Bosnians divided over Mladic trial
Published Thursday, May 17, 2012 2:38PM EDT
SARAJEVO - Bosnians have been glued to live broadcasts of the genocide trial of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic for two days, but while members of the country's Serb community applaud and cheer the 70-year-old, Bosniak and Croat victims say his arrogance has opened old wounds.
"People can hardly watch," said Muneveral Ljutovic, 82, a survivor of the Sarajevo siege. She said she -- like so many other Sarajevo residents -- was infuriated by a wartime video prosecutors showed Wednesday, in which Mladic says every time he passes by Sarajevo he kills someone.
Mladic's troops held the Bosnian capital under siege for 44 months and rained shells and sniper's bullets down on civilians, killing over 11,000 people and injuring tens of thousands more.
"I stopped watching after I saw that. I don't want to go through this again," she said Thursday.
In contrast, supporters -- who regard Mladic as a hero -- clapped each time he appeared on TV screens in cafes in his former wartime stronghold of Pale, just 16 kilometres away.
"I'm sorry to see our general being treated like this," said Milan Tadic. "We should all be ashamed of allowing this to happen to him. He only defended the Serbs. He will always have support in Pale. Pale will never forget their general."
During the first two days of Mladic's war crimes trial at The Hague, prosecutors focused on his alleged role in the terrorizing of Bosnia's capital and the bloody climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war when Serb forces systematically executed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a United Nations-protected enclave of Srebrenica in northeast Bosnia and then buried them in mass graves.
Victims of the war watched prosecutors Thursday present written orders and other documents signed by Mladic that proved how well the executions were planned. They said that although they were aware of the scale of the violence used against them, they had no idea of the sheer level of detailed planning that went into it.
"I knew how monstrous the executions were, but I thought much of it happened because it got out of control," said Naila Delic, 72, from Sarajevo, referring to the Srebrenica killings. "I'm shocked to see how well this was planned," she added.
Victims despaired Thursday when presiding judge Alphons Orie suspended the trial indefinitely, after prosecutors failed to disclose thousands of documents to Mladic's team -- a ruling that could delay the trial for months.
"The script we have seen used for Slobodan Milosevic's trial is now repeating," said Enisa Salcinovic, a victim of war-time rape by Serb soldiers under Mladic's command. "First, they did not want to capture him while he was healthy enough to stand trial and now when he is sick they will let the trial drag on just as they did with Milosevic."
Milosevic, a former Yugoslav president tried by The Hague on suspicion of orchestrating the Balkan wars from Belgrade, died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006 before a verdict could be delivered. Victims say they now fear that Mladic will also die before his trial ends.
"It (the trial) should be quick and effective," said Mirsad Tokaca, a war crimes researcher from Sarajevo. "Only when it (the U.N. court) finishes the trials of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic can we can say" the court has fulfilled its purpose.
Bosnian Serbs also have issues with the trial, claiming it is biased against Serbs, and has only tried Serbs while ignoring crimes committed against them.
"This institution has not fulfilled its purpose. It has not established justice. Cases where Serbs were the victims have not been processed enough," said Zoran Zuza, a Bosnian Serb political analyst Thursday.