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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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Elvedin Pasic is the first witness who has taken the stand in the war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic.

Elvedin Pasic held back tears as he described surviving a mass killing in 1992 in the Bosnian village of Grabovica.

He told the International Criminal Court at The Hague how Bosnia’s ethnic groups lived in peaceful coexistence until the outbreak of war in the 1990s.

General Ratko Mladic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ratko Mladic, 70, denies the charges, which date back to the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

He was on the run for 16 years before his arrest and is one of the last key figures wanted for war crimes during the Bosnian War.

General Ratko Mladic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity

General Ratko Mladic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity

The trial was halted in May because of “irregularities” by the prosecution.

Some of the relatives of victims and survivors of the war have expressed concern that if the trial takes too long, Ratko Mladic, who has suffered from heart problems, will die before a verdict is reached.

Elvedin Pasic, 34, is a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) from the village of Hvracani in northern Bosnia. He was a teenager during the war.

He told the court: “Before the war we had a great time. We were playing basketball and football, we used to do everything together. Muslim, Croats and Serbs, we were all having a great time, respecting each other.”

Things began to change in the spring of 1992, he said, when as a 14-year-old boy he first noticed a convoy of soldiers in the uniform of the Yugoslav national army giving Muslims the three-fingered Serbian salute.

Elvedin Pasic went on to describe how bombs were falling on his area during the war and his village was overrun.

He was separated from the other men in his family and later survived the execution of around 150 people in the northern Bosnian village of Grabovica.

Later this week, the court is due to hear from the retired British general, Sir Richard Dannatt, who served as deputy commander of NATO’s force in Bosnia.

However, the Mladic defense team has called for his expert evidence to be thrown out.

There will also be an anonymous witness who survived the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. He is expected to tell the court how he saw prisoners being lined up in groups of 10 and executed.

Around 8,000 Bosniak men and boys from Srebrenica were killed after the town was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July of that year – in what was the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

 

The trial of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic has been suspended until further notice, the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announces.

Ratko Mladic’s trial was due to resume on 25 June after it was halted in May.

Monday’s suspension is a result of an error in the disclosure of documents to the defense, the court in The Hague said in a statement.

Ratko Mladic, 70, denies 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity dating back to the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

The trial of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic has been suspended until further notice

The trial of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic has been suspended until further notice

The trial was first halted in May when it first emerged that the prosecution had not disclosed evidence to the defense.

Ratko Mladic is the last of the key figures wanted for war crimes during the Bosnian War.

On the run for 16 years before his arrest, Ratko Mladic has refused to enter a plea.

Some of the relatives of victims and survivors of the war have expressed concern that if the trial takes too long, Ratko Mladic, who has suffered from heart problems, will die before a verdict is reached.

 

Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, has been sentenced to 50 years in jail by a UN-backed war crimes court.

Last month Charles Taylor was found guilty of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war.

Special Court for Sierra Leone judges said the sentence reflected his status as head of state at the time and his betrayal of public trust.

Charles Taylor, 64, insists he is innocent and is likely to appeal against the sentence, correspondents say.

The appeal process could last up to six months.

During the sentencing, Judge Richard Lussick said the crimes in Sierra Leone were some of the most heinous in human history.

The prosecution had wanted an 80-year prison term, but the judge said that would have been excessive – taking into account the limited scope of his involvement in planning operations in Sierra Leone.

However, Judge Lussick said in return for a constant flow of diamonds, Charles Taylor provided arms and logistical and moral support to the Revolutionary United Front rebels – prolonging the conflict and the suffering of the people of Sierra Leone.

“While Mr. Taylor never set foot in Sierra Leone, his heavy footprint is there,” the judge said.

Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, has been sentenced to 50 years in jail by a UN-backed war crimes court

Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, has been sentenced to 50 years in jail by a UN-backed war crimes court

In its landmark ruling in April, the court found Charles Taylor guilty on 11 counts, relating to atrocities that included rape and murder.

He became the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of Nazis after World War II.

In response, Charles Taylor accused the prosecution of paying and threatening witnesses in his war crimes trial.

He also told the judges to consider his age when making their decision, saying he was “no threat to society”.

But the trial chamber said given his social background, “rehabilitation” was not likely.

The fact that he had not expressed remorse also affected the sentence, the judge said.

He had condemned atrocities across the world, and had the “deepest sympathy” for victims in Sierra Leone, but stopped short of apologizing for his part in the conflict.

The judges agreed with the prosecutors that Charles Taylor’s age, or the fact that he has a family, should have no impact on the sentence.

In written filings, prosecutors said a sentence of 80 years would reflect the severity of the crimes and the central role that Taylor had in facilitating them.

“The purposely cruel and savage crimes committed included public executions and amputations of civilians, the display of decapitated heads at checkpoints… public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes,” wrote prosecutor Brenda Hollis.

But defense lawyers said the recommended sentence was “manifestly disproportionate and excessive”, and that Taylor had only been found guilty of an indirect role – aiding the rebels, rather than leading them.

They said their client should not be made to shoulder the blame alone for what happened in Sierra Leone’s war.

The court should not support “attempts by the prosecution to provide the Sierra Leoneans with this external bogey man upon whom can be heaped the collective guilt of a nation for its predominantly self-inflicted wounds”, his lawyers wrote.

During the Sierra Leone civil war, Charles Taylor supported RUF rebels who killed tens of thousands of people.

The war crimes included murder, rape, the use of child soldiers and the amputation of limbs.

Taylor was accused of channelling weapons to them in return for “blood diamonds” but the judge said the prosecution had failed to prove their case that he had given orders to the RUF.

The case is being heard in The Hague for fear that a trial in Sierra Leone could destabilize the region. The Dutch government only agreed if Taylor would serve any sentence in another country, so he will serve any prison term in the UK.

 

Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, has accused the prosecution of paying witnesses to testify against him in his war crimes trial.

Charles Taylor, 64, who was found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes last month, is addressing judges at The Hague.

It is Charles Taylor’s last chance to speak at the international court before he is sentenced later this month.

He was convicted of arming rebels in Sierra Leone during its civil war and helping them plan atrocities.

In its landmark ruling last month, the Special Court for Sierra Leone found Charles Taylor guilty on 11 counts, relating to atrocities that included rape and murder.

Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, has accused the prosecution of paying witnesses to testify against him in his war crimes trial

Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, has accused the prosecution of paying witnesses to testify against him in his war crimes trial

Delivering his statement from a witness box on Wednesday, Charles Taylor said money had played a “corrupting” role in his trial.

“Witnesses were paid, coerced and in many cases threatened with prosecution” if they did not testify against him, Charles Taylor said.

He also said judges were handicapped by not having the “full contextual picture” of events at the time.

Charles Taylor said he condemned atrocities across the world, and had the “deepest sympathy” for victims in Sierra Leone.

From the outset of the trial, Charles Taylor has insisted he is innocent of all charges.

The prosecution wants an 80-year prison term, which the defense says is excessive.

Prosecutors have said that Charles Taylor’s ill health and age, or the fact that he has a family, should have no impact on the sentence.

In written filings, prosecutors said a sentence of 80 years would reflect the severity of the crimes and the central role that Charles Taylor had in facilitating them.

“The purposely cruel and savage crimes committed included public executions and amputations of civilians, the display of decapitated heads at checkpoints… public rapes of women and girls, and people burned alive in their homes,” wrote prosecutor Brenda Hollis.

But defense lawyers said the recommended sentence was “manifestly disproportionate and excessive”, and that Charles Taylor had only been found guilty of an indirect role – aiding the rebels, rather than leading them.

They said their client should not be made to shoulder the blame alone for what happened in Sierra Leone’s war.

The court should not support “attempts by the prosecution to provide the Sierra Leoneans with this external bogey man upon whom can be heaped the collective guilt of a nation for its predominantly self-inflicted wounds”, his lawyers wrote.

During the 1991-2002 Sierra Leone civil war, Charles Taylor supported Revolutionary United Front rebels who killed tens of thousands of people.

The war crimes included murder, rape, the use of child soldiers and the amputation of limbs. In return, Charles Taylor received “blood diamonds”.

The sentence is due to be handed down on 30 May.

Charles Taylor is widely expected to appeal against any prison sentence and the hearing could continue for several more months.

Under a special arrangement with the international court, any prison term Charles Taylor does receive will be served in Britain.