The former head of the Bosnian Serb armed forces during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s was today removed from a hearing at the United Nations tribunal trying him on genocide charges after he continually interrupted the presiding judge.
Ratko Mladic, who was arrested in Serbia in May after evading capture for 16 years, was appearing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague.
But Mr. Mladic – the former general and head of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) Main Staff – was removed from the courtroom just over 20 minutes into the hearing after he ignored repeated warnings from Judge Alphons Orie to stop interrupting the proceedings.
Judge Orie had also repeatedly rebuked Mr. Mladic for communicating with the public gallery during the hearing.
Mr. Mladic, who had disputed the choice of counsel allocated to him, shouted “you're not allowing me to breathe” as he was led out of the court.
The hearing later resumed and Judge Orie entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Mr. Mladic to all 11 charges, which include genocide, extermination and murder. Mr. Mladic had earlier refused to enter a plea.
The indictment alleges Mr. Mladic is responsible for a series of crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, including the notorious massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995 in the supposed “safe haven” of Srebrenica, and the prolonged siege of the city of Sarajevo.
At today's hearing Mr. Mladic was represented by court-appointed counsel, but he has asked for two other lawyers to be appointed.
However, Judge Orie said it is still to be verified whether those two lawyers have the necessary qualifications to appear before the court. He advised Mr. Mladic to discuss the issue with the court's registrar.