Judge Orie set a number of deadlines to the prosecution and the defense, as they prepare for the Ratko Mladic’s trial, slated to begin on 14 May 2012. Ratko Mladic took the floor at the end of the hearing and presented himself as a man fighting for the truth, not trying to defend himself. Mladic denied the existence of BH adding that his wish is to be able to return free to Belgrade, ‘the capital of the Serb people’, a people that is divided by the Drina River

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

The seventh status conference in the case against Ratko Mladic, former commander of the VRS Main Staff, addressed the final preparations for the trial, scheduled to start on 14 May 2012. In 11 counts, the indictment charges Mladic with double genocide and other crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In line with the deadlines, the prosecution must inform the Trial Chamber by 20 April 2012 how much time it would need for its opening statement. The defense must state by the same date if it intends to deliver its opening statement after the prosecution and if the accused Mladic wants to address the Trial Chamber with a statement without making a solemn declaration.

Pre-trial judge Alfons Orie noted that the prosecution and the defense were granted 30 to 60 minutes of time for the examination-in chief of the witnesses whose evidence would be based on previously given written statements or transcripts of their evidence from other trials. The defense will have two and a half hours to cross-examine the witnesses. As for witnesses testifying viva voce, the defense will have 60 percent of time the prosecution used for the examination-in-chief. The Trial Chamber today set 14 April 2012 as the deadline for the list of first prosecution witnesses. It was indicated today that 14 prosecution witnesses would contest Mladic’s alibi defense. About four hours will be used for the testimony of witnesses who were in the midst of the 1995 hostage crisis.

The disclosure was one of the issues dealt with at the status conference. Most of the documents have already been disclosed to the defense. The adjudicated and agreed facts and expert reports were also discussed. If the prosecution fails to comply with its disclosure obligations fully, defense counsel Branko Lukic will seek the postponement of the trial.

At the end of the hearing, Mladic addressed the judge. He insisted he was only interested in ‘the truth’, not in ‘defending myself’. As he said, ‘I want to earn my right to go as a free man to Belgrade, the capital of the Serb people’ and to be with his family even if he had to ‘eat from a dumpster’. Mladic complained of numbness in the right side of his body. This is preventing him from using a computer and making him ‘slow’. Mladic asked the presiding judge to warn him whenever ‘I speed up and raise my voice’. The presiding judge did it several times. The accused also said he didn’t accept the adjudicated facts and the written statements of the witnesses and he insisted on facing all of his accusers in court. Mladic today disclosed an aspect of his alibi defense, saying that he was at the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade on 16 July 1995, at the time when the crimes in Srebrenica he is charged with were committed. Mladic also said he still thought that the Serbs from both sides of the Drina River were ‘our people’, and denied the existence of ‘the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina’. Mladic was upset because only the officials from Serbia visit him while those from Republika Srpska stay away.

The former commander of the VRS Main Staff arrived in court wearing a suit and tie, without a cap. For once, unlike at previous status conferences, Mladic was mostly calm and respectful when he talked to the judge. At the end, he said he wanted to ‘be on better terms with the Tribunal’. He also said he would stand up the next time a judge enters the courtroom in order to participate in the trial properly.

Mladic will appear in court next on 24 April 2012, at the pre-trial conference.