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9 December 2011

Mladic: Trial May Begin in March 2012

At a hearing held before The Hague Tribunal, Ratko Mladic pleads not guilty to the charges for murder of more than 30 Bosniaks in Bisina village in July 1995 and the Trial Chamber announces that his trial may begin in March next year.

Mladic, former Chief of the Main Headquarters with the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, previously pleaded not guilty to the charges for genocide, crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war. However, after The Hague Prosecution included an incident related to the murders in Bisina in his indictment, at this hearing Mladic asked it to explain to him “what Bisina is”.
 
“It is not clear to me what Bisina is. Is it a mountain, river, spring, some bridge, movable object, bus, truck, plane, helicopter? What is Bisina? You are mentioning Sekovici, but I know what that is. However, I do not know what Bisina is. Is it a place or a village? What is it?” Mladic asked.
 
Judge Alphons Orie said that Bisina was a locality in Sekovici municipality, where, according to the charges, about 30 Bosniaks were killed on July 23, 1995. “Thank you for the explanation. I plead not guilty. I had nothing to do with it. I had nothing to do with the date, place or Bisina,” Mladic said.
 
Prior to Mladic’s plea, his Defence attorney addressed judge Orie, asking him to “speak more slower”, because the indictee “can hardly follow what you are saying”.
 
At this hearing judge Orie warned Mladic again due to certain “gesticulations directed at the audience”. “The audience gallery is here in order to ensure transparency of the trial, not to enable the indictee to communicate in an uncontrolled manner. I am asking Mladic to refrain from directing looks and gestures at the audience, or else we will have to put a screen between you and the gallery, so the public will be able to see you via cameras, but you will not be able to see them and use that for your own purposes,” Orie said.
 
Mladic was arrested in May this year after being on the run for years. The Hague Tribunal accepted a Prosecution’s motion to restrict the presentation of evidence against Mladic to 106 crimes, instead of 196 crimes contained in the third revised indictment.
 
During the status conference, which took place following Mladic’s plea to the charges related to Bisina crimes, judge Orie said that The Hague Tribunal’s Chamber set March 27, 2012 as “the preliminary date” for the presentation of introductory statements.
 
“These dates are not definitive. The Chamber counts on them and it expects the parties to work towards meeting those deadlines,” Orie said.
 
Mladic’s Defence attorney said that the Defence “will not be ready” for the beginning of the trial in March next year, adding that “this is not possible”. Judge Orie responded by saying that the deadlines were “not carved in stone”, but he said that the Chamber expected the parties to invest efforts to meet the deadlines.
 
“It seems to me that the schedule is dense and overloaded until March. You may be in a hurry, but I am not. Time means nothing to me,” Mladic said.
 
Orie said that the Trial Chamber had received a medical report on Mladic’s health condition from The Hague Secretariat. The mentioned report said that “his health condition is good enough for him to attend the hearing”, so the Chamber did not order additional expert examinations.
 
At the end of the status conference, Mladic repeated his earlier allegation that the indictment was “monstrous”, requesting the Court to provide him with all data about all the people, who were killed during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so he could “pay respect to all innocent victims”.
 
The next status conference is due to be held on January 19, 2012.

D.Dz.
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