

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