War crimes suspect Mladic to be charged on Friday


Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, extradited to the Netherlands from Serbia after 16 years on the run, will be formally charged with genocide at the U.N. war crimes tribunal on Friday.
Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia scheduled Mladic’s initial court appearance for Friday at 0800 GMT, when he will be charged and asked to enter a plea, according to a statement on the court’s website. Serge Brammertz, prosecutor for the tribunal, said in an interview with Austrian radio ORF on Wednesday that everything possible would be done to avoid a lengthy trial. Several war crimes trials in The Hague have dragged on for years.
Asked how long the whole process could take, he said that depended on several things, including Mladic’s health and whether he appointed a legal team or handled his own defence. “It is very difficult to say how long it will last. The problem will not be the prosecution, we have our updated charge sheet ready, it will be a question of how long the defence needs to prepare their case.” Mladic was indicted by the tribunal 16 years ago over the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica, close to the border with Serbia, during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
He was taken to a detention centre outside The Hague from Rotterdam airport on Tuesday evening after being flown from Belgrade on a Serbian government aircraft. The 69-year-old former general was arrested on Thursday at a farmhouse in northern Serbia belonging to a cousin, triggering protests by Serb nationalists in Serbia and Bosnia. His swift extradition will smooth Serbia’s progress towards candidacy for European Union membership while serving as an important warning to others indicted on similar charges, such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir. Brammertz welcomed Serbia’s decision to extradite Mladic, even though he said it took a “very long time”.
“We would be very interested to know where he was between 2006 and 2011…we are waiting for the relevant reports so that we know who sheltered him, when and where,” the prosecutor said. Serbia must still do more, Brammertz said, urging the authorities to track down Goran Hadzic, an ethnic Serb also wanted by the U.N. tribunal. “We hope of course that the arrest of Goran Hadzic also comes very soon … We think it is very important that the last person on the run is arrested. But there are also important steps needed at a political level,” Brammertz said in the radio interview. Mladic’s arrest has highlighted continued deep ethnic divisions in Bosnia, where he fought to create a separate Serb entity with the crucial backing of then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in his U.N. tribunal cell in 2006.
As a result of the war, Bosnia is made up of a Serb Republic and a Muslim-Croat Federation under a weak central Bosnian government. According to an opinion poll published on May 15, before he was caught, 51 percent of Serbian citizens said they were against extraditing Mladic, while 34 percent said they were in favour of his arrest. In the same poll, 78 percent of Serbs said they would not reveal Mladic’s whereabouts in return for the 10 million euro reward offered by the government. After his arrest, Mladic’s lawyer and family argued that he was mentally unstable and too sick to be extradited to the tribunal — a tactic that has been used by others facing war crimes courts and tribunals.