Monday 23 October 2017

Mladic will die before trial, says lawyer in bid to delay extradition

Bruno Waterfield in Brussels

RATKO MLADIC is so ill he will die before facing justice in the dock of a UN war crimes court for alleged genocide, his defence lawyer has claimed in an appeal against his extradition to The Hague.

In an attempt to buy the former Bosnian Serb general extra days in Serbia, his lawyers served last-minute legal papers in a Belgrade court yesterday afternoon. "I don't think the trial will take place. He will not live to the start of the trial," said Milos Saljic, Mladic's lawyer. "I will make the appeal to prolong things a little bit, so the extradition does not take place right away."

Mr Saljic has demanded new medical examinations for 69-year-old Mladic to test his mental faculties and ability to defend himself in a foreign, international tribunal.

"He is in an alarming state and needs to be examined by an independent team of experts. We think he is not able to be in court and talk about his case because of his neurological problems," he said.

"He has had three strokes so it is a miracle he is alive anyway. He still speaks incoherently."

Serbian war crimes prosecutors, working with the UN, have rejected the grounds for the appeal that will be heard by a Serbian court today.

"This is a defence strategy to delay the procedure. They are trying to present him as demented. He clearly has health problems but this is not a reason for him not to go to The Hague," said a spokesman.

If the appeal is dismissed, Mladic could be on a plane as early as tonight to the Netherlands and the UN prison for war criminals from the former Yugoslavia, which also houses Radovan Karadzic, his former commander-in-chief.

Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader, and Mladic are charged with joint responsibility for crimes against humanity during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo and genocide for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica.

Relations between the two men could be frosty. Karadzic has used his trial, which began in 2009, to defend a "just and holy" war against the "Islamist goals" of Bosnia's Muslims.

In contrast, Mladic has denied any personal responsibility and has appeared to mount the defence that as a military commander he was acting under the orders of Serb leaders, such as Slobodan Milosevic. "His message is: the blame is on Milosevic," said Bruno Vekaric, Serbia's deputy war crimes prosecutor.

Milosevic, the former Serbian president, died during his trial in The Hague in 2006, leaving Karadzic as the last Serb leader who issued commands to Mladic.

Cultivating the image of a wronged soldier, Mladic has demanded the repayment of €10,000 in military pensions blocked by the Serbian authorities over the past six years.

Former neighbours have said Mladic lived openly at home in Belgrade until October, 2002, before going on the run, seven years after an international war crimes tribunal first indicted him.

Mladic claims he had nothing to do with the massacre in Srebrenica when it fell during the 1992-1995 war, his son said yesterday. Darko Mladic said his father denies ordering the massacre -- the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of World War Two.

"Whatever was done in Srebrenica, he has nothing to do with it," Darko Mladic said.

"His orders were to evacuate the wounded, the women and the children and then the fighters. Whatever was done behind his back, he has nothing to do with that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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