3 Jun 2011

Mladic faces genocide charges at war crimes tribunal

Ratko Mladic will be formally charged with genocide when he faces a war crimes tribunal for the first time at The Hague. His lawyer says he’s been treated in a prison hospital.

Ratko Mladic is making his initial appearance at a war crimes tribunal.

The Bosnian Serb General will appear in court at 0800 GMT, where he will be asked to enter a plea to 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the Srebrenica massacre.

On Thursday, lawyers for the Bosnian Serb general presented documents apparently showing Mladic was treated for cancer two years ago – and said he was now in the prison hospital at The Hague.

Aleksandar Aleksic, a Belgrade lawyer appointed by the War Crimes Tribunal to represent Mladic at The Hague, said he had met his client in a hospital room.

“Ratko Mladic is in the prison hospital,” he said. “He has not had proper health care for years and his condition is not good.” But he said the former Bosnian Serb army commander was mentally capable and responsive and would appear before the tribunal on Friday.


Earlier Mladic’s lawyer in Belgrade, Milos Saljic, said documents showed that Gen Mladic had lymphoma, and underwent surgery and chemotherapy at a Belgrade hospital in 2009.

The un-verified document shows the names of the doctors and the hospital blacked out.

The International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has not commented on the claims.

But Serbian officials have dismissed the documents as another delaying tactic after lawyers argued Mladic was “not well enough to stand trial” at his appeal against extradition to the Netherlands.

Bruno Vekaric of Serbia’s war crimes prosecution office said Mladic was “examined by court doctors here and he was diagnosed with past strokes and high blood pressure.

“As far as the cancer report is concerned, I believe it was a bluff aimed at postponing extradition.” Bruno Vekaric, Serbia war crimes prosecutor

“But as far as the cancer report is concerned, I believe it was a bluff aimed at postponing extradition. But we will check it for sure,” he said.

Doctors who examined Mladic last week said he was fit enough to be extradited.

Officials at the Scheveningen prison said Mladic was “talkative and extremely cooperative” when he arrived at the detention centre on Tuesday evening.

Read more: Mladic war crimes trial raises questions for the West

Mladic was arrested in Serbia on May 26 after 16 years on the run.

He is accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

Along with Radovan Karadzic, Mladic is also charged with committing numerous atrocities during the Bosnian war, including the 1992 siege of Sarajevo, which claimed 10,000 lives.

Read more: Channel 4 News' Alex Thomson meets General Mladic in 1995

Serbia had faced mounting international pressure to find Mladic. His arrest now paves the way for Serbia to join the European Union.

President Boris Tadic praised those involved in Mladic’s arrest and extradition. He hailed the process as “proof that the Republic of Serbia would like to close this very hard chapter in Serbian history”.