THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal is set to pass judgment Wednesday on former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic, who is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes during Bosnia’s devastating 1992-95 war.
Mladic, who faces 11 counts, stands accused of commanding forces responsible for crimes including the worst atrocities of the war — the deadly three-year siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern enclave of Srebrenica, which was Europe’s worst mass killing since World War II.
A three-judge panel at the court formally known as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will rule on whether the 75-year-old former general is guilty or innocent and, if they convict Mladic, they will immediately pass sentence.
Prosecutors have sought a life sentence, while Mladic’s defense lawyers said he should be acquitted on all counts.
The judgment marks the end of the tribunal’s final trial. The groundbreaking court was set up in 1993, while fierce fighting was still raging in Bosnia.
The conflict in the former Yugoslavia erupted after the breakup of the former multi-ethnic federation in the early 1990s, with the worst crimes taking place in Bosnia. More than 100,000 people died and millions lost their homes before a peace agreement was signed in 1995.
Mladic’s political master during the war, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic was convicted last year for masterminding atrocities in Bosnia and sentenced to 40 years. He has appealed the ruling.
The man widely blamed for fomenting wars across the Balkans, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, died in his UN cell in 2006 before tribunal judges could reach verdicts in his trial.
Mladic went into hiding after the war and remained a fugitive until his arrest in Serbia in May 2011.
Long before the hearing in The Hague started Wednesday, survivors began gathering outside the court.
Fikret Alic, a Bosnian man who became a figurehead for the suffering of Bosnians during the war when he was photographed as an emaciated prisoner behind the wire of a Bosnian Serb prison camp, was among those waiting to watch the hearing.
“I expect justice and truth and that he is convicted … for genocide,” Alic said.