Mladic in isolation at UN detention unit
Judges reject delay request
THE HAGUE — Former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic was placed in a UN detention unit yesterday to await trial on genocide charges, 16 years after he was indicted in the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the worst massacre of civilians in Europe since World War II.
War crimes tribunal spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said tribunal staff were handing Mladic his indictment and explaining the rules and procedures to him before placing him in an isolation cell for the night. She said isolation is standard for new arrivals at the prison.
Mladic also was being given a list of defense lawyers who could help him through the initial proceedings of the war crimes court. He would be examined by a doctor and receive any treatment he may need before the end of the day, Jelacic said.
It was unclear when Mladic will appear in court for an initial appearance, but it must be within a few days. The chief prosecutor and top tribunal official scheduled a news conference today.
When he appears in court Mladic will be asked to formally confirm his identity and enter a plea to each of the charges against him. He also will be asked whether he has any complaints about the arrangements in the prison.
Like his old ally and political boss Radovan Karadzic three years ago, Mladic may decline to plead to the charges at his first appearance, instead opting to delay a formal response by up to a month. Karadzic’s trial, which resumed yesterday after a two-month recess, is still in its early stages.
Mladic has said he does not recognize the authority of the UN tribunal.
Mladic was extradited from Belgrade on a Serbian government jet yesterday, following his capture last Thursday at the home of a relative in a Serbian village. Judges in Belgrade rejected his appeal to delay his transfer on grounds of ill health, and the Serbian justice minister authorized his handover to UN officials in The Hague.
In Belgrade, Justice Minister Snezana Malovic said the handover marked the fulfillment of Serbia’s “international and moral obligation.’’
“Mladic is charged with the most serious crimes against humanity and the most serious violations of international humanitarian law,’’ she said.
Mladic faces charges of genocide and other war crimes for atrocities committed by Serb troops under his command during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, including the notorious Srebrenica massacre in July of 1995 and the 44-month siege of the capital, Sarajevo.
Mladic’s extradition brought a satisfied response from war victims.
“This means a lot to the victims of genocide,’’ said Munira Subasic, head of the Sarajevo-based Association of Srebrenica Massacre Survivors.
“Mladic has left and we believe that the evil will speak out of him and that he will tell the truth,’’ Subasic said.
In Bosnia, Serb nationalists staged demonstrations in support of Mladic, some carrying banners that said: “The eagle is gone but the nest remains.’’
Mladic attorney Milos Saljic visited him in his jail cell in the early afternoon and said the former general was crying and very emotional during what he called a farewell visit by his wife and sister. They brought him a big suitcase with clothing he will need in The Hague, Saljic said.
Mladic had spent 16 years on the run. When he was caught leaving his relative’s house for an early morning walk he was looking worn and disheveled. He was said to have suffered at least two strokes.
Earlier yesterday, Mladic was briefly released from his jail cell, traveling in a secret, armored convoy to a cemetery where he visited the grave of his daughter.
At the grave, he left a burning candle and a bouquet of flowers.