Ratko Mladic Is Not Being a Gentleman at His Genocide Trial

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Perhaps it shouldn't come as any surprise that the man accused of murdering thousands of civilians in Bosnia is being a complete creep in his war crimes trial, but it's still jarring since you expect someone on trial, even for genocide, to have some sense of basic decorum. Ratko Mladic, the former Serb military commander who faces life in prison for ordering the killing of 8,000 men and boys in Srerbenica (among other crimes), has been drawing tears from the audience on the first day of his war crimes trial through some very insensitive hand gestures.

Most notably, as Sky News reported, he "made eye contact with a woman in the public gallery and ran his hand across his throat, in a gesture that led presiding judge Alphons Orie to hold a brief recess and order an end to 'inappropriate interactions.' " He also clapped and gave a thumbs-up to the audience, which was outwardly hostile right back. The New York Times' Arlise Simons and Alan Cowell captured this little moment: "In the crowded public gallery, a group of survivors from Bosnia murmured insults as Mr. Mladic appeared, with one woman shouting 'vulture' as he turned to scan the crowd and gave a thumbs-up sign as he spotted an acquaintance." 

Mladic, for his part, says he's innocent. "I did not take part in any crimes. I have only defended my people," The Associated Press' MIke Corder reports he said in a wartime television broadcast. But he's also said "whenever I come by Sarajevo, I kill someone in passing ... I go kick the hell out of the Turks." So far, Mladic's conduct in the courtroom conveys not an unapologetic defender of his people, but an unrepentant monster.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.