Wednesday, 23 May, 2012

On 26 May 2011, Ratko Mladić was extradited by Serbia to the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), 16 years after the initial extradition request. The 70 year old defendant faces 11 war crimes charges, including two counts of genocide at the UN war crimes tribunal established for crimes carried out in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia throughout the 1990s. The series of trials at the ICTY are hugely important to the Bosnian population as they go some way to represent accountability and justice for the atrocities committed.

Ratko Mladić stands accused of crimes against humanity, from May 1992 to November 1995, where he and others participated in the planned and permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina claimed as Bosnian Serb territory (ref ICTY). He was the Commander in Charge during the siege of Sarajevo, which saw the Serb-controlled army take hold of the city from April 1992 to February 1996, killing tens of thousands of its citizens.

In July 1995, General Mladić ran a five day campaign at the UN designated safe area of Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, which led to around 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys being murdered by Serb forces.

Under the command of Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić, Bosnia Serb forces ‘virtually eliminated the Muslim population of Srebrenica’. At the initial indictment Judge Riad said ‘these are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history’. These are seen as the climax of the atrocities committed by the Serbs during the war and Europe’s largest mass killing since World War Two.

Since the start of pre-trial hearings early last June Mladić has refused to co operate with the ICTY. As the charges brought against him were read out before the court he refused to listen to them and when asked for a plea he declined to enter one. Following an adjournment until 4 July, Mladić continued his non cooperation and was ejected from the courtroom for continuously interrupting the judge and the proceedings. Judge Alphons Orie later entered formal not-guilty pleas on Mladić's behalf. In December of last year the charges brought against Mladić were reduced from 196 to 106 in an effort to speed up the trial due to Mladić's poor health. The trial was then due to resume on 27 March 2012 however this date was changed to allow the defence to have more time to review and prepare material.

The trial began on the 16 May and a summary of the prosecution was due to resume on 29 May with over 400 witnesses expected to be called. However Judge Orie postponed the trial indefinitely on the second day of the trail as prosecutors had failed to disclose a large amount of evidence to the defence. This is thought to have been a technical omission and the trial is expected to be delayed up to six months.

To keep up to date with the trials, please visit the ICTY website or follow their work on twitter.

Find out more about the indictment of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic
Find out more about the Genocide in Bosnia


Photo copyright I, Evstafiev