Ratko Mladic’s defense disagrees with the Trial Chamber’s view that it ‘has been wasting’ court time by calling evidence of ‘questionable relevance’. Mladic’s defense is against the Trial Chamber’s instructions on the more efficient use of time, arguing that the ‘rules cannot be changed’ at this stage in the proceedings

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

The trial of Ratko Mladic, former VRS Main Staff commander, continued today after the summer recess. Before calling its new witness, the defense replied to the Trial Chamber’s order of July 2014, instructing the parties to use court time more efficiently in future instead of ‘wasting’ it on calling evidence of ‘questionable relevance’. In its order, the Trial Chamber noted that witness testimonies tended to be either ‘very general’ or pertained to the undisputed facts. The defense has been ordered to refrain from calling such evidence and the prosecution has been instructed to disregard it in the cross-examination. If not, the Trial Chamber stressed it would interrupt such testimony and would not admit exhibits of that nature.

The defense begged to differ, insisting that all the witnesses so far have been credible, and the evidence relevant. According to defense counsel Branko Lukic, there are no ‘wrong’ witnesses as far as the defense is concerned, because Mladic’s indictment ‘treats all Serbs who were older than 16 in 1992 as members of the joint criminal enterprise’, and the defense is contesting the allegation. Parts of the written witness statements may be general in nature, the defense counsel admitted, but they were indispensable for the understanding of the context of the events or the evaluation of the witnesses’ credibility. Besides, in the defense’s opinion, the Trial Chamber’s order has put it at a disadvantage and ‘rules can’t be changed’ at this stage of the trial.

As prosecutor Camille Bibles noted, the prosecution ‘vigorously disagrees’ with the defense’s views. The prosecution intends to express its objections in a written motion.

According to the latest statistical data on the use of court time at Ratko Mladic’s trial, the defense has spent 31 of the total of 207 hours it has at its disposal, or just 15 percent of the allotted time. The prosecution on the other hand has taken 65 hours to cross-examine the defense witnesses. The judges’ questions have taken 25 hours and procedural issues have been discussed for about 20 hours. In light of the Trial Chamber’s decision, issued today, to have a four-day working week at Mladic’s trial, the defense could rest its case in 18 months at the current pace.