Mladic in Court 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE HAGUE - Former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic was removed from the UN war crimes court at The Hague on Monday after refusing to enter a plea and disrupting the judge's attempts to read out the charges against him.
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The judge later entered formal pleas of not guilty on behalf of Mladic to the various charges against him, which include genocide, and relate to the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica -- Europe's worst massacre since World War Two.
Having threatened to boycott his second hearing since being tracked down, arrested and extradited from Serbia in May, Mladic did appear but spent several minutes demanding different legal representation and requesting a delay before having to plead.
"No, no, I'm not going to listen to this without my lawyer," Mladic
shouted as he removed his translation headphones when judge Alphons Orie
began reading out the charges.
"Who are you? You're not allowing me to breathe."
Mladic, 69, was represented by a court-appointed lawyer.
The judge said the court would look into allowing him to be represented in future by other lawywers of his choice.
Arrested after 16 years on the run, Mladic had defiantly rejected war
crimes charges against him as "obnoxious" and "monstrous" when he was
formally charged at the Yugoslavia war crimes court last month.
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.
The stakes are high for Serbia because Mladic's trial could unearth
evidence showing Belgrade knew about or helped commit genocide at
Srebrenica if Mladic argues he was carrying out orders, or the desires,
of political leaders.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that Serbia failed to
prevent genocide, but was not responsible for it. The decision shielded
Serbia from compensation claims from Bosnia.
"If they (Serb authorities) were more strongly involved, the conclusion
would still be the same that they did not prevent genocide, but because
of their involvement there might be reasons to reopen the issue of
compensation," said Andre de Hoogh, a lecturer in international law at
Hague prosecutor Serge Brammertz has said Mladic used his power to
commit atrocities and must answer for it, but Serb nationalists say
Mladic defended the nation and did no worse than Croat or Bosnian Muslim
Mladic, who has said he is a "gravely ill" man, is no longer in the
prison hospital and now plays chess with other detainees. He argued last
month he only defended his country and people.