Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder, PDF; JURIST news archive] made his first appearance [video, in Serbian] Friday at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], contesting the charges while simultaneously asking for more time to review them. Characterized by many media outlets as "defiant," Mladic saluted several times through the proceedings, referred to himself as "General Mladic" and smiled at some survivors of the massacre of Srebrenica [JURIST news archive] who had come to watch the proceedings. Mladic, contesting the legitimacy of the court, refused to plead and requested a private audience to discuss his medical problems with the three-judge panel. He admitted that he received the indictment but had not read it and refused to let the court read it to him. Following the rules of The Hague, Judge Alphons Orie read his indictment regardless.
Observers noted that Mladic appeared unable to use his right arm, and rumors have circulated that he has suffered two or three strokes and currently has cancer. Orie set a new court date for July 4, and said if Mladic refuses to plead then to the 11 charges [amended indictment, PDF] leveled against him, a not guilty plea will be entered. The court also determined there are no major factors to delay the trial [B92 report].
Serbian authorities captured Mladic [JURIST report] last month, ending a 16-year manhunt for the former general colonel and commander of the army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mladic lost his final appeal in Serbia to avoid extradition, and was transported to The Hague late Tuesday night [JURIST reports]. Mladic faces charges 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 archive].