Friday, June 3, 2011

General Ratko Mladic first court appearance in The Hague

It is no secret that after 16 years on the run, justice caught up with General Ratko Mladic of the Bosnian Serb army. This morning, the General appeared in court before three judges. The first court appearance in The Hague was to inform Ratko Mladic of his rights and the charges brought against him. I was not in the court room in The Hague, but I followed the session live from my living room and took some pictures. I must say it was great to finally see the accused in court.

The session began with a verification of the identity of the accused. As a matter of procedure, the judge checked to confirm the name, date and place of birth of the accused. The General confirmed, "I am General Ratko Mladic."

Judge Alphons Orie also checked with Mladic to ensure that he understands the language of the proceeding and whether he has read the 37-page indictment written in a language he understand. Mladic claimed he is a "gravely ill man" and has been unable to read the indictment or sign any documents. Besides, he needs at least 2 months or more to read the indictment.

The judge informed Mladic of his right to have the entire 37-page indictment read to him in court, but the accused waived this right. However, judge Orie went ahead to read a summary of the indictment which including the following:
  • Count 1: Genocide.
  • Count 2: Also deals with genocide (complicity in genocide).
  • Count 3: Persecution as a crime against humanity.
  • Counts 4, 5 and 6: Extermination and murder as crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war.
  • Counts 7 and 8: Deportation and inhumane acts as crimes against humanity.
  • Counts 9 and 19: Terror and unlawful attacks as violations of rules and customs of war.
  • Count 10: Taking of hostages (including UN Peacekeepers).
Guilty or not guilty?

Ratko Mladic entered a no plea for what he called "obnoxious charges" and "monstrous" words. 

He has 30 days to enter a plea.

The court moved into private session to hear Ratko Mladic's health concerns and when the court reconvened in open session, the presiding judge adjourned the trial until 4 July 2011 at 10am in courtroom number one.

General Ratko Mladic is being tried for his role in a military operation which killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the course of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

The wheels of justice have started to turn, but it remains to be seen how long before victims of the atrocities committed under the command of Mladic see justice. It is my wish that this case moves on fast so as to provide closure to the victims who have waited 16 years to see Ratko Mladic in court.

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