Mladic to boycott war crimes hearing

Lawyer says former Bosnian Serb general wants his hand-picked defence team approved before he appears to enter plea
Mladic still has supporters in Serbia: Nationalists protested against his arrest in late May [AFP]

Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic will boycott the United Nations war crimes court where he is on trial for charges of genocide during the Bosnian war, one of his lawyers said on Sunday.
The 69-year-old career soldier is due to enter a plea on Monday after refusing to do so last month, but Belgrade-based attorney Milos Saljic said Mladic would boycott the hearing and demand that he be represented by his own defence lawyers.
“Mladic is not going to appear in the courtroom tomorrow unless he is forced to. He does not want to do it because he does not have his team of lawyers yet,” Saljic told Reuters.
Mladic has lodged a list of preferred defence lawyers with the court, including Saljic and a Russian lawyer, but the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is handling the case, is still verifying the qualifications and eligibility of the attorneys.

If Mladic boycotts the hearing or refuses to enter a plea at Monday’s hearing, Judge Alphens Orie will likely enter one of “not guilty” for him. Aleksandar Aleksic, Mladic’s court-appointed attorney, will represent him.

Mladic accused over Srebrenica massacre

Arrested in May after 16 years on the run, Mladic was charged by the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague last month. The defiant general rejected war crimes charges against him as “obnoxious” and “monstrous”.

Mladic is accused for orchestrating a campaign to seize territory for Serbs after Bosnia and Herzegovina, following Croatia, broke away from the Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Five years of war followed that break-up, leaving at least 130,000 people dead.

Mladic’s former political chief Radovan Karadzic boycotted the start of his trial in 2009, and it is considered unlikely that the tribunal would force Mladic to appear on Monday.

Court spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic declined to comment, saying the court had received no communication from Mladic.

The former soldier has said he was only defending his country and people during the Bosnia war, which lasted from 1992 to 1995.

Mladic is accused in connection with the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica – Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

Hague prosecutor Serge Brammertz has said Mladic used his power to commit brutal atrocities and must answer for it, but Serb nationalists believe Mladic defended the nation and did no worse than Croat or Bosnian Muslim army commanders.

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