Ratko Mladic trial delayed after prosecutors' error
THE presiding judge at the UN trial of Ratko Mladic has delayed indefinitely the presentation of evidence that had been scheduled to start later this month due to "significant disclosure errors" by prosecutors in disclosing evidence to defence lawyers.
At the end of the second day of the hearing in the Hague, Alphons Orie said he was delaying the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal because prosecutors had not fulfilled their obligation to share all their evidence with Mladic's lawyers.
He said judges were still analyzing the "scope and full impact" of the error and he aimed to establish a new starting date "as soon as possible".
The delay was expected, after Mladic's legal team had already tried to force the postponement of the trial on the same grounds. Prosecutors have admitted the errors, without yet providing an explanation, and did not object to the delay in the presentation of evidence. They have spent the first two days setting out their case.
Earlier in the morning Mladic showed some of the swagger of his brutal heyday by applauding a film showing his younger self threatening a Dutch UN peacekeeper in the hours leading up to the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
The former Bosnian Serb commander clapped his hands in his lap as an UN war crimes tribunal showed 16 year old footage of him shouting into the face of Colonel Thom Karremans, whose Dutch troops were unable to prevent the first genocide on Europe soil since the Nazi Holocaust.
The Dutch UN commander was shown flinching as a burly General Mladic screams at him, asking why he had authorised Nato planes to bomb advancing Serb forces and accusing him of helping Bosnian Muslims.
“Did you order your soldiers to shoot my soldiers,” he yells on the film.
On the video, Col. Karremans is shown trying to placate the man dubbed the “butcher of Bosnia” by telling him Nato strikes were commanded centrally and that Dutch troops had defended themselves when their posts, in a UN “safe enclave”, were attacked by Bosnian Serb forces.
“Do not fantasise,” Mladic screamed.
“You armed them [Muslims].”
As a clearly apprehensive Col. Karremans, whose troops were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, politely tried to deal with the tirade on the film, today's Mladic could be seen nodding, smiling and clapping himself as he sat in the UN war crimes dock.
Then, to show he was still in control, the former Bosnian Serb general signalled time out, making a T with his hands to signal a break. The film was stopped and the UN court broke up for a five minute recess – in a clear sign that Mladic is still trying to call the shots at his trial for genocide.
The Srebrenica area had been designated as a UN "safe haven" and 600 Dutch infantry were supposed to be protecting thousands of civilians who had taken refuge from earlier Serb offensives in north-eastern Bosnia.
As Serb forces began shelling Srebrenica, Bosnian Muslim fighters in the town asked for the return of weapons they had surrendered to the UN peacekeepers but their request was refused.
Col. Karremans, the Dutch commander, threatened to call in air strikes unless the Serbs withdrew. Mladic refused but no air strikes came, Col. Karremans had submitted his request on the wrong form.
A few bombs were later dropped but it was too late to stop the Bosnian Serb advance.
Gen. Mladic entered Srebrenica and summoned the Dutch commander to deliver an ultimatum for Muslim surrender in a meeting that came to symbolise the West's helplessness in the face on genocide.
Just days later, on 13 July 1995, the first killings of unarmed Muslims took place in a warehouse in the nearby village of Kravica. Three days later the Dutch retreated from Srebrenica and the way was clear for Bosnian Serb forces to overrun the town. By 21 July 1995 over 8,000 Muslim men and boys are thought to have been killed.
Today, Mladic is hearing his own words used against him as UN prosecutors seek to prove his guilt of genocide by drawing on his wartime diaries, radio intercepts and bragging appearances he made on television during the Bosnian war.
Evidence is being produced that Mladic acted on orders, the notorious "directive seven", from Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb president, to "create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica".
Video footage of the execution of Dino Salihovic, a 16-year-old Bosnian Muslim gunned down with other teenagers at Srebrenica, was shown at the opening of Ratko Mladic's trial.
The film of the murder of Dino and five other men near Srebrenica in July 1995 will be typical of the shocking evidence and testimony presented at the first genocide trial in Europe since the Holocaust.
"You watch him walk forward, his hands bound behind his back. We watch a burst of fire tear through his back," said Dermot Groome, the prosecutor, said.
As Dino falls to the ground, his red-beret clad Serb killers, members of an paramilitary unit known as the Skorpions, shout "die a virgin".
The killings are typical of the slaughter by Bosnian Serbs, commanded by Mladic, of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in fields and woods around Srebrenica.
The crime was one of many committed in the wake of the city's capture by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Mladic. The killers were so confident they would never face justice that they filmed themselves.
DNA evidence led to the positive identification of all six victims: Dino, 16, Azmir Alispahic, 16, Safet Fejzic, 17, Smajil Ibrahimovic, 34, Sidik Salkic, 36, and Juso Delic, 25.
They had fled Srebrenica, declared a "safe area" by the United Nations, as Bosnian Serbs advanced. Mr Ibrahimovic and Mr Salkic were forced to drag the bodies of their younger companions from the murder site into an abandoned cottage and were then killed themselves. The bodies were doused with petrol and set alight.
Prosecutors in the Hague are outlining their evidence of the alleged involvement of former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic in Europe's worst mass murder since World War Two, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
On the second day of the 70-year-old's genocide trial, Yugoslav war crimes tribunal prosecutors will focus on the bloody climax of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, when Serb forces systematically executed some 8,000 Muslim men and boy in the U.N.-protected enclave in northeastern Bosnia and buried them in mass graves.
Mladic is accused of commanding Bosnian Serb troops who waged a campaign of murder and persecution to drive Muslims and Croats out of territory they considered part of Serbia. His troops rained shells and snipers' bullets down on civilians in the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.
He has refused to enter pleas, but denies wrongdoing.
On Wednesday, the defendant had an angry exchange of hand gestures with the families of massacre victims in the public gallery, separated by the bulletproof glass in the courtroom.
"Vulture!" said one woman in the gallery. He responded by making a throat-slitting gesture.
Mladic fled into hiding after the war and spent 15 years as a fugitive before international pressure on Serbia led to his arrest last year. Now he is held in a one-man cell in a special international wing of a Dutch jail and receives food and medical care that would likely be the envy of many in Bosnia.
But the fact that he is jailed and on trial is seen as another victory for international justice and hailed by observers as evidence that - more often than not - war crimes tribunals get their indicted suspects, even if years later.
Prosecutors say they will use evidence against Mladic from more than 400 witnesses, although very few of them will testify in court. Much of their evidence already has been heard in other cases and will be admitted as written statements.