News / Europe

Judge Says Mladic Fit Enough to Face Hague Trial

General Ratko Mladic (c) arrives at special court in Belgrade, May 26, 2011
General Ratko Mladic (c) arrives at special court in Belgrade, May 26, 2011

Ratko Mladic is in good enough health to go on trial at The Hague, a judge ruled Friday. Mladic was Bosnian Serb wartime general and is accused of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian civil war.

Mladic has three days to contest Friday’s decision that he is fit to be extradited to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

His son, Darko Mladic, said Friday that his father is not in good health.

He told reporters that his father should be transported to a hospital to get medical help and that his father believes he is not guilty of the war crimes charges against him.

Ratko Mladic led the Bosnian Serb forces in the early 1990s and is accused of having orchestrated the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted almost four years, and the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995 where some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed.

Mladic was indicted by the United Nations the same year but it took another 16 years before he was captured.

He was found in a farmhouse owned by his cousin in a small village about 100 kilometers from the Serbian capital, Belgrade. A government minister said he looked pale as if he had stayed indoors for a long period of time and that he was armed but did not resist arrest.

James Ker-Lindsay, an expert on southeast Europe at the London School of Economics, says within the region there has been a mixed reaction to the arrest.

“Amongst Bosniaks, the Bosnian Muslims, there's delight that he has been arrested. Bosnian Serbs, some are angry. They see him as a savior. But I think on the whole, amongst Serbs more broadly speaking, there is a sense of resignation about this,” he said.

A sense of resignation, he says, because Mladic’s arrest has set Serbia on course to join the European Union. The European bloc had made the capture of Mladic a precondition of Serbia joining the EU.

If Mladic is extradited to The Hague, he will be joining Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, who was captured in 2008 and is now on trial.

Former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic also went on trial at The Hague, but he died in custody before his trial ended.

Ker-Lindsay says that trial progressed quite slowly, but prosecutors hope Mladic would be easier to convict.

“They hope it will be easier to prosecute Mladic because the range of crimes that he is alleged to have committed is less than that of Milosovic. Plus also, I think there is an assumption that it's far easier to trace a line of command, if you like, between the atrocities that were committed in Srebrenica and direct orders handed down by Mladic,” said Ker-Lindsay.

Mladic’s lawyer said Friday that he would appeal the decision to extradite Mladic to The Hague. He said Mladic is not fit to attend court sessions or to provide adequate defense for himself.

Mladic’s arrest has been welcomed by the international community. Russia has called for an impartial trial. 

Ratko Mladic on Dipity.

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