Court enters not guilty plea as Mladic disrupts hearing
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Accused war criminal Ratko Mladic was ejected from his arraignment hearing at the Hague after he yelled at the judge and refused to answer to the charges read out against him. The judge entered “not guilty” pleas on his behalf.
Ratko Mladic’s UN war crimes arraignment at The Hague took a turn for the unruly on Monday, as the former Bosnian Serb army chief, accused of genocide, yelled at the judge and refused to answer to 11 charges. The chaotic scene was interrupted with the judge ejecting Mladic from the hearing.
Mladic’s removal followed a tense exchange during which the judge, Alphons Orie, began reading out the charges as Mladic cut him off, saying “Not another word” and challenging Orie to remove him.
Once Mladic had been escorted from the room by security guards, Orie proceeded to enter “not guilty” pleas on his behalf.
The 69-year-old Mladic is accused of overseeing the 1995 slaughter of roughly 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, considered the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.
A ‘tug-of-war’ between judge and accused
Mladic, who was arrested near Belgrade in May after 16 years in hiding, was disorderly from the beginning of Monday’s hearing, insisting on keeping a hat on his head and making gestures to the crowd as the judge spoke.
“You are trying to impose impossible conditions on me - a lawyer I do not want,” he said as the hearing started, referring to the fact that the court has not appointed the Serbian and Russian lawyers he has asked to defend him. For now, Mladic is represented by Aleksander Aleksic, a lawyer assigned to the case by the court.
One of the lawyers Mladic has asked for, Milos Saljic, has told the press that Mladic is mentally unfit for trial. He has also said that he would not be able to represent Mladic at the Hague, because he does not speak English.
Florence Hartmann, a Balkans specialist and former spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), told France 24 that the flamboyant tug-of-war between Mladic and the court was likely temporary. “These incidents occur during the preparatory period before the trial,” she said. “You have two authoritarian people trying to control the game: the judge, who has to manage all parties involved, and Ratko Mladic, who is heavily influenced by his entourage, notably by ultra-nationalist leader Vojislav Seselj, who is being detained on the same floor as Mladic.”
Judge Orie has not yet announced a date for the trial or another hearing, though court protocol would require that a pre-trial hearing be organised within three months. Orie will likely set a date once a decision is made as to whether the lawyers Mladic are fit to defend him in the court.
If convicted, Mladic could serve a life sentence in prison.
Monday was not the first time Mladic has exhibited provocative behaviour in public since his arrest. At the first hearing in June, he turned to war survivors in the tribunal, moving his finger across his throat.
This time, many of those survivors and others watched the hearing unfold live on a screen set up in the main downtown square of Bosnian capital Sarajevo. “The monster is gone!” they shouted as Mladic was led out of the courtroom.
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