Bosnian Serb cousins Milan and Sredoje Lukic were accused on Wednesday of imprisoning and burning alive some 140 Muslims and summarily shooting others in some of the cruellest ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian war.
Both men face charges of murder, extermination and cruel treatment at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague for violence in and around the historic south-eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad during the 1992-95 war.
According to prosecutors Milan Lukic led a Serb paramilitary group known as the "Avengers" or "White Eagles", joined by his cousin Sredoje, which terrorised the local Muslim population in an attempt to drive them out.
"This case... deals with the responsibility of men who with their own hands perpetrated the crimes of the indictment, spilling the victims' blood before their own feet," prosecutor Dermot Groome said in his opening statement on Wednesday.
"These are crimes which reached an unprecedented peak of capricious cruelty not seen anywhere else," he said, adding the story of Visegrad was one of the most effective cases of ethnic cleansing of the entire war.
Both men have pleaded not guilty to all charges and said they were not present in the town at the time of the crimes.
Groome told the court how in June 1992 the Lukic cousins barricaded around 70 Muslim women, children and elderly into a house, poured flammable liquid on the floor and set it alight, shooting at those who tried to escape through windows.
The oldest victim of the blaze was 71 while the youngest was a 2-day-old baby. Among the dead were 51 members of the same family. A mother and her son who escaped separately and fled only learned three years later that they had both survived. (MORE)