While Ratko Mladic is undergoing extradition proceedings in Belgrade, the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal in The Hague is getting ready for his eventual arrival. The former military leader of the Bosnian Serbs faces charges there of genocide, murder and persecution for crimes that span the whole of the 1990’s Bosnian War. Our reporter is in The Hague to see how the court is preparing for its next big trial.
The television satellite vans are already setting up camp outside the Tribunal, waiting for the arrival of General Ratko Mladic. After 16 years on the run, his arrest Thursday was welcomed by Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz. He says he’s ready for trial and confident about its outcome.
"The crimes allegedly committed by Mladic have already been prosecuted several times already at this Tribunal," said Brammertz. "There have been several officers, generals who worked under the authority of Mladic who have already been convicted to very important sentences. So we are quite comfortable that the evidence available to us is quite convincing and we hope will convince a judge.
That evidence includes the eye-witness testimony of survivors, Ratko Mladic’s own diaries, video and audio of the General on the battlefield saying he has come to take revenge on the Turks, and the many Bosnian Serb Army insiders who testified that Mladic was the commander giving the orders.
The war crimes tribunal first indicted Ratko Mladic in 1995 on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Those charges include ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the siege of Sarajevo, taking U.N. peacekeepers hostage, and, most infamously, the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica, when close to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed over the course of five days. In addition to genocide, he has been charged with persecution, murder, deportation and inflicting terror.
Mladic has already been declared fit for extradition by a judge in Serbia. His lawyers say he is in poor health and that he will appeal that decision. But once Mladic does arrive in The Hague, he will be taken to the Tribunal’s prison and given a medical exam. Within days he will face judges for his initial appearance - where he will have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the 11 counts against him.
Prosecutors have long maintained that Mladic was hiding in Serbia. In announcing the general’s arrest Thursday, Serbian President Boris Tadic said one chapter in the country’s recent history is closed. For Mladic, a new chapter - and what many believe will be his last - begins in The Hague any day now.