- By Michael Dobbs
Michael Dobbs is a prize-winning foreign correspondent and author. Currently serving as a Goldfarb fellow at the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dobbs is following legal proceedings in The Hague. He has traveled to Srebrenica, Sarajevo and Belgrade, interviewed Mladic’s victims and associates, and is posting documents, video recordings, and intercepted phone calls that shed light on Mladic's personality.
Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic seems intent on making a mockery of his trial before the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, now set to open in The Hague on May 14. In a preliminary appearance this week, he treated the court to a display of family photographs and a diatribe against the “biased NATO court” that had put “me and my people” on trial.
As a foretaste of what is likely to come, and an insight into the mindset of a man accused of genocide and multiple war crimes, here are some screenshots from the proceedings, which were broadcast live by the tribunal.
Mladic began by showing the court a photograph of his beloved daughter, Ana, a medical student who killed herself in 1994 at the height of the Bosnia war. He insists that she was murdered by his enemies. His photograph showed Ana learning to ski at the age of six in the southern Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, where Mladic was serving in the army.
After showing the court more photographs of his family, Mladic complained that he had been refused permission to wear his military uniform to court. He then produced a photograph, taken during the war, of himself in the uniform of a general of the Bosnian Serb army.
The judge, a white-haired Dutch jurist named Alphons Orie, who has tangled with Mladic in the past, instructed the guards to confiscate the defendant’s photos. He was evidently not convinced by the general’s insistence that he was not “trying to put on a circus.”
Mladic responded by recalling the protest of African-American athletes in the 1968 Olympics and raising his fist in a gesture of protest.