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Court Date Set as Mladic Arrives in Hague

Doctors rule he is fit to appear in court.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Plane carrying Ratko Mladic from Serbia arrives in Rotterdam.  (Photo courtesy of ICTY)
    Plane carrying Ratko Mladic from Serbia arrives in Rotterdam. (Photo courtesy of ICTY)

Ratko Mladic will make his initial appearance at The Hague tribunal on June 3, prosecutor Serge Brammertz announced at a packed press conference today.

After 16 years as a fugitive, Mladic was finally arrested on May 26 in Serbia. After losing his extradition appeal before a Serbian court, he was transported to The Netherlands and handed into the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, on May 31.

During the June 1 press conference, court registrar John Hocking told journalists that he met Mladic as he disembarked from the plane.

“He was very cooperative,” Hocking said. “We communicated well [and] both sides understood each other.”

A doctor determined that Mladic was fit to be transferred to the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague, and upon his arrival there, further medical examinations took place, Hocking said.

While Mladic has reportedly suffered from a number of illnesses over the years, Hocking said doctors saw “no issues” that would prevent normal court procedures from being followed.

He noted that so far in the tribunal’s history, no detainee has ever been declared mentally or physically unfit to stand trial.

As commander of its main staff from 1992 to 1996, Mladic was the highest authority in the Bosnian Serb military, save his political boss, Radovan Karadzic, who was president of the self-declared entity of Republika Srpska and supreme commander of the army. Detained in 2008, Karadzic is currently standing trial at the tribunal.

Both Mladic and Karadzic are charged with some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war, and are alleged to have been part of a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was the “removal” of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from territories claimed by Serb forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina, according to each of their indictments.

The crimes of which they stand accused include the 44-month shelling and sniping campaign against Sarajevo, which killed about 12,000 civilians, and the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, where some 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys were murdered. Srebrenica is considered the worst single atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.

Mladic and Karadzic are also charged with crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer in relation to various municipalities across Bosnia.

Prosecutor Brammertz told journalists that Mladic’s arrest meant no one could “count on impunity.”

For the victims, he said, “16 years is a long time to wait.”

“We recognise their courage,” he said. “Without their support, the tribunal could have achieved nothing.”

Brammertz noted that his office amended the indictment against Mladic about a year ago in order to align it more closely with that against Karadzic, but that at this stage, no decision had been taken on whether to request that the two trials be joined together. (For more on this issue, see Mladic Unlikely to Face Trial With Karadzic.)

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.