Ratko Mladic is back in his Scheveningen prison cell Friday night after his genocide trial was suspended earlier in the day due to ill health.
By Radosa Milutinovic in The Hague
According to Nerma Jelacic, Head of Communications at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), “medical examinations confirmed there were no abnormalities in his health status and that no treatment is required. The previous determination that Mladic is fit to stand trial therefore remains unchanged.”
The second pause in a stop-and-start trial—the first was in May after the prosecution’s opening arguments--the long-awaited start of the case proper will continue Monday morning, after just three full days of testimony that began earlier in the week.
Mladic is charged with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as the military commander of the Bosnian Serbs during the 1990’s war. He has said he is not guilty.
On Thursday, exactly 17 years and a day after his troops allegedly committed the first mass killings in Srebrenica, the 69-year old retired general was rushed to the hospital after complaining he didn’t feel well.
At the time, his lawyer Branko Lukic was in the middle of cross-examining the prosecution’s second witness--David Harland, a UN officer who served in Bosnia during the war.
“Since he had three strokes before, we suspected--because he could not move his right hand and leg--it might be stroke again,” said Lukic. “But two scans of his brain have been done and we were told everything is fine, that there is no new pathology in his brain. Now we think it's either a high level of sugar in his blood or high blood pressure, since he had both higher than normal these days.”
Before he fell ill, Mladic--looking much better and healthier than during his first court appearance more than a year ago--calmly and attentively listened to the first witnesses testify against him.
After early antics, including being thrown out of court by the presiding judge last October, Mladic’s demeanor was almost businesslike this time around.
He appeared in the dock in a smart gray suit with a briefcase in hand and followed evidence with no visible expression, often chewing on his reading glasses and occasionally taking notes.
The accused also sat showing no emotion while the first witness, Bosnian Muslim Elvedin Pasic, tearfully described how he lost his father and relatives to Mladic's soldiers, who carried out an execution of some 150 Muslims during their ethnic cleansing campaign in northern Bosnia in 1992.
Pasic was only 14-years old at the time.
Pasic's highly emotional appearance was followed by the almost forensic, fact-based testimony on the siege of Sarajevo, delivered by witness Harland, who worked in the city from 1993-95 as the UN peacekeeping force’s—UNPROFOR’s—Civilian Affairs Officer.
Sarajevo up close
Harland, who drafted hundreds of UN daily reports on the Sarajevo siege, testified that throughout the conflict, Mladic's forces subjected the city's population to “terror shelling” without “any military value” on a daily basis.
“The aim was to keep civilians vulnerable, fearful and isolated,” Harland said. “On average, we counted about 1,000 artillery impacts on Sarajevo each day for most of the war.”
According to Harland, Mladic--who held “absolute control and command” over the Bosnian Serb Army--and his political master Radovan Karadzic, currently on trial in a separate ICTY case, used “terror shelling” and the restriction of gas, electricity, food and water deliveries to the city as major “levers of pressure” on the predominantly Muslim government in Sarajevo to force it to accept their terms for peace.
It was a “spigot of terror,” testified Harland, opened or closed by Mladic and Karadzic as they wished, either to strengthen the pressure on Muslims or, in turn, to prevent NATO air attacks on their forces.
Harland added that as early as autumn 1993, General Mladic--who he met “about 20 times”-- threatened UNPROFOR officers that he would “kill everybody except children” in three Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia, including Srebrenica.
Harland was quoting from his notes and his UN reports made during the war.
Cross-examined by Mladic’s defense, Harland confirmed that some Bosnian Muslim forces in Sarajevo shot at “blue helmets”, as UN peacekeepers were known, and their own civilians, or sabotaged utilities in an attempt to trigger Western military intervention against Serbs.
The charges against Mladic include murder, extermination, terrorizing the population of Sarajevo, genocide in Srebrenica and seven other Bosnian municipalities and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
Many war victims are worried that Mladic won’t live long enough to answer to those crimes—a fear that no doubt was exacerbated by the very first week of his trial.