Former Bosnian Serb army leader Ratko Mladic refused to testify at the trial of his political alter ego Radovan Karadzic yesterday, repeatedly dismissing the UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal as "satanic".
The hearing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was supposed to shed light on the relationship between Karadzic and Mladic during the 1995 fall of Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo during Bosnia's three-year war.
Instead, it turned into a theatre of the absurd, with Mladic first calling the tribunal "satanic", then asking for security personnel to fetch his false teeth, and, finally, refusing to answer Karadzic's questions.
"I do not want to testify and refuse to testify for reasons of my health and that it would prejudice my own case," replied Mladic to five questions put by Karadzic, who was defending himself, about the July 1995 massacre at the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo.
Almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys died at the hands of the Bosnian Serb army after the supposedly safe UN enclave at Srebrenica was overrun by troops commanded by Mladic.
Some 10,000 people died in Sarajevo in what prosecutors said was a "campaign of terror" through sniping and shelling, starting in May 1992.
"I do not recognise this hate court. It is a satanic court," Mladic said as he waved a seven-page statement around which he demanded he be allowed to read to the judges.
He was speaking in Serbian as he was escorted out of the courtroom, still waving his statement after judges refused his request.
"You have confirmed my theory that the tribunal is not a court of law but a satanic court," Mladic said as he was led away. As he walked past Karadzic, he told him in Serbian: "Radovan, thank you. I am sorry, but these idiots won't allow me to speak. They defend Nato."
Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon had told Mladic he would not be compelled to testify if the former commander believed it would prejudice his own case.
Earlier, Mladic took the oath before the tribunal before asking for his false teeth, a request met with laughter from the gallery.
"Could the security people please bring my teeth so that I can speak better?" asked Mladic, in an apparent attempt to ridicule the court.