THE HAGUE - Former Bosnian Serb army leader Ratko Mladic on Tuesday refused to testify at the trial of his political alter ego Radovan Karadzic, repeatedly dismissing the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal as “satanic”.
The hearing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was supposed to shed light on the relationship between Karadzic and Mladic during the 1995 fall of Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo during Bosnia’s bloody three-year war.
Instead, it turned into a theatre of the absurd, with Mladic first calling the tribunal “satanic”, then asking for security personnel to fetch his false teeth, and finally flatly refusing to answer Karadzic’s questions. “I do not want to testify and refuse to testify for reasons of my health and that it would prejudice my own case,” replied a belligerent Mladic to five questions put by Karadzic — who was defending himself — about the July 1995 massacre at the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica and the bloody 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Almost 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys died at the hands of the Bosnian Serb army after the supposedly safe UN enclave at Srebrenica was overrun by troops commanded by Mladic.
Some 10,000 people died in Sarajevo in what prosecutors said was a “campaign of terror” through sniping and shelling, starting in May 1992.
“I do not recognise this hate court. It is a satanic court,” Mladic said as he waved a seven-page statement around which he demanded he be allowed to read to the judges.
He was speaking loudly in Serbian as he was finally escorted out of the courtroom, still waving his statement after judges refused his request.
“You have confirmed my theory that the tribunal is not a court of law but a satanic court,” Mladic said as he was led away.
As he walked past Karadzic, he told him in Serbian: “Radovan, thank you. I am sorry, but these idiots won’t allow me to speak. They defend NATO.”
Presiding Judge O-Gon Kwon had however told Mladic he would not be compelled to testify if the former commander believed it would prejudice his own case.
Mladic requests false teeth
Earlier, Mladic, dressed in a grey suit took the oath before the tribunal before asking for his false teeth, a request met with laughter from the public gallery.
“Could the security people please bring my teeth so that I can speak better?” asked Mladic, in an apparent attempt to ridicule the court.
The court was subsequently adjourned for 20 minutes so as to locate the dentures belonging to the man known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre.
Both Mladic and Karadzic have been charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over their roles in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, in which 100,000 people died and at least 2.2 million others were displaced.
Karadzic had hoped that Mladic would testify that they did not agree or plan to expel Muslims or Croats from areas under Serb control.
The court had to subpoena Mladic, 71, to force him to testify as a defence witness in Karadzic’s trial, with his lawyer Branko Lukic on Tuesday making a final attempt to prevent him from having to speak.
“We believe Mr Mladic is unfit for testimony,” Lukic said.
People with “deception of memory”, “they make up facts and believe those facts are the truth,” he said.
“He is not able to concentrate on a single document.”
In his refusal to testify, Mladic had also cited his health, the amount of time taken up by his own trial and the fact that he might incriminate himself.
But judges previously rejected the arguments, saying Mladic was in a unique position to recount the information he had given the accused in relation to incidents he was allegedly involved in.
Karadzic “is trying to do his best to get all the information from all available sources as to what happened during the war in Bosnia,” his legal advisor Peter Robinson told journalists outside the court.
“He is disappointed that the trial chamber did not allow general Mladic to contribute,” Robinson said.
The 68-year-old Karadzic is accused of authorising so-called “ethnic cleansing” in the bitter war against Bosnia’s Muslim-led government.
The ICTY was created in 1993 to try perpetrators of war crimes committed during the former Yugoslavia’s bloody break-up.
Karadzic and Mladic could have been tried together had they been arrested around the same time. But Karadzic was arrested in July 2008 and Mladic in May 2011.
The two men are currently housed in the same detention unit in The Hague.