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War crimes

Former Bosnian-Serb army chief Ratko Mladic defends against charges of 1990s atrocities

Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic has called his first witness in his defense at the UN court in the Hague. He faces 11 charges, including genocide, during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

Mladic begins defense in The Hague

A summary of the testimony from the witness, Mile Sladoje, a former assistant commander of a Serb battalion in Sarajevo, was read by one of Mladic's lawyers at the hearing. He said he was never ordered to fire on civilians in the besieged Bosnian capital which is one of the key charges Mladic faces at the United Nations' International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague.

The ICTY is a body of the UN established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia, and to try their perpetrators.

Sladoje denied being ordered by Mladic to target civilians in a sniping and shelling campaign during the three-year siege of the city during which some 10,000 people were killed - most of them Muslims. Mladic denies the charges and claims he was simply a soldier following orders.

Mladic is specifically accused of a role in the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica; Europe's worst atrocity since the second World War. Bosnian Serb forces overran the UN-defended safe area in July 1995. Mladic was the general in charge of the troops.

The former general was only arrested in 2011 after evading arrest for 16 years. He had been living in northern Serbia under an assumed name.

Mladic denies the charges.

jm/rc (AP, dpa)

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