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The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague said on Wednesday that it has postponed appeal hearings that were set for next week in the trial of former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic so he can undergo an operation.
The appeal hearings, at which Mladic’s lawyers were to challenge the verdict sentencing him to life imprisonment for wartime crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina including the Srebrenica genocide, were due to be held on March 17 and 18.
The judges said in their decision that Mladic is to have surgery “to remove a polyp in his colon”.
His recovery from the operation is expected to take “up to six weeks”, they added.
They therefore delayed the appeal hearings to around six weeks after the operation.
Mladic, 76, has had several serious health problems while in detention in the Netherlands and has suffered two strokes and a heart attack.
His defence has repeatedly complained about the medical care that he has received in custody and asked for him to be released for hospital treatment.
The UN court sentenced Mladic to life imprisonment in November 2017, finding him guilty of genocide in Srebrenica in 1995, the persecution of Bosniaks and Croats throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, terrorising the population of Sarajevo during the siege of the city, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
Mladic appealed against the verdict, as did the Hague prosecution, which is calling for him to be found guilty of genocide in six other municipalities in 1992.
A date for the final verdict has not yet been set, but Carmel Agius, president of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, has said it will be delivered by the end of this year.
Mladic’s final verdict should have been handed down earlier than that, but following a challenge from the defence, three judges were removed from the trial after Mladic accused them of bias.
New judges were then appointed who needed time to familiarise themselves with the case.