Mladic to stand trial on Bosnian war crimes, process starts today


General Ratko Mladic

SURREY – Sixty six years ago major Nazi war criminals lead by Herman Goering faced justice in Nuremberg courtroom being prosecuted for crimes committed under their command during Second World War, decade or so ago Slobodan Milosevic Serbian political leader and ex-Yugoslavian president entered ICTY (International Crime Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia) to be questioned on his role in Balkan wars. Over the last decade numerous war criminals from Balkans stand in front of international justices facing their faith based on their actions during the most turbulent era at the end of 20th century. Currently one of the most interesting cases in front of justices is Serb Bosnian political leader Radovan Karadzic who was recently captured and transferred to the ICTY, but the most interesting case will start in couple of hours. General Ratko Mladic, elusive Bosnian Serb military commander who was in hiding for more than decade, will face justice and answer accusations on his account regarding major crimes committed against civilians on European soil since 1945.

General Mladic will stand trail on siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege of one city in modern history which claimed more than 11,500 innocent lives from 1992 to 1995. Despite these crimes, and many others which will be presented through evidences and more than 400 prosecution witnesses major attention of the Balkans and international attention will be on Srebrenica massacre from July 1995. Srebrenica is often described as largest war crime against civilians since the end of WWII and crimes committed in Nazi concentration camps. 

Mladic, 70, has been indicted on 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Balkan country’s 1992-95 war which left 100,000 people dead and 2.2 million homeless. It is important to say that Mladic will not answer for crimes committed under his command in Croatia in 1991, due to prosecution wish to downsize case and focus on the biggest atrocities committed under his command.

TWO DECADES SINCE WAR START

Start of the process against him comes in the year when overall Balkans regions is commemorating 20th anniversary of the war start in 1992, and almost full 17 years since Srebrenica massacre happened in July of 1995. Since Serbian authorities extradite Mladic to ICTY he had several visits to local hospital due to his long-term illness and problems with following court procedures which could affect length and way how the process will develop over the period of time set for this process. Whole process length will be commanded by ICTY’s exit strategy which is set by United Nations and countries financiers of its work.

Srebrenica memorial (Photo by Martijn Munneke – Flickr)

While Radovan Karadzic is using his right on self-defence waving his right to be represented by legal adviser, Mladic will have help of the team of legal personality which will be financed by the court because he’s not able to finance them by himself. His political counterpart Karadzic is trying to downsize numbers, change the facts and rewrite events from political stand often blaming atrocities on general Mladic his army staff and Bosnian/Croat Armed Forced during the war Mladic will need to defend himself from military point. I’m presuming that his defence strategy will direct blame on individuals in line of command and political establishment lead by Karadzic and Milosevic. Second part will probably be directed against Bosnian Armed Forces followed by claims that he’s forces only attacked legitimate military targets especially in areas of Sarajevo, Srebrenica and Zepa. That part would become real burden for Mladic because he’ll need to prove reasons for killing of several thousands children under the age of 18 in mentioned regions, some of the targeted by snipers operated by Bosnian Serb soldiers and hired assassins from Russia and other former SSSR countries. Due to his illness there is no expectations that we will hear too much from Mladic during the process but it wouldn’t be surprise if he takes the podium and express his views because he’s well known as stubborn and very proud.

ORIE WILL PRESIDE THE TRAIL

Just days before trail start Mladic’s defence asked ICTY president Justice Theodor Meron to replace presiding Justice Alfonse Orie. Orie’s  is Dutch justice, as we know Dutch forces were present in the Srebrenica area in the time when Mladic forces committed crimes against Bosniaks in 1995 killing more than 8000 mens and boys in just over 48 hours. Defence team based motion for replacement on presumption that Ories wouldn’t be fair and objective in judging Mladic’s actions due to wish to protect The Netherlands military personnel and country’s interests, but President Maron rejected motion and give green light to the process start in ICTY courtrooms in Den Hague.

I’m pretty sure that with Mladic’s trial start starts the end of the talks about major war criminals in Balkans on the international scene, the rest of those who are accused for illegitimate actions from 1992-1995 will be prosecuted on local courts and under the jurisdiction of the countries in which crimes are committed. I’m also expressing hopes that this case will close many wounds and will open the doors for reconciliation, peace building process and rejuvenation of Balkans region in light of euro-atlantic aspirations of Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo.

 

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