Mladic to boycott war crimes court

Ex-Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic is boycotting a UN war crimes court where he is due on Monday to plead on charges over his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including genocide, a lawyer said.

"Mladic has told the prison authorities that he does not want to appear in the courtroom (on Monday) and will not enter a plea," Milos Saljic told AFP by telephone on Sunday.

"He decided not to reappear as his defence team has not yet been approved," Saljic said.

Mladic, arrested in Serbia and delivered last month to the Hague-based International Criminal Tribune for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) after almost 16 years on the run, is supposed to be back to the courtroom on Monday to plead to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Mladic was first hauled before the ICTY on June 3, where he chose not to plead to what he called 11 "obnoxious" charges.

The UN court's regulations then gave him a month before a second appearance where Dutch Judge Alphons Orie will again put the question to him.

"Mladic said he could not study the indictment and therefore prepare a plea without his lawyers," Saljic said, adding he was one of the lawyers picked by the defendant.

Another member of the team will be a Russian lawyer, Saljic said, adding that the defence team has yet to be approved by the ICTY.
However, Nerma Jelacic, the ICTY's spokeswoman, denied any knowledge about Mladic's plan.

"The tribunal has not been officially notified of such an intention, so the preparations here are going in accordance with the scheduling order for his appearance tomorrow at 10.00am (1800 AEST)," Jelacic said later.
But Saljic said that the only way Mladic could be brought to the courtroom was "by force".

Mladic, 69, was defiant on June 3 when he appeared for the first time in court to stand trial on charges of committing atrocities during Bosnia's war in which 100,000 people were killed.

Like his wartime political chief Radovan Karadzic, who has been standing trial in The Hague since October 2009, Mladic faces genocide charges for masterminding the Srebrenica massacre - Europe's worst mass killing since World War II - when his forces killed some 8000 Muslim men and boys in several days of July 1995.

The charges for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes also include the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

Both Mladic and Karadzic face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

- AFP

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