War crimes suspect Mladic faces trial

AFP , Wednesday 1 Jun 2011

Former Bosnian Serb army chief Mladic will appear before a UN court on Friday in The Hague following his dramatic extradition from Serbia to face genocide and war crimes charges

Bosnian Muslims await Ratko Mladic's arrival outside the detention centre in Scheveningen, Netherlands, Tuesday, (AP).

After spending his first night behind bars and a routine examination by a doctor, Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic accused of masterminding the worst massacre in Europe since World War II learned that he had two days to prepare for an initial hearing at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, according to a court order.

Europe's most wanted man was arrested in northeast Serbia last Thursday and extradited to the Netherlands on Tuesday after almost 16 years on the run.

After his bid to avoid extradition failed, a Serbian government plane carrying the ex-military leader landed at Rotterdam airport from where he was taken to The Hague under tight security and spent his first night in jail in isolation.

"He did have a medical examination according to the procedures," Nerma Jelacic, spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said on Wednesday.

Asked about the ex-general's first night behind bars, Jelacic told AFP: "I won't be making any statements about his personal wellbeing," adding she did not know whether the former general saw a lawyer after his arrival in The Hague on Tuesday evening.

"He has actually just arrived, he is yet to choose his lawyer," she said. Mladic will be allowed to choose a legal representative from an ICTY list of accredited lawyers, she added.

Earlier Tuesday, Serbian judges rejected Mladic's appeal against a transfer to the UN-backed ICTY. Dismissing his complaints of ill health, they said he was fit to stand trial for alleged atrocities committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The prosecution has charged Mladic, 69, with genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts and cruel treatment for his alleged part in a plot to achieve the "elimination or permanent removal" of Muslims from large parts of Bosnia in pursuit of a "Greater Serbia".

He is accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II. He is also charged over the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

His arrest was welcomed in many quarters Wednesday. "I am happy for all survivors that justice is going to triumph," said Thom Karremans, who commanded Dutch blue helmets deployed at Srebrenica at the time of the massacre.

The fact that Ratko Mladic will be tried by the ICTY was "a strong sign of the growing potency of international law," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement.

"It is a source of contentment for the victims, even if it comes late," he said.

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