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Ratko Mladic at the UN court in August 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/Leslie Hondebrink-Hermer/UN-IRMCT.
Ratko Mladic’s defence asked the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday to postpone the final verdict in the former Bosnian Serb Army commander’s trial because lead counsel Branko Lukic cannot be present in court due to illness.
The verdict, which is being handed down after Mladic appealed against his original conviction for genocide and other crimes committed during the Bosnian war, is currently scheduled for June 8.
But defence lawyer Lukic said in his motion to the UN court that he will not be able to attend the verdict in person or via video link because of “emergency hospitalisation and ongoing treatment”.
Lukic also noted that Mladic has rejected the suggestion that any part of the verdict hearing could be held by video link, “insisting to be present personally in the courtroom accompanied by both of his acquainted legal counsels”.
The motion repeated the defence’s previous assertion that Mladic’s mental faculties may be impaired, stating that his “mental capacity to meaningfully participate in the proceeding still remained unverified, and has been potentially identified as impacting negatively to the integrity of the proceedings”.
The defence lawyer said the verdict should be postponed “until a time when both [defence] counsels could be present in court in person with their client”.
The Hague court sentenced Mladic to life imprisonment in November 2017, finding him guilty of genocide of Bosniaks from 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.
The defence appealed against the verdict, calling for an acquittal on all counts in the indictment, a retrial or a reduced sentence for Mladic.
The Hague prosecution also appealed, calling for Mladic to be found guilty of genocide in five other municipalities in 1992.