Mladic appears before Serbian war crimes court

Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic’s first appearance before the Serbian war crimes court has been halted so that doctors may assess his mental and physical fitness.

Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic’s first appearance before the Serbian war crimes court was halted on Thursday after his lawyer said he was unable to communicate, and doctors were due to assess his fitness to appear in court.

“The investigative judge tried to interrogate Ratko Mladic but he failed because he (Mladic) is in a difficult psychological and physical condition. It is difficult to establish any kind of communication with him,” lawyer Milos Saljic told reporters.

“The judge stopped the interrogation; during the day tomorrow doctors will report if he is capable of being heard in court,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik said Mladic’s arrest fulfilled obligations under the Dayton peace accord that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Mladic’s arrest “represents the fulfillment of international obligations arising from the Dayton peace agreement,” Dodik said.

Despite the anger of ordinary Bosnian Serbs at their wartime military chief’s capture after nearly 16 years on the run, Dodik said the arrest “will not have an impact on peace and stability in Republika Srpska”.

He added that the Bosnian Serb entity’s institutions would not “defend anyone who committed war crimes, regardless of one’s ethnic or religious affiliation”.

He voiced hope that Mladic would have a “fair trial” on war crimes and genocide charges, but added he also hoped that some generals of the Muslim-led Bosnian army would also “face justice soon”.

“That would mean that Bosnia-Hercegovina has a chance to build the necessary trust (based) on the truth,” Dodik said.

His view was also expressed by the Serb member and current head of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency Nikola Radmanovic.

“All the countries of the former Yugoslavia, for which the international (war crimes) tribunal was formed … have obliged themselves to cooperate with it,” he said.

Serbia’s President Boris Tadic earlier Thursday confirmed reports that Mladic, 69, had been arrested by Serbian security forces.

The arrest came amid heavy pressure on Serbia by the European Union, as Brussels has made clear that Belgrade’s failure to capture Mladic was a major obstacle to its hopes of joining the European bloc.

Mladic has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) notably for his role in the Srebrenica massacre and the bloody siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war.

Bosnian Serb forces killed some 8 000 Muslim men over several days in July 1995, after capturing the UN-protected enclave, in Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.

Both the ICTY and the International Court of Justice have ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was a genocide.

However, Bosnian Serbs have long down played the Srebrenica massacre, while Dodik has denied it was genocide.

At the end of the war, Bosnia was divided into two semi-autonomous entities — the Serbs’ Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. The two are linked by weak central institutions while each has its own government.

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