Mladic complains of ill health at war crimes court

AP News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2011 12:21 PM
Mladic complains of ill health at war crimes court

Former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic complained Thursday about his health, courtroom cameras and what he called the media's lies about him during an hour-long pre-trial hearing at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

In a feisty appearance before the United Nations court, the 69-year-old former general told Presiding Judge Alphons Orie he was in pain caused by a kidney stone and asked for Serbian doctors to examine him.

The hearing was called to monitor progress toward Mladic's trial on charges including genocide, extermination and murder for allegedly masterminding the worst atrocities of the Bosnian war, but Mladic seized on the opportunity to publicly air a string of grievances.

Mladic told the court he was in "strong, bad pain" because of the kidney stone moving. His health problems appeared to be behind an hour-long delay to the start of the hearing, for which Mladic apologized.

The tribunal will be closely monitoring Mladic's health while he is in its detention unit in The Hague. His family says he has had two strokes in recent years. And one of his lawyers, Milos Saljic, said in August that Mladic underwent surgery for a hernia.

In a major setback to the court and victims of the bloody conflicts that tore through the Balkans in the 1990s, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in his cell in 2006, shortly before his long-running trial was due to end.

Mladic appeared to issue a veiled warning Thursday that he could suffer the same fate, when he told Orie, "If you put any pressure on me, it will not end well."

Orie responded that he understood Mladic's concerns and would try to balance them with efforts to conclude his trial "within a reasonable time."

Mladic also complained about six video cameras mounted in the courtroom focusing too often on him. Orie told him that the court's technical staff follow strict guidelines to record footage of all participants when filming and broadcasting courtroom action.

Orie also dismissed an earlier Mladic complaint _ about being handcuffed while being driven to and from court _ by saying that it was standard practice for Dutch police who transport him and they were unlikely to make an exception.

Mladic also complained about what he called lies in the Belgrade media about his security staff taking back candy he had handed to children in the U.N.-protected Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in 1995. The incident happened shortly before forces allegedly commanded by Mladic massacred 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica.

Orie told him that judges at his trial would rely solely on evidence presented in court.

No date has yet been set for Mladic's trial to begin. At an earlier hearing, judges entered not guilty pleas on his behalf after Mladic refused to plead. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Mladic was arrested in Serbia in May, nearly 16 years after he was first indicted by the U.N. court.