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Former Bosnian Serb Commander Blasts UN Court As 'Child Of Western Powers'


Former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic speaks at his appeal hearing in The Hague on August 26.
Former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic speaks at his appeal hearing in The Hague on August 26.

Former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic has dismissed the UN court hearing his appeal against a life sentence for genocide as a "child of the Western powers," as a two-day hearing wrapped up in The Hague, Netherlands.

The man called the "Butcher of Bosnia" has challenged his 2017 conviction and life sentence for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1992-95 war.

These included the massacre in and around the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in mid-1995 when some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces.

When asked to speak near the end of the August 26 hearing, the 78-year-old Mladic told judges he remained a "target of the NATO alliance" and described the prosecutor as a "blonde lady who has been showering me with snaky, devilish words."

Prosecutor Laurel Baig earlier on August 26 asked the judges in The Hague to uphold Mladic's sentence, saying he "was in charge of the Srebrenica operation, Srebrenica was Mladic's operation."

"And the chamber was right to conclude that he was responsible for these crimes. He used the forces under his command to execute thousands of men and boys."

The previous day, Mladic's lawyer, Dragan Ivetic, told the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) that Mladic was not mentally fit to take part in the appeal hearing. Ivetic said there was a risk of a "miscarriage of justice."

"I am unable to meaningfully gain instruction from Mr. Mladic, nor be assured that he is able to meaningfully participate and follow" the proceedings, Ivetic said during the first day of the hearing, which was being held partially by videoconference due to coronavirus measures.

Ivetic called for an analysis of Mladic's fitness to participate. At a hearing last month, Mladic's legal team warned that the former general could be suffering from early-stage dementia.

"It is a denial of due process to sentence or proceed criminally against someone who is incompetent to stand trial," Ivetic said.

The hearing proceeded despite Ivetic's objections. Mladic, looking frail, was in court and initially wore a face mask because of coronavirus regulations, before pushing it below his chin and then removing it completely.

Lawyers for Mladic have repeatedly complained about his ill-health.

But in a written ruling before the August 25 hearing, judges said that the lawyers hadn't "substantiated that Mladic is unable to communicate, consult with his counsel, and/or understand the essentials of proceedings."

The IRMCT deals with cases left over from now disbanded international war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and dpa

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