The trial of Ratko Mladic may start on 27 March 2012, but the date ‘is not carved in stone’ as the presiding judge noted at the status conference. When he was invited to enter his plea on a count charging him with the murder of more than 30 Bosniaks in the village of Bisina on 23 July 1995, Mladic said ‘I’m not guilty’ and ‘I don’t have anything to do with that place, that date or anything’

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

Former commander of the VRS Main Staff Ratko Mladic today pleaded not guilty to a count charging him with the murder of more than 30 Bosnian Muslims in the village of Bisina on 23 July 1995. According to the amended indictment filed by the prosecution on 20 October 2011, some victims that were executed there had previously been detained in the Susica prison camp.

Before he entered his plea, Mladic asked the presiding judge to explain to him what Bisina was. Is it ‘a mountain, a river, a bridge, a moving object, a plane or a truck’, Mladic asked. Mladic also asked the judge not to speak too fast as Mladic was, as he put it, ‘slow’ and couldn’t follow the proceedings. Judge Orie then explained to Mladic slowly that Bisina was a ‘location where more than 30 Bosniaks were killed’. Mladic thanked the presiding judge and said that ‘I’m not guilty and I had nothing to do with that place, date or anything’.

Upon entering the courtroom, Mladic saluted the visitors in the public gallery and then refused to take off his jacket and fur cap for a while. Mladic was visibly upset and kept repeating ‘I’m tied up, handcuffed and in bullet-proof vest during transport’. The presiding judge warned Mladic, saying ‘my patience has limits’. After that the accused took off his fur cap.

After Mladic entered his plea, a status conference followed. Judge Orie said he expected that the pre-trial conference would be held on 26 March 2012. The opening statement of the prosecution was slated for 27 March 2012. Defense counsel Lukic indicated that he was ‘nowhere near’ being ready to proceed to trial so early. Judge Orie said that the ‘dates aren’t carved in stone’. He set deadlines for the submissions on adjudicated facts, the pre-trial brief of the prosecution and the defense, the witness list and the prosecution’s exhibit list.

At the end of the status conference, the accused Mladic addressed the Trial Chamber. Mladic said that he didn’t understand why he couldn’t include ‘Mezyayev, who is Russian, and Ivetic, who is American’ in his defense team. The judge interrupted Mladic noting that the issue had been dealt with in private session, which the public could not follow. Mladic then skipped to the next topic saying he was ‘sorry for every victim, every innocent person’ killed in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. Mladic wanted to get the names of every person killed in the war, their ethnicity and personal details and whether they fought in the war or not, in order to be able to ‘pay my respects to the innocent’. Finally, Mladic said that he ‘didn’t commit a crime against peace, and it was not my desire to do it’ adding, ‘I don’t want the war to be mentioned ever again’.

The next status conference is scheduled for 19 January 2012.