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Lawyers representing wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic will not make an opening statement when their defence case begins on May 19, it was announced during a hearing this week.
No reason was given for the decision. Branko Lukic, one of the defence lawyers, simply told presiding judge Alphons Orie that they would “proceed immediately to the witnesses”.
Judge Orie noted that the defence wanted to call 336 witnesses, but that they had not the number of hours they would need for this.
“The chamber has calculated [that it will take] over 300 hours. In this case, the prosecution used 207.5 hours, and defence shouldn’t expect more than that,” the judge said.
Lukic replied that he was unsure whether all the witnesses on the still-confidential list would be called to testify.
“However, we have to reserve both the time and place for all of them. I’m sure there will be changes and amendments to that list and the number of hours,” he continued.
Judge Orie instructed the defence to file an updated witness list by May 16.
The hearing proceeded uneventfully, save for the accused repeatedly standing up and speaking loudly when he wanted to confer with his lawyers.
“Please sit down, Mr Mladic. Now! Right away! No loud speech either,” Judge Orie chided him at one point.
Prosecutors allege that Mladic, as commander of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, is responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory”.
He is accused of planning and overseeing the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead, as well as the massacre of more than 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995.
Mladic was arrested in May 2011 after spending 16 years as a fugitive. His trial began in May 2012 and the prosecution rested its case in February this year.
Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.
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