Serb general Mladic to boycott war crimes court

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 03, 2011 9:13 AM
Serb general Mladic to boycott war crimes court

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic will boycott the U.N. war crimes court, where he is scheduled on Monday to enter a plea against charges of genocide during the Bosnian war, his lawyer said.

Arrested in May after 16 years on the run, Mladic formally was charged by the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague last month when the defiant general rejected war crimes charges against him as "obnoxious" and "monstrous."

The 69-year-old career soldier is due to enter a plea on Monday, after refusing to do so last month, but Belgrade-based attorney Milos Saljic said Mladic will boycott the hearing to demand that he be represented by his own defense lawyers.

"Mladic is not going to appear in the courtroom tomorrow unless he is forced to. He does not want to do it because he does not have his team of lawyers yet," Saljic told Reuters.

Mladic is accused over a campaign to seize territory for Serbs after Bosnia, following Croatia, broke away from the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s as the Balkan state broke up during five years of war that killed at least 130,000 people.

If Mladic boycotts the hearing or refuses to enter a plea at Monday's hearing, judge Alphens Orie will likely enter one of "not guilty" for him. It is unlikely that the tribunal would force Mladic to appear in court against his will.

"The tribunal has no official indication or confirmation that Mladic is not going to appear so I am unable to comment," court spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac and Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Michael Roddy)