THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Last seen as a swaggering general in the Bosnia war, Ratko Mladic needed help rising from his chair for war-crimes judges Friday, his limp right hand apparently too weak to put on earphones without assistance.
Together with his former political boss Radovan Karadzic, Mladic is accused of orchestrating the four-year war for Serbian domination in Bosnia that cost 100,000 lives and climaxed with the July 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the U.N.-declared safe zone of Srebrenica.
The first clear glimpse the world got of the 69-year-old Mladic after he spent 16 years on the run came after a curtain separating the public gallery and the courtroom was lifted Friday. Wearing a cap, he saluted the gallery with his left hand through bulletproof glass.
Mladic declined to enter formal pleas to the 11-count indictment, but admitted no guilt. “I defended my country and my people,” he said, before presiding judge Alphons Orie cut him short.
Orie scheduled a new hearing for July 4. If Mladic again refuses to plead to the charges, judges will file “not guilty” pleas on his behalf.
Mladic’s family said after his arrest last week that he had suffered two strokes during his years in hiding. He was given a medical examination after his transfer to the U.N. detention unit at the seaside suburb of Scheveningen, and doctors declared him healthy enough to appear for his arraignment.
Rare white rhino, 39, dies at zoo
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – A 39-year-old northern white rhinoceros has died at a Czech zoo, further reducing the world’s dwindling population of the endangered animal.
Jana Mysliveckova, the spokeswoman for the Dvur Kralove zoo, said Nesari died last week in what she called “an irretrievable loss.” The animal had been brought to the zoo in 1975 from Sudan.
The death leaves the zoo with one remaining northern white rhino, 30-year-old Nabire.
In an attempt to save the species from extinction, the Czech zoo moved four of its northern white rhinos to Kenya in December 2010, hoping to breed them there in captivity. Mysliveckova said few of these rhinos are now left: two at a zoo in San Diego and three or four in Sudan.