Court Resets Date for First Mladic Witness
The first prosecution witness in the trial of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic will begin testifying on July 9, judges ruled this week.
The decision came four days after the bench postponed the trial until further notice, in the second adjournment in a matter of weeks.
The first postponement was announced on May 17, after two days of opening statements, because the prosecution had mistakenly failed to disclose thousands of documents to the defence.
Then, after judges ruled that the trial would resume on June 25, prosecutors admitted in a court filing that the defence still did not have access to some 4,498 documents to which it is entitled as part of the disclosure process. (See Mladic Defence Still Missing Documents, Prosecution Admits.)
The documents were discovered in a recent audit, the prosecution said. It said it would not object to the defence’s request for the bench to reconsider its decision to start the trial on June 25.
The defence has repeatedly requested a six-month adjournment.
In a brief written decision to restart the trial on July 9, judges said that they had heard submissions from both the defence and prosecution, and that the prosecution begin by calling those witnesses “least impacted by any disclosure failures”.
The judges said that by June 26, the prosecution needed to file a new order in which witnesses will give testimony between July 9 and July 20. The court will then have a three-week summer recess.
Prosecutors allege that Mladic, the commander of the Bosnian Serb army from 1992 to 1996, planned and oversaw the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left nearly 12,000 people dead. Mladic is accused of commanding a force that deliberate sniped at and shelled civilians to “spread terror” among them.
He also faces charges of genocide for his alleged role in the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed.
The indictment – which contains 11 counts in total – alleges that Mladic was responsible for crimes of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder and forcible transfer which “contributed to achieving the objective of the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory.”
After 16 years as a fugitive, Mladic was arrested in Serbia on May 26, 2011.
Rachel Irwin is an IWPR senior reporter in The Hague.