Mladic's defense has been granted a total of 207.5 working hours to examine its planned 336 witnesses in chief, the same amount of time as the prosecution had to examine their witnesses. The defense has decided not to present its opening statement. On Monday 19 May 2014, the defense will thus begin its case with the evidence of its first witnesses

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

A month after the decision to deny Ratko Mladics motion for acquittal at the half-time of the trial, and five months after the prosecution called its last witness, the trial of the former commander of the Bosnian Serb army continued with the pre-defense conference. The last preparations for the defense case were discussed at the hearing. In the course of its case, the defense will have to contest the prosecutions allegations about the four joint criminal enterprises Mladic has been charged with. Mladic is on trial of the terror campaign against the Sarajevo citizens, a number of crimes in various municipalities, including those where those crimes reached the scale of genocide, the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and taking the UN staff hostage in the spring of 1995.

As it was disclosed today, the defense decided not to present the opening statement. Consequently, on 19 May 2014, the first defense witnesses are due to appear in court. It was indicated previously that in the first phase of its case the defense would contest the prosecutions allegations about the artillery and sniper terror campaign in Sarajevo.

It was announced that the witness list contained 336 names. For the most part their testimony will be tendered into evidence in the form of written statements. The defense intended to take about 300 hours examining the witnesses in court. Judge Orie's Trial Chamber found that unacceptable as that was considerably in excess of the time used by the prosecution to examine their witnesses in chief. The established practice in the cases with just one accused, the judge explained, is to grant more time to the prosecution than to the defense as it has the burden of proof. However, an exception was made and Mladics defense was allotted exactly the same amount of time as the prosecution 207.5 hours for the examination-in-chief of its witnesses.

It has already been indicated that the defense intended for the most part to call the same former Bosnian Serb army and police personnel and politicians who had already testified in Radovan Karadzics defense. The identity of some of those witnesses who have not testified elsewhere was disclosed. Unless the court rules she is a witness who will present the tu quoque defense, the defense plans to call a woman raped in a Sarajevo prison. Mladic will also call alibi witnesses: the bride, the groom and the photographer whose wedding the accused attended in Belgrade on 16 July 1995, even as the prisoners were being executed in Srebrenica. Two Russiansare also on the witness list, but there is no other information about them.

The defense will submit its final witness and exhibit lists by Friday. This should have been done long ago, but the delay was caused by technical problems. The defense faced difficulties when a new operating system was installed at the Tribunal. This in turn postponed the beginning of Mladics defense case from 13 to 19 May 2014. Today, however, the Trial Chamber noted that in addition to technical problems, the defense also faced some organizational difficulties.

The beginning of the hearing was marked by technical problems. As Judge Orie noted, the problems thwarted Mladic, who showed 'lively interest', and he was unable to follow the transcript in English and to observe the goings-on in court on his screen; he was in the courtroom. While technicians were fixing the equipment the accused merrily chatted to them, thus showing that he was in good spirits on the eve of his case.