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Mladic Lawyer Choice Assessed

Registry wants more time to check eligibility of defendant’s requested representatives.
By Rachel Irwin
  • Ratko Mladic and the tribunal appointed Serbian lawyer Aleksandar Aleksic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)
    Ratko Mladic and the tribunal appointed Serbian lawyer Aleksandar Aleksic in the ICTY courtroom. (Photo: ICTY)

The Hague tribunal registrar has requested more time to assign Ratko Mladic permanent representation, indicating that the accused has asked for counsels not currently on the list of accepted defence lawyers.

“The registry is in the process of verifying the qualifications and eligibilities of persons requested by the accused to be assigned as permanent counsel,” registrar John Hocking states in the June 30 memo. He asks judges to give him until August 1 to complete this process.

According to tribunal rules, a lawyer has to meet several requirements before he or she can be added to the list of practicing defence counsels at the tribunal.

Among the specifications, the person must be admitted to a state bar or be a university professor; have the ability to speak and write in either English or French (the two working languages of the court); and they cannot have been convicted of a crime or have been the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

In some cases, a lawyer who does not speak either English or French can be assigned to represent a defendant “where the interests of justice demand” or if an accused requests it. In these cases, the court might impose certain conditions, such as the lawyer and defendant taking care of any additional translation and interpretation costs not usually provided by the tribunal.

The lawyers who Mladic has requested for permanent representation have not been disclosed publicly.

After his arrest on May 26, the tribunal appointed Serbian lawyer Aleksandar Aleksic on a temporary basis and he will most likely be present when Mladic makes his second appearance in court on July 4. During that hearing, the accused will once again be asked to enter a plea, something he declined to do during his initial appearance on June 3.

Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, is alleged to have been responsible for some of the worst crimes of the Bosnian war, including the Srebrenica massacre – 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, wartime Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, who is currently standing trial at the tribunal.

Both Mladic and Karadzic are alleged to have been part of a joint criminal enterprise, the purpose of which was the removal of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats from Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.