Groome also highlighted the individual tragedies that lie beneath the statistics, like the 14 year-old boy whose father and uncle were among 150 men from the same community murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in November 1992. He also told the story of a seven-year-old boy in Sarajevo killed by a Serb sniper while out with his mother gathering firewood. The bullet passed through her stomach and into his head. Lying wounded on the street, she thought her boy was simply following her instructions to take cover. It was only when United Nations soldiers lifted up his limp body that she realized he was dead.
Groome said that by the time Mladic's forces stormed the supposedly U.N.-protected enclave of Srevrenica in 1995, killing 8,000 Muslim men and boys, "they were well rehearsed in the craft of murder."
He added that Srebrenica was "different in scale, but no different in intent" from other atrocities carried out by Bosnian Serb forces. "It was no different in its utter inhumanity."
One of the survivors in the gallery, Zumra Sehomerovic, said: "I am proud when I see Mladic finally behind that glass, in front of the court. It has come after 16 years but there is no statute of limitations on the crimes he committed".
Her husband and three other family members were killed at Srebrenica and she said she saw the general up close when he appeared at the scene to "reassure" the terrified captives.
"When I look at him today, I see the man I saw then in 1995. I was standing a meter from him," said Zumra Sehomerovic. "There he was with his sleeves rolled up, and he was telling us everything would be OK. He was giving chocolate to the children and said he said he just needed to keep some of the men for a prisoner exchange but that everybody would be together again soon. And then he killed them all."
Groome said the documentary evidence pointed to an "overarching" plan, set out in a list of six war aims drawn up by Mladic, aimed at ethnic cleansing hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Croats and carving out an ethnically pure Serb homeland in western and eastern Bosnia.
The prosecution statement also focused on the 44-month siege of Sarajevo. Groome quoted Mladic from war-time documents and interviews in which he appeared to boast about "putting a ring around the dragon's head of Sarajevo".
At one point the general is quoted as saying: "I have blocked Sarajevo from all four sides. There is no exit. It is in a mousetrap."
Lukic said that he intended to cross-examine prosecution witnesses carefully, but would let the prosecution present its entire case before making his own opening statement.
"Our strategy is not to reveal our strategy and to keep our cards close to our chest," said Lukic, but he pledged to present "new evidence" when his turn came. He predicted that the trial could take more than four years to complete.
In court, Mladic cut a much diminished figure from the bluff, stocky and ruddy-faced military commander he was in the war. He survived for 16 years on the run, at first with the help of the Serbian Army and the Serbian government in Belgrade but, since the election of a reformist president, Boris Tadic, in 2004, the layers of protection fell away. Mladic was cut off from funds and had been reduced to hiding in the garden shed of a relative in a Serbian village when he was caught last year.
The Bosnian Serbs' war-time leader Radovan Karadzic was caught in 2008, living under a false name and posing a new-age healer. He is already mid-way through his trial at The Hague. Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president who orchestrated the Balkan wars from Belgrade, died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006 before a verdict could be delivered in his case.
At the start of Wednesday's hearing the presiding judge, Alphons Orie of the Netherlands, said the court was considering postponing the presentation of evidence, due to start on May 29, owing to material omitted by the prosecutors when it disclosed evidence to the defense. Groome said he would not oppose a "reasonable adjournment".
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Julian Borger, reporting from The Hague, Netherlands, in context here: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/16/ratko-mladic-trial-bosnia-war-crimes