The former VRS Main Staff commander didn’t appear in court because of stomach flu. The Detention Unit nurse explained Mladic needed time to convalesce after his stay in the Dutch prison hospital. The defense continues its fight to reduce the working week from five to four working days

Ratko Mladic in the courtroomRatko Mladic in the courtroom

Four days into the week, the trial of Ratko Mladic has not resumed because the accused is ill: he has the stomach flu. He was taken to the Bronovo Hospital in The Hague on Monday, and on Tuesday he was moved to the Dutch prison hospital located in the same facility as the UN Detention Unit.

The media were given a form today: on it, the accused checked the column indicating he was unable to attend the trial, but again did not check the column confirming that he was willing to have the trial proceed in his absence. He had done the same in the previous days. In the form for today, the Detention Unit nurse stated that Mladic was back from the prison hospital, and now needed time to convalesce. The convalescence period is expected to last at least until Monday.

Mladic’s sickness comes at a time when his legal team is fighting to cut the working week down from five to four days. The illness will surely be used to corroborate their arguments. The defense has been fighting for the four-day working week since the beginning of the trial. The Trial Chamber, on the other hand, refused to grant the request. The situation changed after the prosecution rested its case, when the Appeals Chamber granted the defense’s motion and ruled that Wednesday was to be the day off at Mladic’s trial. When the defense case started, the Trial Chamber ordered that the trial would be on five days a week. This prompted the defense to renew its previous request.

Last week Mladic’s lawyer Branko Lukic recalled that his client’s doctors had proposed a four-day working week during the prosecution case. The goal was to minimize the risk of potentially fatal ‘mini strokes’. The condition is caused by stress due to ‘emotional evidence’ heard in court. The defense counsel added that the trials of Radovan Karadzic, Zdravko Tolimir and the six Bosnian Croats were in session only four days a week. In the first two cases, the accused represented themselves and were granted shorter working week in order to be able to prepare.

The prosecution has yet to state its position on the issue. Last week the prosecution called the Trial Chamber to prohibit so-called tu quoque evidence. According to the prosecution, Mladic has been using this form of defense, which is based on alleging the crimes committed by the other side. The prosecution argued that the time should be used rationally in order to bring the trial to an end as soon as possible, and to bring justice to the victims. The possibility that the working week might be cut short, the prosecution noted, made this aspect even more important.

Ratko Mladic is charged with double genocide and other crimes in BH. If the trial resumes on Monday, a protected witness is expected to testify. The witness began his evidence on Friday, 13 June 2014, at a hearing that went on entirely in closed session.