Mladic to face war crimes trial

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Ratko Mladic is to face war crimes charges within days
Ratko Mladic is to face war crimes charges within days

DAN McLAUGHLIN

Ratko Mladic was flown from Serbia to the Netherlands last night to face trial for war crimes allegedly committed by his ethnic-Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. He arrived in Rotterdam on a Serbian government jet yesterday evening and is expected to face the charges within days.
After 90 minutes at the airport, where he was kept out of sight of the media, Mladic was transferred by helicopter to the United Nations tribunal’s detention centre near The Hague.
He is expected to undergo medical tests today before being tried for genocide relating to the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of some 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.
War crimes tribunal spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said staff had handed Mladic his indictment and explained the rules and procedures to him. She said he stayed in isolation last night which is standard for new arrivals at the prison.
Mladic also was being given a list of defense lawyers who could help him through the initial proceedings of the war crimes court.

Mladic (69) was arrested at his cousin’s house in a Serb village last Thursday after evading capture for 16 years.

He lived in Belgrade and in military bases under the protection of loyalists until about 2005, but international pressure on Serbia and its pro-western leaders’ determination to move towards European Union membership forced him further underground in recent years.

“Mladic is charged with the most serious crimes against humanity and the most serious violations of the international humanitarian law,” said Serb justice minister Snezana Malovic.

“By handing over Mladic to The Hague, Serbia has fulfilled its international and moral obligation . . . We have proven that we keep our word.”

Mladic is expected to appear before the UN court today or tomorrow to enter a plea, although relatives and his lawyer Milos Saljic say he is too frail in mind and body to face trial.

Belgrade judges dismissed their complaint yesterday and said the former general should be sent to The Hague, and a convoy of police vehicles transferred Mladic from the city’s special court to the airport, where a small aircraft was waiting.

Earlier in the day, another police convoy took Mladic to a Belgrade cemetery to visit the grave of his daughter, Ana, who took her own life in 1994.

She is said to have shot herself with one of her father’s guns after reading about atrocities committed by his men during the Bosnian war.

Officials said Mladic “reacted emotionally” during the 6am visit to the grave, and left a burning candle and a small bouquet of white flowers with a red rose in the middle.

“We didn’t announce his visit to the grave because it is his private thing and because it represented a security risk. The whole operation lasted for exactly 22 minutes and passed without a glitch. He was at the grave for a few minutes,” said Serb war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric.

Mr Saljic said his client had repeatedly asked to visit the grave since his capture, and had even demanded that his daughter’s coffin be brought to him in his detention cell.

Mr Vekaric said the cemetery had been rigged with cameras to prevent Mladic visiting secretly while on the run.

The lawyer said Mladic – who denies the charges against him – cried and was very emotional early yesterday afternoon, when his wife and sister visited him in prison in Belgrade and brought him a suitcase of clothes and other belongings to take to The Hague.


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