Judge for Mladic case in row over 'genocide'

Mon, May 30, 2011, 01:00

ONE OF the three judges named to hear the war-crimes case against Gen Ratko Mladic was at the centre of a row two years ago for arguing that “genocide” was an inappropriate term to describe the Srebrenica massacre – Europe’s worst atrocity since the second World War.

Judge Christoph Flügge was hearing the case of former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic in The Hague in 2009, when he told Der Spiegel magazine that “mass murder” was a more suitable term for the killing of 8,000 men and boys in the UN safe haven in July 1995.

The judge, a former public prosecutor in Berlin, maintained in the interview that there was no reason to differentiate between “a group that is murdered for their nationality, religion, ethnicity or race, as is regulated by the Hague Statute” and a group that “happens to be gathered at a specific location”.

The judge’s comments led at the time to demands by relatives of the Srebrenica victims for his removal from the trial, with the Congress of North American Bosniaks (CNAB) describing his comments as “genocide denial” which rendered his impartiality impossible.

CNAB demanded an apology and asked the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to remove the judge, not only from the Karadzic trial but from “any case dealing specifically with charges of genocide”.

Judge Flügge was named at the weekend as a member of the trial chamber for the trial of Gen Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander, who is charged with genocide, extermination and murder during the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995.

Those charges relate to the massacre at Srebrenica and the 44- month-long siege of Sarajevo, from April 1992 to February 1996, in which almost 10,000 people were killed or went missing, including 1,500 children.

The acting president of the ICTY, Judge Mehmet Güney, also appointed Judge Bakone Justice Moloto of South Africa and Judge Alphons Orie of The Netherlands.

Immediately after the judges’ appointment, Judge Orie granted a prosecution application to amend its indictment against Gen Mladic (69) with the aim to “update, clarify and further particularise its allegations in relation to the accused’s individual responsibility”.

In his ruling, Judge Orie revealed: “The prosecution further proposes to particularise the crime of genocide, which in the operative (initial) indictment is charged under a single count.

“The prosecution proposes to divide this crime into two separate counts, each representing distinct time periods and locations in which genocide is alleged to have occurred . . . ”

The amended indictment reduces the number of counts against the general – who was arrested last Thursday in a village in northern Serbia – from 15 to 11.

These counts will be read to him when he appears before the trial chamber when he arrives in The Hague, after which he will have 30 days in which to enter a plea.

Once a plea has been entered, pre-trial proceedings begin – often a lengthy process which in the case of Karadzic, lasted for 15 months.

The expectation at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is that Gen Mladic will refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the tribunal when he is extradited this week to Scheveningen high-security prison, just outside The Hague.

The prison already holds Karadzic and is where the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, died in 2006 before the end of his trial.

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor, on trial for war crimes in Sierra Leone, is also being held there.

A statement issued by Karadzic’s lawyer in The Hague on Friday said: “President Karadzic is sorry for Gen Mladic’s loss of freedom and looks forward to working with him to bring out the truth about what happened in Bosnia.”

The three judges: war crimes tribunal appointments


A member of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia judicial panel since November 2008, Judge Flügge, from Germany, is a former public prosecutor who became a criminal judge in the mid-1980s and went on to become head of the prisons department in Berlin. In 2001 he was named head of the judiciary, the general prosecutor’s office and the prison administration.


A member of the tribunal panel since November 2005, Judge Moloto, from South Africa, began his career as a teacher before switching to the law. He was the managing partner of a South African law firm and an executive director of the Black Lawyers’ Association Legal Education Centre, before being appointed a judge of the South African high court in 2003.


A member of the tribunal panel since November 2001, Judge Orie, from the Netherlands, studied law at Leiden University where he then worked as a law lecturer.

He was called to the bar of the supreme court in 1980, became a partner in a legal firm specialising in international criminal cases, was appointed a judge in 1998 and subsequently a justice of the Dutch supreme court.