After repeated warnings not to disrupt the hearing and interrupt the presiding judge, the accused was ejected from the courtroom. Judge Orie read the list of charges count by count concluding that the Trial Chamber would enter a plea of not guilty on Mladic’s behalf

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

Ratko Mladic re-appeared today before the judges and refused to enter his plea on the indictment charging him with genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 to 1995. The judges therefore did it instead of Mladic. In line with the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, if the accused refuses to enter his plea at the initial and any further appearance before the court, the Trial Chamber is allowed to enter a plea of not guilty on the behalf of the accused. The judges have already invoked this rule and entered the not guilty pleas on behalf of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Vojislav Seselj, Zdravko Tolimir, Radomir Stankovic and other accused.

The hearing today was marred by incidents caused by the accused. He tried to disrupt the reading of the counts in the indictment against him by making loud remarks. After repeated warnings, Mladic was ejected from the courtroom. As he was being escorted out by the security officers, Mladic shouted ‘you are not letting me defend myself’ and ‘you don’t let me breathe’. Mladic wanted to highlight the problems with the appointment of his permanent defense counsel, to replace his interim lawyer, Aleksandar Aleksic. Mladic’s permanent defense team is expected to be named by 1 August 2011. The accused has submitted a list of his potential defense lawyers on 22 June 2011. ICTY Registry needs time to verify if the lawyers on the list meet the Tribunal’s requirements.

While Mladic was still more or less reasonable, he was allowed to address the Trial Chamber. The accused took the opportunity to once again demand a postponement of his plea until he was able to appoint his permanent defense counsel. As Mladic said, Belgrade lawyer Milos Saljic and Russian Alexander Mezyayev were among them. The judges rejected the request for the postponement, explaining that the Trial Chamber had been willing to allow Saljic to be in the courtroom today, and the ‘only reason why that didn’t happen’ is the fact that Saljic was not present physically in The Hague. After visiting Mladic, Saljic traveled back to Serbia.

When Mladic was removed from the courtroom, presiding judge Orie indicated the record would reflect that the accused had pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts in the indictment. Mladic is charged with genocide in several BH municipalities in 1992, genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, and with persecution, murder, deportation, forcible transfer of non-Serbs throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, unlawful attacks against civilians, spreading of terror among the citizens of Sarajevo and taking UN staff hostage. The presiding judge stressed that Mladic could at any time change his plea and possibly plead guilty for all or some counts in the indictment. ‘This wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened’, Judge Orie noted.

From the beginning of the hearing the former commander of the VRS Main Staff behaved like an unruly schoolboy, interrupting the judges and trying to communicate through the security glass with the members of the public in the gallery. Mladic also spoke out of turn and while his microphone was off. Mladic was warned to turn to face the judges, to put the headphones on to follow interpretation and take his cap off. ‘My hearing’s better in my left ear’, the accused replied, adding that he wanted to keep his military cap on because, as he said, ‘my head is getting cold’. The Trial Chamber didn’t allow him to keep the cap on, and told Mladic that all his health concerns would be considered. However, the Trial Chamber had not received any reports of Mladic’s medical issues because Mladic had revoked the permission to disclose his medical records to the Trial Chamber. Today Mladic looked considerably better than at his initial appearance before the Tribunal on 3 June 2011; the care he has been receiving in the UN Detention Unit appears to agree with him.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Orie didn’t say when Mladic will be back in court; it is unlikely that another hearing will be held before the Tribunal’s summer recess in August 2011 and the appointment of a permanent defense team for Mladic.