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Mladic Seeks Delay to Defence Case

Legal team argue that preparations have been delayed by glitches in new computer system.
By Rachel Irwin

Lawyers representing wartime Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic have requested a delay to the start of their defence case, citing technical issues.

Mladic’s defence case is currently scheduled to begin on May 13.

His lawyers say that since the tribunal upgraded to a new computer operating system, they have faced numerous glitches that have made trial preparations difficult. In their April 24 motion, they stress that they have tried to resolve the problems using the resources available to them, but to no avail.

“The defence emphasises its hesitance in filing a motion, but at this time sees no other solution, due to the overwhelming nature of the problems, and the failure to have the same resolved despite patience and continued cooperation with the various technical organs of the tribunal,” the motion states.

The lawyers have asked for an additional three weeks of preparation time, starting from the date on which all the technical problems are fixed.

In response, the prosecution contended that the suspension being requested would cause “a substantial delay in the proceedings”.

“In light of the allegations raised by the defence, the prosecution requests that a hearing be convened as soon as possible to discuss the technical problems identified by the defence and the steps necessary to correct them,” the prosecution stated.

On April 29, tribunal registrar John Hocking addressed the claims in Mladic’s motion.

“The registrar submits that, while the defence may have experienced some technical issues relating to the upgrade of the tribunal’s operating system, these were minor in nature and did not materially interfere with the defence team’s ability to prepare for the next phase of the trial,” Hocking stated.

The matter is currently before the Mladic bench.

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 of this year.

On April 15, judges turned down Mladic’s request to be acquitted of genocide before the start of his defence case. (See Mladic Acquittal Request Denied.)

Rachel Irwin is IWPR’s Senior Reporter in The Hague.