Mladic passed fit to face war crimes trial

A JUDGE ruled yesterday that Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, the alleged mastermind of the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities, was fit to face international justice at a war crimes court.

The ruling came amid pleas from Mladic’s family that he was too ill to be transferred to the UN court in The Hague and that he was not guilty of organising the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica — the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II — and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.

Outside Serbia’s special war crimes court, Judge Maja Kovacevic said: “It has been established that Ratko Mladic’s health condition makes him fit to stand trial... We have decided the conditions for transfer have been met.

“Doctors say he is physically fit to follow the procedure despite the fact that he is suffering from several chronic illnesses.”

She also said Mladic “has refused to accept the indictment by The Hague court”, where he faces charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Mladic’s lawyer, Milos Saljic, said he would appeal the ruling within the required three days.

He said: “On Monday we will submit an appeal to this decision.”

Speaking to reporters earlier his son, Darko, insisted Mladic was not guilty and not healthy enough to be transferred.

He said: “His position is that he is not guilty of what he is accused of.”

“I am not a doctor but my opinion is that he is not fit at the moment,” he said when asked if he thought his father, whom he had met inside the court, could be transferred to The Hague.

Mladic appeared in court for the first time on Thursday after being arrested in the early hours of the day, but his first hearing was halted after his lawyer said he was too ill to speak.

Mladic’s son said the family considers the former general’s medical condition “worrying” and will ask for him to be checked over by a team of independent doctors, possibly from Russia.

“His medical condition is very bad. We as a family will ask for a transfer to the hospital.”

He said his father had a medical check-up including an electrocardiogram heart test and a brain scan.

“The scan showed two scars from cerebral haemorrhages,” his son said. Mladic’s family earlier stated that he had suffered strokes.

Serbian president Boris Tadic announced the arrest of Mladic on Thursday, adding that the process was already under way to send him to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a UN court based in The Hague, and that the process would take about seven days.

The indictment against him cites the Srebrenica massacre, the siege of Sarajevo, and the creation of camps and detention centres during the 1992-1995 war, all as part of a campaign directed against Bosnian Muslims.

Serbian intelligence officers and a special war criminals tracking team swooped in the early hours of Thursday on several houses in Lazarevo, a village around 80km north of Belgrade, close to the Romanian border. Mladic was found alone in one of the houses.

Although he was armed, he offered no resistance.

Media reported that the former general has difficulty moving due to a series of strokes, that he lived alone and that a neighbour had to help him get dressed after the arrest.

Two papers published one of the first photographs seen of Mladic in some 16 years, showing a visibly older and thinner, but still recognisable, face.

News of Mladic’s arrest was welcomed around the world but Moscow called for an impartial trial of the alleged war criminal. Russia was Belgrade’s most important ally during both the war in Bosnia and the 1999 campaign in Kosovo.

In Serbia, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief is seen by some as a hero and around 500 ultra-nationalists protesting the arrest clashed with police on Thursday in the northern city of Novi Sad, leaving two people injured.

In Belgrade, 100 people gathered, carrying Serbian flags and torches, and chanting Mladic’s name.


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