Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander arrested last week after a 16-year manhunt, appeared before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague for the first time on Friday, wearing a gray suit, tie, and khaki cap and saluting the courtroom as he entered. He is accused of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity--including besieging Sarajevo and massacring 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica--during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. Here's what Mladic had to say on the key issues in the trial:
- His Health: Mladic said he was "a gravely ill man," and later had a private session with the judges to discuss his health.
- The Charges: Mladic said he'd received three binders detailing the indictment against him but hadn't yet read them and didn't want "a single letter or sentence" of his indictment read in court. Alphons Orie, the Dutch jurist presiding over the court, did so anyway, as Mladic frowned, shook his head, and stroked his face. Mladic opted to wait 30 days rather than enter a plea, calling the charges "obnoxious" and declaring that he needed "more than a month for these monstrous words."
- His Wartime Actions: "I did not kill Croats as Croats," Mladic said. "I was just defending my country ... now I am defending myself. I just have to say that I want to live to see that I am a free man." The BBC adds that, at one point, one of the Srebrenica widows in the courtroom caught Mladic's eye and made a throat-cutting gesture. Mladic simply smiled.
- His Detention: Mladic complained that he did not want "to be held and helped to walk as if I was a blind man."
Here's an Al Jazeera video from the hearing: