Ratko Mladic awaits war crimes trial in The Hague

Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic has spent his first night in UN custody in the Netherlands, awaiting trial on genocide charges.

The 69-year-old was admitted to the detention unit in The Hague on Tuesday and placed in an isolation cell.

He is expected to make his initial court appearance in the next few days.

Gen Mladic is accused of atrocities committed during the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s, including the massacre of about 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica.

The 69-year-old was seized last Thursday in the village of Lazarevo, north of Belgrade, having been on the run for 16 years.
Choice of plea

He was flown to The Hague on Tuesday after a Serbian court rejected an appeal against his extradition.
Policemen outside Scheveningen prison Mr Mladic spent his first night in an isolation cell

Upon his arrival, a spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said tribunal staff handed Gen Mladic his indictment and explained the rules and procedures to him.

He was then placed in an isolation cell for the night - standard practice for new arrivals at the prison.

The 69-year-old was also given a list of defence lawyers who could help him through the initial proceedings of the war crimes court, the spokeswoman said.

He was to be examined by a doctor and receive any treatment he may need before the end of Wednesday.

Gen Mladic has said he does not recognise the authority of the UN tribunal.

When he takes the stand, he will be asked to formally confirm his identity and enter a plea to each of the charges against him.
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War in the former Yugoslavia 1991 - 1999
The former Yugoslavia was a Socialist state created after German occupation in World War II and a bitter civil war. A federation of six republics, it brought together Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, Slovenes and others under a comparatively relaxed communist regime. Tensions between these groups were successfully suppressed under the leadership of President Tito.
After Tito's death in 1980, tensions re-emerged. Calls for more autonomy within Yugoslavia by nationalist groups led in 1991 to declarations of independence in Croatia and Slovenia. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army lashed out, first in Slovenia and then in Croatia. Thousands were killed in the latter conflict which was paused in 1992 under a UN-monitored ceasefire.
Bosnia, with a complex mix of Serbs, Muslims and Croats, was next to try for independence. Bosnia's Serbs, backed by Serbs elsewhere in Yugoslavia, resisted. Under leader Radovan Karadzic, they threatened bloodshed if Bosnia's Muslims and Croats - who outnumbered Serbs - broke away. Despite European blessing for the move in a 1992 referendum, war came fast.
Yugoslav army units, withdrawn from Croatia and renamed the Bosnian Serb Army, carved out a huge swathe of Serb-dominated territory. Over a million Bosnian Muslims and Croats were driven from their homes in ethnic cleansing. Serbs suffered too. The capital Sarajevo was besieged and shelled. UN peacekeepers, brought in to quell the fighting, were seen as ineffective.
International peace efforts to stop the war failed, the UN was humiliated and over 100,000 died. The war ended in 1995 after NATO bombed the Bosnian Serbs and Muslim and Croat armies made gains on the ground. A US-brokered peace divided Bosnia into two self-governing entities, a Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim-Croat federation lightly bound by a central government.
In August 1995 the Croatian army stormed areas in Croatia under Serb control prompting thousands to flee. Soon Croatia and Bosnia were fully independent. Slovenia and Macedonia had already gone. Montenegro left later. In 1999 Kosovo's ethnic Albanians fought Serbs in another brutal war to gain independence. Serbia ended the conflict beaten, battered and alone.
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The former military commander could decline to plead at his first appearance, instead opting to delay a formal response by up to a month.

The prosecution has charged Mladic with genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts and cruel treatment for his alleged part in a plot to achieve the "elimination or permanent removal" of Muslims from large parts of Bosnia in pursuit of a "Greater Serbia".

He is accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

He is also charged over the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

His lawyer had argued he was too ill to be tried. But Serbian doctors said he was fit enough to be extradited.

Gen Mladic's arrest is considered crucial to Serbia's bid to join the European Union.

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