Mladic hearing delayed amid health concerns | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.05.2011
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Mladic hearing delayed amid health concerns

Top war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic has appeared in court at a hearing on his possible extradition to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. But there were questions over whether he is fit to stand trial.

Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic is wanted for war crimes and genodice

A hearing in the Serbian capital Belgrade to decide on the extradition of top war crime suspect Ratko Mladic to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague has been halted amid concerns over his health.

Mladic's lawyer, Milos Saljic, told reporters that his client was unable to communicate and was in a "difficult psychological and physical condition."

Saljic said the 69-year-old Mladic was to undergo medical evaluations and that doctors would report on Friday on his capability of appearing in court.

Deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric has rejected the claims that Mladic was unable to respond, but refused to comment on the reasons for the interruption of the hearing.

The man behind Srebrenica

Mladic, the most wanted fugitive of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, was arrested on Thursday after 16 years as a fugitive.

Boris Tadic

Serbian President Boris Tadic said Mladic's arrest 'removes a heavy burden from Serbia'

Mladic was commander of the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. He has been charged by the ICTY with genocide in connection with the Srebrenica massacre.

The UN court cites Mladic as the operational mastermind behind Srebrenica. In July 1995, more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up and killed in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Mladic is also accused of the establishment of detention centers and camps for Bosnian Muslims in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

'Long overdue'

Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor for the ICTY, welcomed the arrest, but said it was "long overdue."

"With the news of the arrest, we think first and foremost of the victims of the crimes committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia," he said in a statement. "These victims have endured unimaginable horrors - including the genocide in Srebrenica - and redress for their suffering is long overdue."

Meanwhile UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Thursday "an historic day for international justice" and commended the Serbian government and President Tadic for their efforts.

Bosnian Muslim women comfort each other, seen among coffins of Srebrenica victims

Mladic is accused of masterminding the murder of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica

'Bright' EU prospects

The 69-year-old lived almost openly in Belgrade until the ousting of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Since then, the capture of Mladic had been one of the preconditions by Brussels for Serbia one day joining the European Union.

The EU on Thursday welcomed the arrest of Mladic. "If this is the case, we consider that Serbia has understood the importance of... reconciliation with its history and its people and has decided it concretely wants to move further on its European path," a European Commission spokeswoman told reporters.

"It's obviously highly important," Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said.

"We can start to close a tragic chapter in the history of Europe. The [...] prospects of Serbia's membership are now brighter than ever."

Author: Andreas Illmer, Timothy Jones (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

Editor: Nicole Goebel

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