(The Hague) - Slobodan Milosevic will be confronted with charges of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague today. Genocide, crimes committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, or religious group, is the most serious offense under international law.

"These charges link Slobodan Milosevic with events that shocked the world," said Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "Based on our field investigations during the war in Bosnia, we believe that the 'ethnic cleansing' there was an effort to eliminate the Bosnian Muslim population from parts of the country. The genocide counts are important for those hundreds of thousands of victims."

The indictment includes one count of genocide, one count of complicity with genocide, and an additional 27 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity arising from the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The charges are based on Slobodan Milosevic's "command responsibility" as President of Serbia and his alleged participation in a joint criminal enterprise. The new charges cover the shelling of Sarajevo; the mass murder of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, both UN-proclaimed "safe areas;" and for the Omarska detention camp. Photographs of the Omarska inmates, who resembled Nazi concentration camp survivors, drew international attention in 1992.

Milosevic is charged with a total of approximately 10,000 killings and 250,000 deportations in Bosnia. This is the third indictment he faces before the ICTY. The earlier two indictments covered Croatia and Kosovo. The charges against him span the years of the Balkan Wars from 1991 to 1999. The judges will decide whether to join the three indictments in a single trial.

Among the fourteen individuals listed in the Bosnia indictment as co-perpetrators are Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Karadzic was the political leader of Bosnian Serbs throughout the war. Mladic was the general in charge of both the arm of the Yugoslav Army in Sarajevo and the entire Bosnian Serb Army. The two have been under indictment for their roles in the Bosnian war since 1995 but have yet to be arrested.

In a report to the Security Council on November 27, Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor for the ICTY, said that Mladic has been living freely in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, under the protection of the Yugoslav Army.