In its latest attempt to postpone Wednesday’s trial of the former military commander of the Bosnian Serbs, the defence team for Ratko Mladic appealed Monday for a six-month delay in the start of his war crimes trial, saying delays by prosecutors in disclosing evidence could lead to a miscarriage of justice. The move follows their calls last week for presiding Judge Alphons Orie to be replaced.
By Maaike van Breevoort, Hilversum
Mladic’s defence "respectfully moves for the disqualification of judge Orie in order to restore the integrity of the proceedings," said lawyer Branko Lukic in a petition published on the website of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
The defence team called for the postponement of the opening of the trial to allow time for its request to be considered. But Tribunal officials say the trial is on schedule to start Wednesday.
According to the defence request, presiding Judge Orie cannot be impartial because he has been involved in the convictions of several former Mladic subordinates for the same crimes Mladic is now charged with. Defence lawyers argue that Orie has a “personal interest” to see that his findings in previous cases remain intact.
Who is Alphons Orie?
Alphons Orie started working for the ICTY as a defence lawyer for Bosnian Serb Dusko Tadic, the first person tried and convicted by the ICTY.
In one of its 17 complaints against Orie’s suitability to preside over the trial, Mladic’s lawyers argue that there is a conflict of interest because the current case is partly based on the same allegations for which his former client was convicted.
Mladic’s lawyers also suggest that Orie should withdraw from the case because his Dutch nationality makes him too biased to handle the Srebrenica genocide charges against their client.
More than 7,000 Muslims were killed during the 1995 Srebrenica massacres. Prosecutors say Mladic commanded the troops who massacred them in warehouses, forests, fields and cultural centers over five days in July 1995.
It was Dutch UN troops who were on guard when the massacres took place. Some of them were taken hostage by the Bosnian Serbs--crimes Mladic now stands charged with. Because Orie is Dutch, Mladic’s lawyers argue he is unfit to hear the case.
Radovan Karadzic, the former political chief of Mladic, made a similar complaint in 2008. Judge Orie was then removed from the trial by the court in what officials termed “administrative” reasons and not in response to Karadzic’s complaint.
The removal from Karadzic’s case also occurred in a more preliminary phase of the proceedings, not mere days before the opening of the trial.
Mladic has repeatedly attempted to postpone the beginning of the trial in which he faces 11 counts of international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.