Mladic notebooks show 'new evidence': war crimes prosecutors

19th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

UN war crimes prosecutors have found useful new evidence in 18 recently discovered "military notebooks" thought to belong to fugitive Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, they said Thursday.

The prosecution wants to add the notebooks as evidence in three trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, including that of Mladic's former political head: Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic.

Mladic, 68, has been on the run since being indicted by the court in 1995 for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity -- including his role in the Srebrenica massacre -- as Yugoslavia tore itself apart.

"The notebooks constitute a significant volume of new evidence," prosecution spokeswoman Olga Kavran told AFP of the 3,500 handwritten pages found last month in the Belgrade apartment of Mladic's wife, Bosiljka.

In documents filed with the tribunal, the prosecution states the notebooks were among 169 items seized by an official of the Serbian interior ministry in a search of Bosiljka Mladic's apartment on February 23.

They cover the period June 1991 to November 1996.

"The prosecution believes that the notebooks are contemporaneous notes taken by General Ratko Mladic," said Kavran.

A court official, who has seen the notes but declined to be named, told AFP: "They recount everything that Mladic did during the war years: he noted his meetings, the dates, whom he met and what they discussed."

Kavran said 120 audio and video recordings, a computer memory stick, medical records, mobile phone SIM cards, and "miscellaneous papers" were among the items sized.

The Serbian government initially provided the notebooks to the office of the prosecutor in scanned format. The originals were presented to the tribunal on May 11.

The prosecution had "persuasive evidence" of the notebooks' authenticity, said Kavran, adding their origin had been corroborated by Mladic's former deputy, General Manojlo Milovanovic.

"He has reviewed all of the scanned Mladic notebooks and recognised the handwriting to be that of Ratko Mladic."

In a separate filing seeking permission to add the notebooks as evidence in the Karadzic trial, the prosecution said Mladic wrote of meetings with Karadzic and several others tried by the tribunal, at which they discussed "strategic objectives" and military operations.

The notes were "taken during meetings with the accused (Karadzic), high level military and political officials, and others throughout the conflict in the former Yugoslavia," said the filing.

The charges against Mladic relate to "ethnic cleansing" committed in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 dead, the July 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and the taking of UN hostages.

He is charged in his capacity as former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, and stands accused with Karadzic of pursuing the "permanent removal" of Croats and Muslims from Serb-claimed Bosnian territory.

© 2010 AFP

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