10 Jul 2012

Evidence given by first witness at Mladic trial

7:50 am on 10 July 2012

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has begun hearing evidence from the first witness in the genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic.

The events, 20 years ago in the village of Grabovica in Bosnia were at the centre of Monday's proceedings in the Hague.

Mladic, 70, denies 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity dating back to the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

The first prosecution witness called was Elvedin Pasic, now aged 34, who was aged 14 in 1992.

He told the court at The Hague how Bosnia's ethnic groups lived in peaceful coexistence until the outbreak of war in the 1990s.

''Before the war we had a great time. We were playing basketball and football, we used to do everything together,'' he said.

''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 he first noticed a convoy of soldiers in the uniform of the Yugoslav national army giving Muslims the three-fingered Serbian salute.

Mr Pasic went on to describe how his family were forced to flee Hvracani under heavy fire as the village was overrun.

He told the court that his neighbour, who was pregnant, asked him to carry her daughter to safety.

''I remember she said, 'can you please carry her - if you have to rip her arm out, just don't let her go'.''

When Mr Pasic returned to the village with his mother a few months later, he said the stench of burnt and rotting bodies was unbearable.

The BBC reports the witness did not look at General Mladic.

Later this week, the court is due to hear from Sir Richard Dannatt, who served as deputy commander of NATO forces in Bosnia.