18 May, 2012

Ratko Mladić - Trial at the ICTY

Updated 25th May 2012 ...

The trial of Ratko Mladić finally commenced on 16th May 2012 at the International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) - see Start of the Mladić case.  Prosecution opening statements from the hearings on 16th and 17th May may be viewed via the court's website.

Subsequently, the court decided that the hearings would be adjourned sine die.  This was due to the revelation that prosecuting lawyers had not disclosed evidence to the defence.  The court stated that the trial would resume as soon as possible.  See The Guardian 17th May

On 15th May it was announced that a defence application to remove
Judge Orie (see judges) had been refused - see ICTY - President Meron denies defence motion for disqualification of Judge Orie.

Mladić was Appointed Commander of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) on 12 May 1992 (a position he held until at least 8 November 1996); promoted to the rank of Colonel General in June 1994.  The initial indictment against him was dated 25th July 1995.  A second indictment is dated 16th November 1995.  There have been a number of amendments to the indictment.  Information about M and the case against him may be seen on the ICTY Website - Cases.

To many, the whole process at the ICTY appears to be exceptionally dilatory.  On my Law and Lawyers blog (5th June 2011) I noted: 

The indictment of Ratko Mladic - my companion blog "Watching the Law" tells more of the events at Srebrenica in 1995.  It is a harrowing story of genocide.  The appearance of Ratko Mladic before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a long-awaited event.  It is interesting that Serbia itself was cleared of genocide by the International Court of Justice but found to be in breach of its obligation to prevent genocide - (see ICJ - Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro).   It is not merely States that may be found liable for crimes such as genocide.  There is individual responsibility which was argued at the Nuremberg Trials to be "necessary as well as logical .. if international law is to render real help to the maintenance of peace " - (Opening Statement of Prosecutor Robert Jackson).  I was particularly struck by the immense courtesy of the Judge (Alphons Orie) before whom Mladic first appeared at The Hague.  This again reminded me of Robert Jackson's comment at Nuremberg about staying "the hand of vengeance" and submitting the accused to the "judgment of the law."  However, I felt that the judge was courteous to a fault.  For example, asking Mladic if he wished the full indictment to be read out handed him the opportunity to comment - "I do not wish to have a single letter or sentence of that indictment read out to me."  Why not merely order that the indictment be read?  Like any court, the ICTY must keep full control of its proceedings at all times and not give unnecessary opportunities for disruption.  Also, it is notable that there are 11 counts on the indictment.  The ICTY would do well to heed the observations of Geoffrey Robertson QC - "Mistakes the Mladic trial needs to avoid."

Nevertheless, the whole subject of International Criminal Justice is developing and, in fairness to the ICTY, it has completed a considerable number of cases - Judgment List - over the period 1996 to 2011.  The Guardian newspaper notes the importance of international criminal justice in its article International Justice is needed - even it takes 100 or more years to perfect it  (Philippe Sands QC).

Sands writes: "Today's international courts, and this week's news stories, are the product of ideas generated long ago, in the 1940s and even before. It took centuries to create the system of English courts. Warts and all, our international courts do a good job in difficult circumstances. They won't end international crime or wrongdoing any more than local courts can make national crime disappear. They do make a difference, however, and it's difficult to see a better alternative. They are here to stay."

The Guardian 24th May - Mladić war crimes trial restart

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