World Bulletin / News Desk
While leaders and lawmakers in Western Balkan countries are fighting corruption, putting efforts into EU accession and building stable economies, many citizens' focus this week shifted to Wednesday's court verdict on former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic.
Mladic, now 74, used to be Europe's most wanted man after his role in the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
He was the commander of the Army of Republika Srpska which was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the beginning of the country’s brutal civil war amid the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Wednesday's 523-day trial could end in the conviction of Mladic on a range of war crimes charges. He may also receive sentencing on the same day.
The court itself will wind up on Dec. 31, bringing an end to a painful and bloody chapter in postwar European history.
He and the forces under his command have been linked to genocide committed in Bosnia, particularly in Srebrenica, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II, where more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed over several days in 1995 by Serb forces.
However, Mladic is also known for his forces’ bloody 1,425-day siege of Sarajevo, the longest of a capital city in the history of modern warfare.
Almost 14,000 people were killed during the siege, nearly 5,500 of them being civilians.
A 15-year manhunt ended in 2011 when Mladic was found and handed over to The Hague tribunal for trial on May 31, 2011.
Mladic on Wednesday will face 11 individual and collective charges such as committing genocide, crimes against humanity plus violations of the laws and customs of war.
He has said he regrets innocent loss of life, but has denied the charges. His courtroom appearances have been marked by defiance, including a refusal to testify against fellow Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect, Radovan Karadzic.
Along with former president Slobodan Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic represent the three most-senior Serb figures to have faced war crimes charges arising out of the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia after the end of communism.
Mladic, controversially, remains a hero to some Serbs.
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