Presiding judge Orie said that Mladic’s medical examination didn’t indicate there were any reasons why he should not attend his trial, apart from Mladic’s claims that he is under stress. When Ratko Mladic failed to appear in the dock today, the Trial Chamber decided the trial would go on tomorrow with Mladic or without him. The American intelligence officer Richard Butler, who just might be the reason for Mladic’s stress, will thus be able to continue his evidence

Branko Lukic, defence attorney of Ratko MladicBranko Lukic, defence attorney of Ratko Mladic

After the trial was adjourned yesterday following Ratko Mladic’s claims that he didn’t feel well and his refusal to return to court today, it turned out that there were no medical indications that his health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. Ratko Mladic’s blood pressure was within normal limits as were his sugar and oxygen levels. Mladic countered the medical findings with a claim, conveyed by his defense counsel Lukic, that he was under stress and that after the morning hearings he could do nothing but lie in bed, exhausted. Mladic purportedly does not socialize with anyone, watch TV, eat or drink.

Mladic’s increased stress coincided with the evidence of American intelligence officer Richard Butler. Over the course of several days Butler described in detail the way the Srebrenica operation unfolded in July 1995. Having examined the extensive evidence, including military documents, intercepted conversations and witness statements, Butler was able to reach conclusions about the role of the accused and the officers from his Main Staff in the mass executions of Muslim men and boys as well as the deportations of the Srebrenica women and children.

Yesterday, after the examination-in-chief, Mladic complained of numbness in the right side of the body and was taken back to the Detention Unit. Initially, the medical staff did not order the discontinuation of the trial, because the accused was in good health. However, the decision was changed under ‘unexplained circumstances’, as Judge Orie put it, and after defense counsel Lukic’s angry response. The Trial Chamber recalled that Mladic was examined on 4 September 2013 and was found to be in a ‘good mood’ with all test results within the normal ranges. Mladic underwent an additional medical examination yesterday afternoon. The Detention Unit medical doctor concluded that the accused was able to attend the trial but Mladic refused to do so.

Mladic was examined again this morning and the Trial Chamber was told orally that, in the opinion of the Detention Unit medical doctor, Mladic was able to return to the courtroom. However, the doctor once again said that from a medical point of view, it was advisable for the trial to proceed for four instead of five times a week. The Trial Chamber has already dismissed this proposal, and the defense filed a motion to the Appeals Chamber asking it to reverse the decision. Today, Mladic’s defense team ratcheted up the tension: defense counsel Lukic said that to continue the trial in the absence of the accused would contravene the Tribunal’s rules. The defense ‘is not willing to voluntarily participate in that’, Lukic said, adding that if the Trial Chamber were to force the defense to participate in the trial, the defense would file a motion to ‘disqualify the entire Trial Chamber’.

The presiding judge nevertheless said that the trial would go on tomorrow, ‘with or without the accused in court’. Mladic’s refusal to appear would be treated as a waiver of his right to attend the trial, Judge Orie said. According to him, the defense’s intent to ask for the disqualification of the judges ‘doesn’t change the situation in any way’. As Judge Orie stressed, the Trial Chamber makes decisions about the course of the trial, and that if the defense and the accused thought it was up to them, it was a ‘misapprehension’ on their part.