THE HAGUE: Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic taunted Srebrenica survivors on Wednesday at the start of his trial for genocide, running his hand across his throat in a gesture of defiance to relatives of the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.
Mladic, now 70, flashed a thumbs-up and clapped his hands as he entered the courtroom in The Hague, where he faces possible life imprisonment for allegedly leading the slaughter of 8,000 unarmed Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica in 1995.
In the packed public seating area, a mother of one of the Srebrenica victims whispered “vulture” several times as prosecutors opened their case.
Later, Mladic made eye contact with one of the Muslim women in the audience, running a hand across his throat, in a gesture that led Presiding judge Alphons Orie to hold a brief recess and order an end to “inappropriate interactions.”
Wearing a dark suit and tie, he sat, spectacles in hand, listening intently and jotting notes as prosecutors made their opening remarks.
Prosecutor Dermot Groome said Mladic and other Bosnian Serbs had divided the territory of the former Yugoslavia along ethnic lines and implemented a common plan to exterminate non-Serbs.
“The prosecution will present evidence that will show beyond a reasonable doubt the hand of Mr. Mladic in each of these crimes,” he said.
Two dozen mothers of victims of the Srebrenica massacre gathered outside the court, some holding signs, one of which read: “Mladic, the greatest murder of innocent people and children.”
Kada Hotic, who lost her 29-year son, husband and two brothers, said she was worried Mladic might not live long enough for the verdict, like the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died during his trial.