HAG/DEN HAAG | 19.01.2012.

‘COMRADE ORIE’ AND ‘MISTER MLADIC’

At the fifth status conference in Ratko Mladic’s case, the defense insisted it was ‘impossible’ for it to be ready to proceed to trial before late October 2012. To start the trial before that date would be ‘unfair’, the defense argued. Mladic today addressed the judge as ‘Comrade Orie’. The judge warned ‘Mister Mladic’ once again that he would order him to be removed from the courtroom if he disrupted the proceedings. Mladic sees himself as ‘the Serbian knight Gavrilo who sacrificed himself for his country and his people’

At the fifth status conference in Ratko Mladic’s case the preparations for the beginning of the trial were discussed. The former chief of the VRS Main Staff is charged with genocide and other crimes in the war in BH. At the previous status conference, the pre-trial judge set a tentative date for the start of the trial: 27 March 2012. The date was however ‘not carved in stone’. Pre-trial judge Alphons Orie indicated today that the Trial Chamber would issue a new scheduling order soon.

In his reply to the judge, defense counsel Branko Lukic stressed it was ‘impossible’ for the defense to be ready to proceed to trial so soon. Starting the trial before late October 2012 would be ‘unfair’ for the defense and accused Mladic, the defense counsel insisted. Lukic also noted that the defense had to read hundreds of thousands of pages of documents in the case that, in his view, comprised ‘three and a half’ cases: the crimes in the municipalities, the terror campaign in Sarajevo, the genocide in Srebrenica and UN hostages. On the other hand, prosecutor Dermot Groome maintained this was ‘a single case with a single accused’. Groome indicated his intent to call evidence chronologically from 1992 on, instead of doing it according to the locations where the crimes occurred.

The defense was granted an extension of deadline to submit a brief with the names and addresses of the witnesses they intend to use for alibi defense and other forms of ‘special defense’. Other topics dealt with today were the disclosure of evidence, the prosecution’s proposal to admit about 3,000 adjudicated facts, the progress (or rather, lack thereof) of the parties’ negotiations about the agreed facts, and the reports of prosecution experts. The judge insisted that the prosecution should submit its pre-trial brief by 10 February 2012, and the defense by 2 March 2012.

Addressing the judge as ‘Comrade Orie’, Mladic said that he ‘expects a fair trial’ but was afraid that in the end he would get sham justice, ‘like in the old folk saying, the village judge charges you with a crime and then sits in judgment’. Mladic complained about his illness and the ‘Vietnam syndrome’. He also complained about not being allowed to wear a cap because the air conditioning in the courtroom blasted cold air on his head. As Mladic said, this was ‘a breach of the Geneva conventions’. The judge interrupted Mladic after ten minutes, telling him his maundering speech went beyond the scope of a status conference. Noting that Mladic addressed him as ‘Comrade Orie’, the judge told the accused ‘I will address you as Mister Mladic, if that’s OK with you.’

Mladic once again asked to be given the floor, but the judge asked him to first say which issues he would like to talk about and to consult with his defense lawyers, Branko Lukic and Milos Saljic. Mladic didn’t want to share the topics with his lawyers. He told the judge that he wanted to speak about his notebooks and about the year 1918. The judge replied that the notebooks were an evidentiary issue and that 1918 was a matter of ‘historical context’. Both topics would be discussed at the trial, not at a status conference, the judge warned. Although the judge didn’t allow him to speak, Mladic began his speech about ‘the Serbian knight Gavrilo Princip’ who ‘gave his life for his country and his people, just like me’. When his microphone was turned off, Mladic continued shouting and banging his fist on the table. Judge Orie warned Mladic once again that ‘the nation or the country are not in the dock, but you, as an individual’. Judge Orie also cautioned Mladic that he would be removed from the courtroom if he interrupted the judge again.

The next status conference has been scheduled for 23 February 2012 and there will be an extra status conference on 7 March 2012.