Thursday, 17 May 2012

Srbenica Massacre - The Trial of Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic is the Serb Commander that has been charged with slaughtering up to 7,000 Muslim men in the town of Srbenica in July 1995.  After escaping capture for some 15 years, Mladic was arrested  on May 26th 2011 in Lazarevo, near Zrenjanin in the Banat region in northern Serbia. His arrest was carried out by two dozen Serbian special police officers wearing black uniforms and masks, and sporting no insignia. The police were accompanied by Security Information Agency and War Crimes Prosecutor's Office agents.

He was asked to identify himself after the arrest and was taken to Belgrade to appear in front of the Belgrade High Court.  Although his defence lawyer tried to persuade the court that he was unable to confirm his personal data, the prosecutor succeeded in convincing the court to rule on having him extradited to The Hague on May 27th.  His trial in The Hague opened yesterday, May 16th, and was suspended on May 17th.

Mladic faces 11 charges, including genocide.  A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.  Since the genocide in Srbenica have never been in dispute, the prosecutors said that they would focus on Mladic's individual responsibility.  Peter McClosky said that the Serbian Army was not an army out of control and that Mladic was on the ground and in command.

 "We have radio intercepts of VRS [Bosnian Serb] soldiers and officers discussing murders. We have video of two of the actual executions themselves. So let me be perfectly clear, the crime will not be the main focus of this prosecution. This case will be primarily about one issue. The individual criminal responsibility of Ratko Mladic," McClosky said.

The prosecution has now completed its opening statements.  Due to a prosecution error, which did not disclose all evidence available, the proceedings have been suspended indefinitely.

Judge Orie said: "In light of the prosecution's significant disclosure errors... the chamber hereby informs the parties that it has decided to suspend the start of the presentation of evidence.

The chamber is still in the process of gathering information as to the scope and the full impact of this error. The chamber aims to announce the start date of the prosecutions evidence as soon as possible."

Needless to say, this is a highly charged trial.  Mladic is obviously not the robust general he was 17 years ago, having suffered several strokes in the interim.  He is 70 years old. 

Timeline:  Siege of Srbenica

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