Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague (Reuters)

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has denied charges of genocide and war crimes and opened his defence in court by saying he "should have been rewarded for all the good things," he had done instead.

Karadzic, 67, told the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia that he "succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians," during the bloody Bosnian war in the 1990s.

He stands accused of 10 charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanty. One charge relates to the Srebenica massacre of 1995 when 7,000 Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys, were killed by Bosnian Serb troops led by Commander Ratko Mladic, who is also on trial at The Hague.

"I did everything in human power to avoid the war," Karadzic said. He asserted that he "proclaimed numerous unilateral ceasefires" and "stopped the army when it was close to victory" on several occasions.

He deserved to be rewarded rather than prosecuted, he told the court.

Karadzic, dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia" claimed that the number of victims in the war "was three to four times less than that reported by media". His claim triggered outrage in the court.

Karadzic, who is also facing criminal charges for the 44-month siege of Sarajevo in which 12,000 civilians were killed, told the court: "[I am] a mild man, a tolerant man with great capacity to understand others." Prior to the war, he used a Muslim hairdresser, he said.

More than 100,000 people died in the conflicts that erupted between successor countries as Yugoslavia tore itself apart in in the early 1990s.

The Bosnian war (1992-95) pitched Muslims, Croats and Serbs against each other.

Karadzic went on the run after the end of the war for 13 years before he was arrested in Belgrade in 2008.

He had been in hiding working as an alternative medicine practitioner in a private clinic under the false name of Dragan David Dabic. The trial against him started in 2009.

Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade at the time of his arrest (Reuters)