Mladic questioning halted due to defendant's health

General accused of war crimes in Bosnia; court briefly adjourned because Mladic was sick, "hardly responsive."

May 27, 2011 10:29
2 minute read.
Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic

Mladic 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

BELGRADE - Bosnian Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic will face trial on genocide charges in The Hague following his arrest in Serbia after 15 years on the run, with European officials expecting his extradition within 10 days.

Serbian state television showed video of Mladic, 69, being escorted by police to be interviewed by an investigative judge at the special war crimes court in Belgrade on Thursday. Wearing a cap, he was moving slowly with a slight limp.

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Mladic's lawyer later told reporters the court had halted the questioning because his client was "in serious condition. He is hardly responsive." An official described the once burly general as looking disoriented and tired.

The deputy war crimes prosecutor said the court would continue to question Mladic on Friday.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she expected Mladic to be extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague within nine or 10 days.

Tadic confirmed Mladic, 69, had been detained in Serbia, which for years had said it could not find him.

Although his arrest removed a diplomatic thorn from Belgrade's side, the revelation that Mladic was in Serbia, as many suspected, raises questions as to how he eluded justice for so long.

The arrest on Thursday of Mladic, the last of the three men blamed for instigating ethnic cleansing during the 1992-5 Bosnian war, was expected to clear the way for the former pariah state of Serbia to join the European Union.

"On behalf of the Republic of Serbia I can announce the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The extradition process is under way," Serbian President Boris Tadic told reporters in Belgrade.

Mladic, accused of orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica and a brutal 43-month siege of Sarajevo, was found in a farmhouse owned by a cousin.

"Mladic had two loaded guns he did not use. He was cooperative and did not resist arrest," said Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian minister in charge of the search for fugitive war criminals.

Washington and other capitals hailed Mladic's arrest.

"The European prospects of Serbia are now brighter than ever," said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

"Serbia is a country that has suffered a lot but the fact it has delivered presumed war criminals is very good news. It's one more step towards Serbia's integration one day into the European Union," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at a Group of Eight summit in France.

Former US President Bill Clinton, whose administration brokered the deal that ended the Bosnian war, said: "The capture of Ratko Mladic enables the Bosnian people to close another chapter of one of the most terrifying conflicts of our time.

"As the military commander who systematically carried out brutal atrocities and mass murder, Mladic will finally be held accountable -- to Bosnia and the world."

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