Lawyers for Bosnian War military chief seek delay in genocide appeal

General Ratko Mladic was convicted over the murder of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys during the 1992-95 Bosnian War

Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic is appealing against his convictions for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. AP
Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic is appealing against his convictions for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. AP

Former Bosnian Serb military chief General Ratko Mladic said on Friday that his health is bad and getting worse, as his lawyers sought another delay for a UN hearing in the appeal against his convictions for genocide and crimes against humanity.

One lawyer warned judges that there are unanswered questions about Mladic's mental fitness to participate in the appeal hearings, citing a doctor as saying the 77-year-old may have early stage dementia.

The one-time Bosnian War strongman may have experienced medical malpractice while receiving treatment for anaemia, lawyer Dragan Ivetic said.

Mr Ivetic urged the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals to delay a hearing that was scheduled for Aug 25-26 until after medical experts can assess Mladic’s capacity to participate in the proceedings.

“How low does it go before he is not fit, legally competent? We do not know,” the lawyer told a hearing.

“We wish to avoid a miscarriage of justice,” he added. "We would rather support rescheduling the appeals hearing after competency is determined.”

A UN tribunal convicted Mladic in 2017 of masterminding crimes throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War, including the murder by Bosnian Serb forces of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He appealed, but the case has been repeatedly delayed by his ill health and, more recently, by the coronavirus pandemic. His legal team had been due to argue for his convictions to be overturned late next month.

Prosecutors also have appealed against Mladic's acquittal on a second genocide count linked to so-called “ethnic cleansing” campaigns early in the 1992-95 conflict.

But Mladic's health could now again delay the case.

“My health condition is very bad indeed, and it is only deteriorating," Mladic said at Friday's hearing.

In a June 16 ruling on Mladic's complaints about his anaemia treatment, the court's president concluded that Mladic had “not demonstrated any error with respect to the medical care provided to him” by court staff.

The UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals was set up to deal with appeals and other cases stemming from two UN courts, now closed, that prosecuted crimes in the Balkan wars of the 1990s and the Rwanda genocide.

Updated: July 24, 2020 08:59 PM

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