The Yuglosav war crimes court has adjourned until further notice the trial of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, just a day after it opened.
The presiding judge delayed until further notice the presentation of evidence that had been scheduled to start later this month due to “errors” by prosecutors in disclosing evidence to defence lawyers.
“The hearing is adjourned sine die,” presiding Judge Alphons Orie said on Thursday. “[The court] has decided to suspend the start of the presentation of the prosecution evidence.”
Orie said judges were still analysing the “scope and full impact” of the error.
He said he aimed to establish a new starting date “as soon as possible”.
Prosecutors already had admitted the errors and did not object to a delay in the trial.
Mladic’s lawyer has asked for a six-month delay.
Reporting from The Hague, Netherlands, Barnaby Phillips noted that the initial hearings were always supposed to last two days.
“What has happened is that the prosecution has failed in good time to give all the evidence to the defence,” he said.
The part of the trial that is likely to be delayed is the calling of witnesses. The judge has not yet committed to a date, although prior to the delay, it would have been July 29.
Earlier, prosecutors wrapped up their opening statement in the trial by recounting in painstaking and chilling detail the systematic murder by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Mladic of thousands of Muslim men and boys in Bosnia’s Srebrenica enclave in July 1995, Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.
Exact numbers of the Srebrenica massacre range from 7,000 to 8,000.
“In a period of only five days, from July 12-16, 1995, the armed forces of [Bosnian Serb leader] Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic expelled the civilian population of Srebrenica and murdered over 7,000 Srebrenica men and boys,” prosecutor Peter McCloskey said.
Mladic’s army “carried out their murderous orders with … dedication and military efficiency,” he said.
Mladic, the 70-year-old former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, showed no emotion on the second day of his genocide trial as judges were shown a fleeting video of what prosecutors said were the bodies executed Muslim men piled in front of a bullet-riddled wall.
On Wednesday – the first day of the trial – the court’s public gallery was crowded with relatives of the slain men who angrily exchanged hand gestures with Mladic through the bulletproof glass screen separating them.
Most of the survivors had left the next day, Thursday. Videos showing a bullish Mladic strutting through the deserted streets of Srebrenica and berating the commander of Dutch UN peacekeepers were greeted largely with silence and
One woman, Hatidza Mehmedovic, wept in the court’s lobby during a break in the proceedings.
“I buried both of my sons and my husband. Now I live alone with memories of my children,” she said. “I would never wish even Mladic to go through what I go through. Not Mladic or Karadzic. Let God judge them.”
Mladic is accused of commanding Bosnian Serb troops who waged a campaign of murder and persecution to drive Muslims and Croats out of territory they considered part of Serbia. His troops rained shells and snipers’ bullets down on civilians in the 44-month-long siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.
He has refused to enter pleas, but denies wrongdoing. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.