Mladic treated for cancer -- lawyer

2nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Ratko Mladic was treated for cancer in a Belgrade hospital two years ago while fleeing genocide charges, his lawyer said Thursday ahead his first appearance at a UN court.

"I have medical records showing that he was treated for lymphoma in 2009 in a Belgrade hospital", Belgrade-based lawyer Milos Saljic told AFP.

On Friday, the man dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia" will be asked to plead to 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the UN Court in The Hague.

For long Europe's most wanted man, Mladic, 69, was arrested in northeast Serbia last Thursday and extradited to The Netherlands on Tuesday.

Belgrade daily Press reported on Thursday that, according to Saljic, Mladic had "three stokes and two heart attacks, and spent four months at one clinic in Belgrade being treated for cancer."

The daily published a document which has Mladic's name, year of birth and other personal details, as well as the medical diagnosis "non-Hodgkin Lyphoma".

During his first appearance in court of Friday, Mladic will be asked by a judge to identify himself and will be asked about his health and conditions of detention.

He can then opt to have the court read out the 62-page indictment against him for atrocities committed in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war that claimed 100,000 lives.

Mladic is accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys, and the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

He will be asked Friday to plead to the charges against him, but may opt to delay this by 30 days. If by then he has not yet pled, the court will enter an automatic 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 can be sentenced to life in prison, at most.

International news crews swarmed into The Hague Thursday and satellite TV trucks jostled for space outside the tribunal.

As news crews descended on the city, the tribunal had to rent extra space at a conference centre across the road to handle the expected overflow of visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the ex-general in the dock.

Large screens will be erected and extra chairs put out for people to follow the hearing, with the 100-odd seats in the courtroom and even the ICTY lobby expected to be overrun, according to the court's press office.

The ICTY also announced it has assigned a lawyer from a list of accredited counsel to represent Mladic at his first appearance.

Mladic has been informed of his right to appoint a permanent lawyer or to have one assigned to him by the court if he couldn't pay one, said a court document.

But it was not clear whether he has retained counsel or would opt instead to conduct his own defence, as his former political head Radovan Karadzic has been doing since his own trial on similar charges opened in October 2009.

Mladic's family are not expected among the throngs at court Friday.

"The family will not go to The Hague in the next 15 days," Saljic has told AFP, adding they would wait for the initial appearance to pass and then visit him "calmly" in The Hague.

Five representatives of victims' groups said Thursday they were on their way to The Hague to attend the hearing.

© 2011 AFP

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