After The Hague Tribunal scheduled March next year as a preliminary date for the presentation of opening statements in the trial of Ratko Mladic, the team of the former Chief of the main headquarters with the Republika Srpska Army, VRS, estimated this announcement as “incomprehensible”.
At a status conference which was held on December 8 this year, during preparation for Mladic’s trial, the Pre-Trial Chamber of The Hague Tribunal has asked The Hague Prosecution and the Defence to prepare themselves for presentation of introductory words on March 27, 2012.
Mladic’s defence attorneys objected to this announcement at status conference, and Judge Alphons Orie said that the term “is not set in stone”, but added that the Council expects that efforts for complying with it will to be made.
Mladic was arrested in May this year after being on the run for years, and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995.
Miodrag Stojanovic, a member of the Defence team of Ratko Mladic, said for BIRN Justice Report that “the pace with which the Court wants to begin Mladic’s trial is ncomprehensible”.
“If we compare the practice of The Hague Tribunal in case of Goran Hadzic, because it is the most recent situation, where it was announced that the trial will not begin until November 2012, and make comparisons of Hadzic’s indictment with Mladic’s one would be meaningless. So the deadline given by pre-trial judge that opening statement should be presented on March 27, would be an absolute detriment to the defence of general Mladic”, said Stojanovic.
The Hague Prosecution charges Hadzic with crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war on the territory of self-proclaimed RSK, encompassing the eastern part of Slavonia, the Republic of Croatia, in the period from August 1991 to June 1992. He was arrested in Serbia on July 20 this year after being on the run for several years.
Stojanovic pointed out that in his opinion, the decision of The Hague Tribunal to accept the reduction of the indictment against Mladic to 106 crimes instead of 196 in the third amended indictment would not significantly reduce the workload of the Defence.
“These reductions do not radically reduce the amount of work of neither the Prosecution nor the Defence. So this would only be the reduction of certain events under the indictment, which would not cause, so to speak, any reduction, or decrease of workload”, said Stojanovic.
On the other hand, Vasvija Vidovic, defence attorney at The Hague Tribunal and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina in cases of war crimes, points out that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in general “maximally respects the rights of the Defence”.
"If I would compare our courts, including the State Court and the local courts, it is incomparably better respecting of the rights of the Defence for war crimes in The Hague Tribunal, in relation to the local judiciary. They very much respect the rights of the Defence. I can not say that in cases I have had, I had any serious violation of rights of the Defence”, Vidovic said.
The next status conference before the beginning of Mladic’s trial is scheduled for January 19, 2012.
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