Former Bosnian Serb army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic has slammed the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal as a “satanic court” and refused to testify as a defence witness for his former political master, Radovan Karadzic.
A courtroom reunion on Tuesday of the two alleged chief architects of Serb atrocities during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war lasted only about an hour as Gen. Mladic told judges repeatedly he would not answer former Bosnian Serb President Karadzic’s questions.
The brief hearing marked the first time the two men had been seen together publicly since the aftermath of the war, but Gen. Mladic’s refusal to answer any questions beyond sketching a brief history of his military service meant it cast no new light on the war that left some 100,000 people dead.
Gen. Mladic was to have been one of Mr, Karadzic’s last defence witnesses. Mr. Karadzic’s attorney Peter Robinson said the former Bosnian Serb leader plans to testify in his own defence in February.
Both Mr. Karadzic and Gen. Mladic disappeared for years after the guns fell silent in Bosnia as they attempted to evade capture and extradition to face trial in The Hague. Mr. Karadzic was finally captured in Serbia in 2008, disguised as a bushy- bearded new-age healer, and Gen. Mladic was detained nearly three years later.
Both men are now on trial separately for crimes including genocide. Both insist they are innocent arguing that everything they did during the war was intended to defend the Serb people and face maximum life sentences if convicted.
Gen. Mladic initially refused to testify, then said he would speak if officials fetched his dentures, which he had left in his cell in the tribunal’s detention unit.
But with his false teeth in place, Gen. Mladic again refused to testify and despite issuing a subpoena for him to appear in court, judges would not compel him to give evidence.
Gen. Mladic’s lawyer, Branko Lukic, told judges Gen. Mladic could not testify because he suffers from a stroke-induced condition he called “deception of memory” and can’t tell fact from fiction.
The two former allies barely made eye contact during the hearing. Mr. Karadzic was businesslike — often looking down at documents on his desk. Gen. Mladic appeared to be enjoying the attention, waving to the packed public gallery and saluting judges as he left court.
As Gen. Mladic walked past Mr. Karadzic on his way out of court, Gen. Mladic said in Serbian- “Radovan, thank you and sorry. The idiots would not let me. They defend NATO bombs.”
Going through the motions of the examination of a witness, Mr. Karadzic asked Gen. Mladic questions about the main allegations in their respective indictments, even though he knew the bullish general would refuse to answer.
Gen. Mladic repeatedly read out a refusal he had printed on a sheet of paper, once telling judges he touched upon the Srebrenica massacre in his seven-page prepared statement.
“I think it would be interesting,” he told judges.
As he stood up to leave, Gen. Mladic sardonically thanked judges for not letting him say what he wanted to say.
“You have confirmed my thesis that the Hague tribunal is not a court of law but a satanic court,” he said through a courtroom interpreter.