3 Jun 2011

Mladic trial begins in The Hague

Chief Correspondent

Ratko Mladic begins his trial at The Hague accused of 11 crimes, including genocide. Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson is in court to witness the start of the trial.

Ratko Mladic in court (Reuters)

General Ratko Mladic has appeared in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for the first day of a trial that is expected to be an exhaustive investigation.

General Mladic immediately claimed that he would need at least two months to go through the 37-page indictment that had been given to him.

When asked if he wanted to hear the indictment in court and in full, he responded: “I do not want a single letter or sentance of that document read out to me.”

He also stated that he needed time to build an effective defence team, beyond the lawyer he had been assigned.

Following the indictment summary, General Mladic responded by fiercely contesting the content of the alleged crimes laid out to him.

“Mr Orie (one of the three presidng judges), you are a bit older than I am. I would like to receive what you read out against me – these obnoxious charges levelled against me. I want to read these properly.”

General Mladic went on to say he needed far more than a month to analyse “these monstrous words”. He claimed that he had never heard some of the charges in the indictment nor understood them, demanding far more than a month to prepare his case.

Judge Orie said there was no good cause given to deviate from the 30 days and that the court-appointed month was long enough to decide on his plea.

A 10-minute break was requested by the defence. When they returned, Mladic applauded the announcement that there would be no public discussion of his health in court. TV streams were ended and the sound to public galleries cut off.

Joint criminal and individual Criminal Enterprises

According to the indictment both Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic were part of the joint criminal enterprise to remove Bosnian Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The indictment outlined three joint criminal enterprises, including the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre at Srebrenica. The third related to the taking of UN personnel as hostages, Mladic shook his head at this indictment.

General Mladic was also indicted for ordering, undertaking and aiding and abetting the crimes outlined in the indictment.

Alex Thomson blogs the historic trial

Inside, I sit in the lobby, as yet excluded from court itself. I wonder at how the man I met 16 years ago has aged. Enfeebled by camcer? A stroke? Who knows the truth of it.

But indisputably a shell, a shadow of the stocky, bear-like tanned soldier with those piercing blue eyes, who hugged me in the Bosnian mountains all those years ago.

Even then he was on the run. Now the running is over.

Read more in Alex's World Blog. Also Meeting with Mladic in 1995

The 11 counts of the indictment

Count 1: Genocide – 31 Mar 1992, 31 Dec 1992, Bosnian Serb forces carried out a campaign of persecutrion against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.

Count 2: Genocide – 6 July 1995. Srebrenica enclave attacked and within days Mladic and others put together the plan to kill the men and boys of the region and remove women, girls and the elderly.

Count 3: Persecutions as a crime against humanity – 23 principalities detailed as locations where persecutions took place.

Counts 4,5, and 6: Extermination or murder as crimes against humanity between 12 May 1992 and 30 November 1995

Counts 7 and 8: Deportation and inhumane acts as crimes against humanity.

Counts 9 and 10: Counts of terror as violations of the customs of war. These counts relate to the siege of Sarajevo, in which shiping and shelling were used to kill, maim and wound the civilian inhabitants of the city, including children and the elderly.

Count 11: Taking of hostages in violation of the customs of war. Following NATO strikes in May 1995 it is alleged 200 UN peace keepers were detained by Bosnian Serb military to prevent airstrikes continuing. Some of the detainees were mistreated.