News 21 Apr 17

Serbian Court Refuses to Call Mladic to Testify

A call for former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic to testify in an appeal against the acquittal of ten people accused of aiding him while he was a fugitive was dismissed.

Vanja Djuric
Ratko Mladic during his trial in The Hague. Photo: Beta

The Belgrade appeals court on Friday rejected the defence’s call for Mladic to take the stand and give evidence in support of ten people accused of helping him evade arrest while he was on the run from war crimes charges between 2002 and 2006.

“This wasn’t officially proposed before this hearing today, so we decided to reject it,” said appeals court judge Omer Hadziomerovic.

Defence lawyer Goran Petronijevic argued that Mladic’s testimony might help exonerate the defendants.

“He [Mladic] knows best if someone has been hiding him, and who,” Petronijevic told the court.

Stanko Ristic, Ljiljana Vaskovic, Borislav Ivanovic, Predrag Ristic, Sasa Badnjar, Ratko Vucetic, Tatjana Vaskovic Janjusevic, Bojan Vaskovic, Marko Lugonja and Blagoje Govedarica were all acquitted in May 2016 of helping Mladic dodge his pursuers.

They had been accused of aiding Mladic at various periods of time between 2002 and 2006, although they knew that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had issued an arrest warrant for him.

They were acquitted because the court found that the statute of limitations had expired.

In previous phases of the case, Marko Lugonja, a high-ranking Bosnian Serb military official, did not deny that he helped Mladic, although the other defendants insisted they did not.

In court on Friday, defendant Stanko Ristic said: “I am innocent.” Others also insisted they were not guilty.

The court will now consider its verdict in the case.

The original indictment alleged that Bosnian Serb Army officer Jovo Djogo was the main organiser of the attempts to conceal Mladic, but he died during the trial.

Mladic was eventually arrested in 2011 in the village of Lazarevo near Zrenjanin in northern Serbia after 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 and Herzegovina, which 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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