THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Gen. Ratko Mladic's defense team called on United Nations judges Tuesday to acquit the former Bosnian Serb military chief, arguing that prosecutors failed to prove he orchestrated atrocities by Serb forces under his command during the 1992-95 Bosnian War.
Defense lawyer Dragan Ivetic told the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that prosecutors at Mladic's long-running trial wanted to make the 74-year-old former general "the symbolic sacrificial lamb for the perceived guilt" of Serbs during the war that left 100,000 dead.
Prosecutors last week asked for Mladic to be convicted and sentenced to life in prison, telling judges that a sentence any shorter would be "an insult to the victims, living and dead, and an affront to justice."
Mladic is facing 11 charges, including two counts of genocide for his alleged role in the deadly siege of Sarajevo and the massacre in July 1995 of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, the worst mass slaying in Europe since World War II. He insists he is innocent.
Verdicts in the trial, the U.N. Yugoslavia tribunal's final case, are expected late next year. Several of Mladic's subordinate officers already have been convicted by the court for their roles in the crimes.
Over three days, Mladic's defense team sought to pick apart the prosecution case.
Ivetic claimed that Bosnian Muslim forces were responsible for many of the sniping and shelling deaths in Sarajevo and that they had used human shields in the Bosnian capital. Bosnian Serbs have been found guilty in other cases at the tribunal of indiscriminate shelling and sniping in the city.
Ivetic also insisted Mladic was not responsible for the Srebrenica massacre. He said the general was in Belgrade on July 14-15, 1995 — the days when some of the biggest mass executions of Muslim prisoners took place — and blamed the killings on "others, including avengers, locals and rogue members of the security forces."
Closing his statement, Ivetic said Mladic wanted the court to hold a minute's silence "to remember and commemorate all the victims of the senseless war in Bosnia- Herzegovina," and mentioning in particular some 1,300 Serbs he said were killed by Muslim forces in Srebrenica during the war "and whose voice has not often been heard in this place."
Presiding Judge Alphons Orie denied the request, saying "It doesn't fall within the scope of our task."