Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Mladic "Fight to Overcome" Health Problems

Former Bosnian Serb army commander says he wants to see “truth established”.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Ratko Mladic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
    Ratko Mladic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

A frail-looking Ratko Mladic complained of persistent health problems at a court hearing this week but pledged that he doesn’t want to “slow down” his impending trial.

“I don’t want to slow down the proceedings, I want to see truth established because that is the best help I can give my friends,” Mladic, 69, told Presiding Judge Alpons Orie.

“I am not seeing you as my enemies, neither you [nor] the tribunal,” he continued.

He did, however, repeatedly mention his “serious” health issues which include kidney stones and “strong bad pain” in his urethra.

Mladic added that the reason the October 6 hearing was delayed for an hour was because he experienced some problems earlier in the day, but did want to provide details on what happened.

Judge Orie noted that Mladic had difficulties standing up at the beginning of the hearing.

“I will fight to overcome [the health problems] because I’m not defending myself but defending General Mladic,” said the accused, who frequently looked into the public gallery, as he has on previous occasions.

“Even the way I am now, even in this situation, I am still defending both Republika Srpska and Serbia and the whole people there,” he continued.

Judge Orie reminded Mladic that the charges were against him as an individual and “no one else”.

“I would urge you to defend yourself as an accused rather than to defend persons, entities or organisations which are not accused,” the judge said.

“Thank you,” Mladic replied. “You look very nice on the screen. You are approximately my age, I believe. I have to tell you, the more pressure I’m put under, the stronger I get.”

“However flattered I may feel with your nice observations let’s get to why we’re here, which is for preparation for your trial,” Judge Orie responded.

Despite the judge’s efforts to keep Mladic on the topics at hand, the accused had the tendency to ramble for long stretches.

He also noted the cameras present in the courtroom – which record the proceedings for the web feed – and then asked to see his wife – who was in The Hague to visit him – once more before she returned to Serbia.

The rest of the hearing was spent discussing procedural issues related to evidence disclosure and facts the parties could potentially agree upon, though these matters have yet to be settled. The judges also still have to decide upon a request from prosecutors to split the indictment into two trials.

The next status conference will be held on November 10.

Mladic was arrested in Serbia on May 26 after 16 years as a fugitive and made his first appearance in The Hague on June 3. At a July 4 hearing, he was thrown out of the courtroom for interrupting judges and refusing to listen to the charges against him.

He was the commander of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, and is alleged to have been responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war. These include the Srebrenica massacre, which resulted in the murder of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys, as well as the shelling and sniping campaign against Sarajevo, which killed about 12,000 civilians.

He is also charged with crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer in 23 municipalities across Bosnia.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.