Ratko Mladic’s defence lawyers said on Monday that they have asked the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague to delay appeal hearings set for March 17 and 18 in order to check whether the former Bosnian Serb military commander is well enough to participate in the proceedings.
“The basis of the [the request] was medical information about Mr. Mladic recently disclosed by the [Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals’] Registry as to his cognitive impairment, impending surgery, a potential new (previously not reported) stroke, and other issues relevant to General Mladic’s fitness to participate in hearings,” said the request filed by Mladic’s lawyers Branko Lukic and Dragan Ivetic.
They said they submitted the request on February 28.
Mladic, 76, has had several serious health problems while in detention in the Netherlands and has suffered two previous strokes and one 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.