Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic was taken to visit his daughter’s grave on Tuesday as authorities prepared to rule on his appeal against a transfer to a United Nations war-crimes court.
The early morning visit to the grave of his daughter Ana — who committed suicide aged 23 reportedly because of accusations against her father — came after Mladic’s lawyer on Monday sent appeal documents from a post office in Belgrade.
Milos Saljic said the appeal, which argues the former general is too ill to be transferred to the court in The Hague and which is widely expected to be rejected, would be quickly considered. The appeal arrived at the court on Tuesday.
“I expect the appeal … to be deliberated on before the closing hour of the court,” he told journalists outside Serbia’s war-crimes court.
The alleged mastermind of the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities during the 1992 to 1995 Bosnia War, Mladic is facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
A spokesperson for the Serbian war-crimes prosecutors, Bruno Vekaric, said the court would have three days to consider the appeal and is prepared to make a quick ruling.
“The appeal will be considered over three days, this is what is prescribed in the law. It depends on the court whether [the decision] will be made on the first, second or third day,” he told B92 television.
“In any case, I know that the court is mobilised. I know that the investigative judge is keeping this case under control.”
Mladic had been repeatedly requesting the visit to his daughter’s grave since his arrest on Thursday, and at 4am GMT a Landrover led by two police jeeps departed from the Belgrade court where he is being held.
Mladic was taken under police guard to the Topcidersko cemetery in Belgrade and later returned to his detention cell, Vekaric said.
An Agence France-Presse journalist later saw that flowers and a lit candle had been left at the grave.
His daughter Ana, a medical student, shot herself in the family home in 1994. Media reports have suggested she was depressed following reports of her father’s actions during the war. Mladic has always contended that she was killed.
The charges against Mladic include the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8 000 Muslim men and boys — the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II — and the 44-month siege of the city of Sarajevo, during which 10 000 were killed.
A Serbian judge ruled on Friday that Mladic (69) was fit to be transferred to the UN court after hearing a report from doctors who had examined the suspect.
His family says Mladic is in extremely poor health after suffering a series of strokes and his lawyer has said he does not expect him to live long enough to go to trial.
Prosecutors in The Hague have said they are considering applying to the court to join Mladic’s trial to that of his wartime political leader, Radovan Karadzic, who is facing the same charges.
Mladic’s son, Darko, said on Sunday his father insists he “had nothing to do with” the Srebrenica massacre and had in fact saved lives.
Mladic’s arrest after 16 years on the run has been widely welcomed internationally, but has sparked angry protests among those Serbs who consider him a national hero.
Between 10 000 and 15 000 protesters rallied against his arrest outside Parliament on Sunday and 180 people were detained after skirmishes that saw far-right youth throw stones and flares at police. — AFP