ICTY BARS 2 SEPARATE GENOCIDE TRIALS FOR RATKO MLADIC
Correction made: AFP inaccurately reported that Serbs killed 30 Bosniaks during the Bisina massacre. In fact, the correct number is 39 killed. See Tolimir's indictment.
|Exterior view of Bronovo hospital where|
Ratko Mladic is being treated in The Hague.
THE HAGUE (AFP) — Judges trying Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Ratko Mladic on war crimes charges turned down Thursday a prosecution bid to hold two separate trials, the first focusing on the Srebrenica massacre.
"The Trial Chamber today denied the prosecution's request to sever the indictment against Ratko Mladic," a statement said, upholding a challenge filed by Mladic's lawyer Branko Lukic against the prosecution bid.
Splitting the proceedings in two "could prejudice the accused, render the trial less manageable and less efficient, and risk unduly burdening witnesses," the judges said.
"Participating in the pre-trial preparations of one case while simultaneously participating in the judgement or appeal stage of the first trial could unfairly overburden the accused and limit his ability to participate effectively in either."
Mladic, also named "the Butcher of Bosnia", faces 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia's 1992-95 war.
Among other charges, the 69-year-old former general is accused of masterminding the murder of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys over a six-day period in Srebrenica in July 1995, in Europe's bloodiest episode since World War II.
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz asked the court in August for the trial to be split in two.
One trial would deal solely with the Srebrenica massacre, and the second with the rest of the charge sheet: the 44-month siege of Sarajevo which claimed some 10,000 lives, crimes committed in other Bosnian municipalities, and the kidnapping of UN personnel.
Brammertz had argued that "two short trials instead of a long trial is the most efficient, the best way to manage this case", with the Srebrenica trial to be heard first.
Families of Srebrenica victims of the Srebrenica hailed the bid, saying they feared Mladic would die before being judged, as happened with his erstwhile mentor, former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
But the judges found that two trials could be "considerably less efficient", and would mean that witnesses would have to testify twice.
They also rejected as "speculative and unsubstantiated" the prosecution's arguments that split trials would be easier to manage should Mladic's health deteriorate.
In Sarajevo, Munira Subasic of the Association "Srebrenica mothers," said she was "surprised and hurt" by the court's decision.
"We have demanded from the prosecutor and the court to split the charges as all will depend on Mladic's state. We are very afraid that he might die and his enormous crime to die with him," Subasic told AFP.
"There are already enough evidence on Srebrenica massacre which have been established by the Tribunal and a verdict could be brought very quickly, the process could be very fast and efficient," she said.
Mladic was arrested in northeast Serbia on May 26 after 16 years on the run. He was transferred to the UN's detention unit a few days later and made his first appearance before the court on June 3, where he told judges he was "gravely ill".
On Tuesday, his lawyer said Mladic had been hospitalised with pneumonia.
The judges granted a prosecution request to add the alleged murders of 39 Bosniaks in the municipality of Bisina in southwest Bosnia in July 1995 to the charges against Mladic, and ordered that a third amended version of the indictment be filed within seven days.
Mladic would be given an opportunity to plead to the new charge on November 10.