Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, will hear his verdict on charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity next week in the Hague. He is accused of ordering the killing of 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys after the capture of the town of Srebrenica, and raining artillery on civilians during the siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

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General Ratko Mladic is pictured on 7 May 1993 and 13 August 1995 Reuters

In his home village, however, Mladic is – as the slogan printed on his portrait in a garage that serves as a tavern declares – a hero. "He did not kill people. During the war he gathered our Muslim neighbours from a nearby village and warned them in time to leave," said his cousin Dusko Mladic, sitting in the tavern. "I still often go to that village, work with Muslims and don't have any problems," he said.

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Ratko Mladic's first cousin Dusko Mladic drinks with his brother and a friend under a portrait of the former Bosnian Serb military commander emblazoned with the words "a hero" Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Barely two dozen people – mostly his blood relatives – still remain in the village of Bozanovici. Today, as in much of the countryside, the younger generation has largely abandoned the village to go to Sarajevo in search of jobs.

Those left behind barely survive on small pensions and the sale of milk and meat, disappointed at the lack of support by the Bosnian Serb authorities.

A sign nailed to a tree marking one of the few paved roads bears the name of the village's favourite son: "General Mladic Street".

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A sign reading 'General Mladic Street' hangs on a tree in the village of Bozanovici Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Every home has portrait of Mladic. Villagers pay him the ultimate compliment: he was a good worker, who often came back to visit, and a useful hand bringing in the harvest from the fields. "He did not do such things. Others did it. The general is a colossus, a great and good man," said Zoran Mladic, one of several villagers who identify themselves as cousins of the ex-general.

Mladic, who was captured in 2011 after a decade and a half on the run, is still revered in the Serb sector of Bosnia as a hero and defender of the nation during the 1992-1995 war that killed more than 100,000 people.

The villagers are mainly farmers who keep cattle and sell produce in Sarajevo, which Mladic's forces kept under a 43-month siege, bombing its citizens daily and depriving them of water, power and food. They fear Mladic will be convicted and remembered as a war criminal.

"I would be happiest if he died before the judgment," said another cousin, Mile Mladic. That was the fate of Slobodan Milosevic, the former leader of Serbia, who died four years into his own genocide trial, ending it without a verdict. "We would then raise a large monument for him in the village and write the truth. All this that is happening is not the truth. It is a lie. The general is not guilty."

On 22 November, a UN war crimes tribunal will deliver its verdict in the long-running trial of former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted of charges including genocide.

Mladic was tried on 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for allegedly overseeing atrocities by Serb forces in Bosnia's 1992-95 war including the deadly campaign of sniping in the capital, Sarajevo, and the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Prosecutors last year urged judges to convict Mladic and sentence him to life imprisonment. Summing up the case in December, prosecution trial attorney Alan Tieger told the three-judge panel it would be "an insult to the victims, living and dead, and an affront to justice to impose any sentence other than the most severe available under law: A life sentence."

Mladic's defence lawyer Dragan Ivetic called for acquittal on all charges, saying prosecutors failed to prove Mladic's guilt. Ivetic said prosecutors wanted to make the 75-year-old former general "the symbolic sacrificial lamb for the perceived guilt" of Serbs during the war that left 100,000 people dead.

Mladic's trial, which started more than five years ago, is the last case still underway at the tribunal, which convicted and sentenced 83 suspects, including Mladic's political master Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted on 10 charges and sentenced to 40 years. Karadzic is appealing his convictions.

Mladic was long a symbol of impunity in the Balkans. He was first indicted in 1995, but avoided arrest for more than a decade until he was finally taken into custody in Serbia in 2011 and sent to The Hague to face trial.