Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic has refused to testify after former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic called him as a defense witness at his war crimes trial at The Hague.
It was the first time Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic had appeared together in public since the end of the 1990s war in Bosnia.
Denouncing the UN Yugoslav war crimes tribunal as “satanic”, Ratko Mladic said testifying could harm his own case.
Both men deny charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In his case, Radovan Karadzic faces 11 charges, including genocide relating to the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Radovan Karadzic’s lawyer argued that Ratko Mladic was “the one person in the whole world who knows best what happened in the war in Bosnia” and that Karadzic was asking him to do his best to testify and to tell what had occurred.
Ratko Mladic initially refused to take the oath, saying: “Your subpoenas, your platitudes, your false indictments, I do not care one bit about any of it.”
He added: “I do not recognize this hate court. It is a satanic court.”
The judge warned him he could be held in contempt, with a possible jail term of up to seven years.
The session was then adjourned, apparently so Ratko Mladic’s dentures could be retrieved from his cell.
Ratko Mladic has refused to testify after Radovan Karadzic called him as a defense witness at his war crimes trial at The Hague
On the court’s return, the judge advised Ratko Mladic he was not obliged to answer questions if he thought the answers would incriminate him.
Radovan Karadzic then addressed Ratko Mladic in person, saying: “Good morning general, sir.”
Ratko Mladic did answer Radovan Karadzic’s first question – listing the posts and dates of his military career.
But following the second question – Did you ever inform me that prisoners from Srebrenica would be, were being or had been executed? – Ratko Mladic said: “I refuse to testify on the grounds of my health and because it may prejudice my rights as an accused.”
Lawyers representing Ratko Mladic say he suffers from a memory disorder that makes it hard for him to differentiate between truth and fiction.
The judge ruled Ratko Mladic would not be compelled to answer.
Radovan Karadzic read out his remaining questions, but received the same reply.
Ratko Mladic again asked if he could read out a seven-page statement but was refused. He denounced the court again as the session was adjourned.
Radovan Karadzic had been hoping his former ally’s answers would support his claims that the orders to commit war crimes did not come from him.
The key charges facing Radovan Karadzic relate to Sarajevo and Srebrenica.
The siege of Sarajevo lasted for more than three-and-a-half years – starving the capital of food and power.
Radovan Karadzic is alleged to have orchestrated the shelling of Sarajevo, and the use of 284 UN peacekeepers as human shields in May and June 1995.
In the Srebrenica enclave, Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN-defended safe area in the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War Two.
More than 7,500 Muslim men and boys were killed.
Ratko Mladic was the general in charge of the troops.
His trial is being conducted simultaneously at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Radovan Karadzic was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after 13 years on the run.
He had been found living in disguise in Belgrade, under a false name and working as a New Age healer.
Ratko Mladic was on the run for 16 years before being arrested in 2011 in northern Serbia, where he had also been living under an assumed name.
When Bosnia-Hercegovina became an independent state in 1992, Radovan Karadzic declared the creation of the independent Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina (renamed Republika Srpska) with its capital in Pale, a suburb of Sarajevo, and himself as head of state.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has begun his defence at his war crimes trial at The Hague court by denying the charges and saying he should instead be rewarded for reducing suffering.
Radovan Karadzic told court in The Hague he was a “tolerant man” who had sought peace.
He was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 after almost 13 years on the run.
Radovan Karadzic faces 10 charges of genocide war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in the 1990s, including the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica.
More than 7,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys were killed at Srebrenica in the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.
He is also being prosecuted over the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, in which more than 12,000 civilians died.
Radovan Karadzic, 67, went on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in October 2009.
He began his lengthy personal statement by saying he had done “everything within human power to avoid the war and to reduce the human suffering”.
Speaking calmly, Radovan Karadzic said he was a “mild man, a tolerant man with great capacity to understand others”.
He had stopped the Bosnian Serb army many times when it had been close to victory, he said, had sought peace agreements, applied humanitarian measures and honored international law.
Radovan Karadzic insisted that there had been no history of conflict between ethnic groups until Serbs came to feel increasingly threatened by growing power amongst Muslims in Serbia.
“Neither I, nor anyone else that I know, thought that there would be a genocide against those who were not Serbs,” he said.
He criticized media coverage of the war as biased and disputed the official number of victims of the war, saying the true figure was three to four times less.
“As time passes this truth will be stronger and stronger, and the accusations and the propaganda, the lies and hatred, will get weaker and weaker,” Radovan Karadzic said.
Many survivors and relatives of the war’s victims have travelled from Bosnia to see the man they hold most responsible for their suffering deliver his statement.
Each of Radovan Kradzic’s statements was met with cries of dismay, disgust and disbelief from the public gallery.
Radovan Karadzic is also expected to be questioned about the shelling of a market in Sarajevo in August 1995, an event he says was staged.
He is thought to have as his first witness Col. Andrey Demurenko, a Russian, who was chief of staff of the UN peacekeeping force in Sarajevo in 1995.
In June, Radovan Karadzic had one charge of genocide – related to the forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs from towns and villages in Bosnia – dismissed. But he failed in his attempt to have the other charges against him dropped.
Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic is also on trial at The Hague.
Charges against Radovan Karadzic:
Ordered or planned genocide of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Bosnian Croats to permanently remove them from territories of Bosnia and Hercegovina
Persecuted Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats – responsible for “acts of extermination and murder”
Masterminded the massacre of mmore than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995
Responsible for siege of Sarajevo 1992-95, in which 12,000 civilians died
Took UN peacekeepers and military observers hostage
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