Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Ratko Mladic at his initial hearing in the ICTY courtroom on June 3, 2011. (Photo: ICTY)
IWPR international justice reporter Rachel Irwin briefed Al Jazeera English on Ratko Mladic’s initial appearance in The Hague on June 3.
In a news feature, Al Jazeera correspondent Jacky Rowland asked Irwin about Mladic’s health and if it could possibly delay the trial.
Irwin noted that if an accused is very ill, it can be difficult to proceed without long adjournments which can delay the trial. She pointed out, however, that Mladic’s ailments have yet to be confirmed.
“At the moment we don’t really know the situation with Mladic’s health. We’ve heard different things, but nothing official, and he seemed pretty alert in the courtroom today,” Irwin said. “And he did say, ‘Don’t help me walk, I’m General Mladic and I don’t need you to help me unless I ask.’ So we’re getting a bit of two sides, so we’ll have to wait and see.”
Irwin also spoke about the trial of ex-Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and criticism that trials at The Hague tribunal drag on too long.
Mladic, the highest authority in the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, was arrested in the Serbian village of Lazarevo on May 26. He is alleged to have been responsible for some of the worst crimes of the Bosnian war, including Srebrenica – considered the worst single atrocity committed on European soil since the Second World War – and the 44-month shelling and sniping campaign against Sarajevo, which killed some 12,000 civilians.
He is also charged with crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer in 23 municipalities across Bosnia.
The indictment, an amended version of which was confirmed by judges shortly after his arrest, is now almost identical to that against Mladic’s former superior, Karadzic.
Both Mladic and Karadzic are alleged to have been part of a joint criminal enterprise whose purpose was to remove Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Karadzic too was a fugitive for many years before his arrest in 2008. At the time, he was living in Belgrade under an assumed name and posing as an alternative healer. After numerous delays, witness testimony in his trial got underway in April 2010 and the trial is still ongoing.
Mladic will next appear in court on July 4, and he will be asked once again to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty – something he refused to do at his initial appearance.
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