Karadzic and Mladic due to appear together in Hague court
Both deny genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly executing policy of ethnic cleansing
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic: he has denied responsibility for the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys executed by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995
Jailed Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are due to appear together in the same high-security courtroom this week when General Mladic is called to give evidence as a reluctant witness for the defence at the trial of his former political boss.
Both men deny charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly plotting and executing a policy of ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War between 1991 and 1995, which displaced some two million people and left at least 100,000 dead.
They also deny responsibility for the massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were rounded up and executed by Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica in July 1995 in the worst single mass killing in Europe since the second World War.
Refused to testify
Mladic (71) refused to testify at Karadzic’s trial last year, citing persistent health problems, shortage of time due to the demands of his own case and his contention that he was essentially being asked to “testify against himself”.
Then, before Christmas, judges in The Hague granted Karadzic – a former president of Republika Srpska and Ssupreme Ccommander of the Bosnian Serb armed forces – a subpoena ordering Mladic to attend.
The general’s lawyers have since filed an urgent motion asking the judges hearing the case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to reconsider the subpoena and to order an urgent medical assessment of their client.
At the same time, they also asked the judges’ bench hearing Mladic’s own case to ensure it did everything possible in the light of the subpoena “to protect the rights and proper administration of justice as to the accused before it”.
However, the judges in the Karadzic case have consistently taken the view that the key issues raised by Mladic’s lawyers were already dealt with when an appeals chamber ruled last year that former Bosnian Serb army commander Zdravko Tolimir, currently appealing a conviction for genocide, was obliged to testify at Karadzic’s trial.
On that basis, the ICTY has announced that Mladic will be called to the witness stand tomorrow at 9am – though whether in fact he will appear and give evidence will remain uncertain until he steps into courtroom 1 in The Hague.
‘Butchers of Bosnia’
If he does appear, it will be the first time the two men, both known by the sobriquet “the Butcher of Bosnia”, have appeared together since they were arrested – Karadzic in Belgrade in July 2008 and Mladic in northern Serbia in May 2011.
And if he does appear, Mladic, who has been unco-operative since his first appearance, may continue to deny the court’s legitimacy and, as a defendant himself, will be entitled to refuse to answer questions “on the basis of his privilege against self-incrimination”.
On the other hand, if Mladic is willing to give his version of events, Karadzic will be hoping his evidence will undermine the prosecution’s charge that there was some form of “joint criminal enterprise” between the two men during the war.