Describing himself as "mild and tolerant", Radovan Karadzic has disputed how many Bosnian Muslims died in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as he begins his defence against charges of genocide and war crimes.
The former Bosnian Serb leader has opened his defence before the United Nations war crimes tribunal where he will plead that he did not know what crimes were being committed in his name.
He told the court that, contrary to the commonly held view, he had actually intervened to reduce human suffering, by seeking peace agreements, taking humanitarian measures and honouring international law.
"I'm a mild and tolerant man with a great capacity for understanding others," said Karadzic, a psychiatrist and poet by profession.
"Instead of being accused, I should have been rewarded for all the good things I have done.
"I did everything in human power to avoid the war. I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians. I proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires and military containment. And I stopped our army many times when they were close to victory."
Speaking calmly, he insisted that the number of victims of the war was up to four times less than reported in "lies and propaganda" and accused Muslims of staging mortar bomb atocities in Sarajevo.
Karadzic argued that he did all he could to avoid war but that Serbs were pushed into conflict by armed attacks by Muslim fundamentalists, leading to the break-up of multi-ethnic Bosnia.
"The beginning of the fighting, the beginning of the war had nothing to do with me," he said. "Nobody thought there would be genocide in Bosnia."
"The only crime I should be put on trial for is political stupidity and excessive trust in the Muslims."
Captured on a Belgrade bus in 2008, Karadzic, 67, is charged with commanding the murder of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys by forces loyal to him in the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995.
The massacre carried out by Bosnian Serb troops under the command of General Ratko Mladic, who is also facing a separate trial, was the first act of genocide committed on European soil since the Second World War.
Over the space of a few days in the summer of 1995, thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys were rounded up, systematically executed and dumped into mass graves in the area.
Peter Robinson, Karadzic's legal adviser said his client would claim that at at Srebrenica "no policy was being implemented" and that, as suprime commander of Bosnian Serb forces, he "did not know prisoners would be executed".
Prosecutors say Karadzic, the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and Mladic acted together to cleanse Muslims and Croats from Bosnia's Serb-claimed territories after the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991.
Karadzic, a poet and trained psychiatrist, is also charged for his alleged role in the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo between May 1992 and November 1995 in which 10,000 people died under terrifying sniper and artillery fire.
Like Mladic, he has also been charged for his alleged role in taking hostage UN observers and peacekeepers to use them as human shields during a NATO bombing campaign against Bosnian Serb targets in May and June 1995.
Indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1995, Karadzic spent 13 years on the run before being arrested in 2008 in Belgrade where he practised as a doctor of alternative medicine.
His trial began in October 2009 and prosecutors put their case against him between April 2010 and May this year.
Judges dropped one genocide count in June, saying there was not enough evidence to substantiate the charge for killings by Bosnian Serb forces in Bosnian towns from March to December 1992.
Karadzic plans a four-hour statement to open his defence, followed by the testimony of Russian colonel Andrei Demurenko, the UN chief of staff in Sarajevo from January to December 1995.
Wives and relatives of victims of the massacre will look on from the public gallery.
Karadzic, who has been allotted 300 hours for his defence, has said he will call 300 witnesses to testify on his behalf.
The names include Greek President Carolos Papoulias, who was Athens' foreign minister during the Bosnian war.
Karadzic has said Papoulias' testimony could prove his innocence for the infamous shelling of Sarajevo's Markale market on February 5, 1994, in which 67 people died.
Tuesday is a historic day for the tribunal as it begins trying its last suspect on Tuesday.
Goran Hadzic, the last of 161 suspects still alive and at large after the wars that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia, was arrested last year and is accused of murder, torture and forcible deportation at the very outset of those wars.