News 06 Sep 17

Ratko Mladic Seeks Serbia’s Help for Temporary Release

Former Bosnian Serb military Ratko Mladic’s defence team asked the Belgrade authorities to provide guarantees that he will return to the Hague Tribunal if he is temporarily released for medical treatment in Serbia.

Filip Rudic
Ratko Mladic in court. Photo: ICTY.

The lawyers and family of Ratko Mladic, who is standing trial for genocide and war crimes, formally asked the Serbian government on Tuesday to provide guarantees to the Hague Tribunal that would allow the former Bosnian Serb Army commander to be temporarily released from custody for treatment.

“We expect the government to give guarantees in about ten days, and then we will submit a new request [for Mladic’s release] to the Tribunal together with the guarantees and medical records,” one of Mladic’s lawyers, Miodrag Stojanovic, told BIRN.

Mladic has had several serious health problems while in detention and suffered two strokes and one heart attack. His lawyers say that his condition further deteriorated in May this year.

The Serbian government must provide assurances that it will return him to custody in order for his request for temporary release to be granted.

Stojanovic said that he sees no reason why the request should be rejected, since hearings in the trial are over and the Serbian government will pledge to send Mladic back to The Hague.

However, he added that he was sceptical about the possibility of his client’s release.

Serbia’s Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic said on Wednesday that his ministry has already initiated the necessary procedures to enable the government to vote on providing guarantees for Mladic’s temporary release.

Opposition MP and president of the League of Social Democrats of Vojvodina, Nenad Canak, called on the Serbian government not to support Mladic’s release.

“Any kind of guarantee for Ratko Mladic’s temporary release issued by the Serbian authorities... would do great damage to Serbia’s international standing and our relations with neighbouring countries,” Canak said on Sunday, according to Beta news agency.

Mladic was previously denied release in May 2017, when he asked to have medical treatment in Russia. The Hague prosecutors argued that there was a risk he might abscond before the verdict in his trial.

Nemanja Stjepanovic from the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre NGO told BIRN that despite Serbia’s assurances, Mladic is likely be denied temporary release again.

“Many things are against him, most of all the fact that he was in hiding for many years and didn’t go to The Hague voluntarily. In these cases the Tribunal usually doesn’t grant temporary release,” Stjepanovic said.

He also noted that Mladic himself has credited the medical staff at the UN court and the Bronovo clinic in the Netherlands, where the Dutch royal family also receives treatment, for keeping him alive.

“He is given the best possible medical care, that not even ordinary Dutch citizens have,” Stjepanovic said.

Mladic was arrested in 2011 in the village of Lazarevo, near Zrenjanin, in northern Serbia after spending 16 years on the run.

He is now on trial in The Hague for genocide in Srebrenica, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia, which allegedly reached the scale of genocide in several other municipalities, terrorising the population of Sarajevo and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

The defence and prosecution gave their closing statements in his trial in December last year.

The verdict is due in November.

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