Decision by Serbian court paves way for ex-Bosnian general’s extraditon to The Hague to face war crimes charges.
|Mladic was taken to Scheveningen prison in The Hague by helicopter after being extradited from Serbia [Reuters]|
Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general, will make his first appearance before a UN tribunal in The Hague on Friday, the war crimes court has said.
Dutch Judge Alphons Orie signed the order on Wednesday morning, after Mladic spent his first night in an isolation cell Scheveningen detention centre, a UN prison.
Mladic will be asked to enter pleas to 11 charges, including genocide, for allegedly masterminding atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war, when he appears at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Friday.
69-year-old former general, who was caught last week after being on the run for 16 years, has been accused of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts and cruel treatment.
However Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor of the ICTY, said the charge sheet against Mladic had been updated, but did not give further details.
He said it could be possible to join his case to that of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb political chief, who is also on trial at The Hague, but no decision had yet been taken.
State of health
Brammertz also told a news conference that he had asked Serbia to explain how Mladic had managed to elude arrest in recent years.
“We want to verify who over the past five years have been instrumental in helping Mladic to stay in hiding and we want them to be accountable,” he said.
Earlier, Nerma Jelacic, a spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said Mladic had undergone medical tests, but did not make any comments about his wellbeing.
Mladic is accused of orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, which saw around 8,000 Muslim men and boys rounded up and killed, and the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted 44 months and left an estimated 10,000 people dead.
Mladic was extradited on Tuesday after Serbian judges rejected his appeal made on the grounds of ill health.
His lawyer and family have said he has suffered a number of strokes and is not mentally or physically fit to stand trial.
Snezana Malovic, Serbia’s justice minister, said Mladic’s extradition marked the fulfilment of Belgrade’s “international and moral obligation”.
“Mladic is charged with the most serious crimes against humanity and the most serious violations of the international humanitarian law,” she said in a news conference to announce Mladic’s extradition.
Jonah Hull, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Belgrade, said his state of health would only be clear once doctors at The Hague had examined him.
“Here in Belgrade there are wildly divergent views on Mladic’s health,” he reported.
“The prosecution and the [Serbian] court appointed doctors have proclaimed him of sound health … but his defence are saying the doctors here have been under undue political pressure to certify him healthy.
“He’s certainly not a well man – even the prosecutor confirmed that to me, though he said he [Mladic] was ‘fit enough’ to stand trial.”
Mladic was arrested on Thursday in a farmhouse in northern Serbia belonging to a cousin. His capture prompted at times violent protests by Serb nationalists in Serbia and Bosnia.
Away from Belgrade on Tuesday, in Banja Luka, the capital of the Bosnia Serb entity of Republika Srpska, thousands of Bosnian Serbs rallied to show support for the former army commander.
“General Ratko Mladic is our brave son who led Republika Srpska’s army and us soldiers to defend it,” Branislav Predojevic, who heads an association of Bosnian Serb veterans, told journalists at the start of the protest.
“General Ratko Mladic is not a war criminal.”
Mladic now joins Radovan Karadzic, his former Bosnian Serb political chief, at Scheveningen detention centre, where he is currently on trial.
Other inmates include Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president charged with committing murder, rape and sexual slavery as he sought control of Sierra Leone’s diamond mines, and Thomas Lubanga, the Congo warlord charged with recruiting child soldiers.