Serbia judge finds Mladic fit for extradition

[JURIST] A Serbian judge on Friday found Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive] fit for extradition, despite concerns about his age and health. Serbian authorities captured [ICTY press release] Ratko Mladic on Thursday, ending a 16-year manhunt [JURIST report] for the former general colonel and commander of the army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladic's lawyer stated his client was not able to communicate well due to his fragile state, and the proceedings were then suspended briefly, but Mladic has been found fit to stand trial [B92 reports] and will be extradited to begin his hearings at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website]. There have been no questions about his mental competence, as he told his lawyer [Guardian report] that "he is aware he is under arrest, he knows where he is, and he said he does not recognise The Hague tribunal." Mladic has three days to appeal the decision.

Reactions continue to pour in around the world, many positive, but some wary. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] praised the arrest [statement]: "This is a historic day for international justice and for the world's collective fight against impunity. It sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity may try to evade justice but they will, in the end, be held accountable." Fellow indicted war criminal, currently undergoing trial at the ICTY, Radovan Karadzic [JURIST news archive] said [AP report], "President Karadzic is sorry for Gen. Mladic's loss of freedom and he looks forward to working with him to bring out the truth about what happened in Bosnia." Russian officials have expressed tepid approval of the arrest, but pointed out alleged inconsistencies in the ICTY trials [B92 report] and hoped Mladic would be treated fairly. Demonstrations began Thursday night in Serbia [B92 report], with approximately 700 people protesting Mladic's arrest. Belgrade authorities have ordered a ban on public gatherings in reaction. The Serb Radical Party (SRS) [political website, in Serbian] announced [press release, in Serbian] a rally for Mladic on Sunday.

Mladic was one of the two remaining at-large war criminals sought by the ICTY, along with Goran Hadzic. Mladic faces charges [amended indictment, PDF] of genocide and crimes against humanity, including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages. He is most infamous for ordering the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the massacre of Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archives]. In December, the First Municipal Court in Belgrade acquitted 10 men [JURIST report] suspected of helping Mladic evade arrest. In September, ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz [official profile] called on Serbia and other governments [JURIST report] to increase efforts to find and arrest Mladic. Brammertz said failure to arrest Mladic would send war criminals the message that if they avoid capture long enough, the world will cease to care about bringing them to justice. Brammertz also emphasized the importance of seeking justice for Mladic's victims. Authorities must work quickly to arrest Mladic, Brammertz noted, since the ICTY is scheduled to be shut down in three years. Last May, Mladic's family filed a claim in the Belgrade District Court seeking to have him declared officially dead [JURIST report] in order to collect his state pension and sell his property. Earlier that month, the ICTY announced that the Office of the Prosecutor filed a motion to amend the indictment against Mladic [JURIST report] to include 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in order to help speed up court proceedings.

 

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