BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia's war crimes prosecutor will seek permission from a U.N. tribunal to question former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic as part of its own investigation into wartime atrocities against Serbs.
The prosecutors' office said in a statement Saturday it wants to speak to Mladic about his knowledge of crimes allegedly committed against Serbs in eastern Bosnia by Muslims troops led by Naser Oric, the wartime commander of Srebrenica, during Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.
There was no immediate reaction from the tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where Mladic will face a genocide trial over the crimes committed by troops under his command against Bosnia's Muslims. The court has accused Mladic of orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 — Europe's worst crime since World War II.
Serbia handed Mladic over to the Hague court just days after capturing him after 16 years on the run. Before the extradition, Mladic's lawyer rejected a request by Serb prosecutors to question Mladic while in Serbia, arguing that he was too sick.
Serbs say thousands of their own were killed by Oric's troops in and around Srebrenica before Mladic's fighters overran the town in July 1995. Bosnian Serb soldiers separated men and older boys from women and younger children and executed the former in just several days, burying the bodies in mass graves around Srebrenica.
The Hague court acquitted Oric in 2008 of crimes against Serbs in Srebrenica, a U.N.-protected enclave besieged by Serb troops during the war. Serb prosecutors, however, say their investigation focuses on possible crimes in eastern Bosnia that were not part of the U.N. indictment.
Asked how Mladic could be considered a credible witness with a U.N. war crimes indictment against him, a Serbian court official explained that prosecutors simply work to gather as much information as possible for the investigation. The official requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Appearing in court Friday in The Hague for the first time, Mladic declined to enter formal pleas to the 11-count war crimes indictment but admitted no guilt.