The prison where Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general accused of genocide during the Bosnian war, is being held is “better” than he deserves, an army officer has said.
Naser Oric, an officer who commanded Bosnian Muslim forces in Srebrenica, the site of the 1995 massacre in which 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, says the conditions at the Scheveningen prison in The Hague are too comfortable.
“He will certainly live better than any of the families he hurt, whose children he killed, he will feel better, he will live better than those families,” Oric, who is also a former detainee, said.
The detention centre is housing a number of former leaders on trial for war crimes, including Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, and Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader.
Mladic is expected to make his first appearance at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Friday, where he will answer to charges of orchestrating the Srebrenica massacre and the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, in which 10,000 people died.
His lawyer and family have said the former army commander, who was on the run for 16 years, is too ill to stand trial.
‘Treated for cancer’
On Thursday Milos Saljic, Mladic’s lawyer, said he had medical records showing that his client was treated for cancer in 2009.
“I have medical records showing that he was treated for lymphoma in 2009 in a Belgrade hospital,” he told the AFP news agency.
In a separate interview, he reportedly showed the AP news agency a photocopy of a doctors’ diagnosis and said Mladic was in hospital between April 20 and July 18 two years ago.
The claim could cast doubt over how much authorities knew of Mladic’s whereabouts in recent years.
However Nerma Jelacic, a spokeswoman for the ICTY, would not comment on Saljic’s claim.
Dragan Sutanovac, Serbia’s defence minister, accused the lawyer of “manipulating the public” and was sceptical about the document.
“I really don’t believe in that story, but we’ll investigate,” he said.
Mladic will be asked at his court appearance on Friday to identify himself and to answer questions about his health and conditions of detention.
He may then have the 62-page indictment read out, including 11 charges, after which he will be asked to plead to the charges. He will have 30 days to do so, failing which the court will enter a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
If Mladic does enter a guilty plea, there will be no trial and a date will be set for a sentencing hearing. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.