Mladic legal counsel could take 10 days: UN court

6th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Assigning legal counsel for former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, facing charges before a UN war crimes court, could take about 10 days, a court official said Wednesday.

"We are maybe looking at 10 days to assign counsel" for Mladic, said Martin Petrov, chief of the office of the registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

He told a press briefing the timing depended on the outcome of a meeting next week between Mladic and a shortlist of seven lawyers he had drawn up.

Petrov said talks were ongoing to resolve the issue, but: "If Mr Mladic doesn't make a choice, there is little that the registry can do."

The 69-year-old ex-general Monday made a second appearance before the court in The Hague following his arrest and deportation from Serbia in May.

Mladic faces 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war in which 100,000 people died.

At his second appearance, Mladic angrily berated judges for no defence lawyer being present.

Petrov said the court may allow Mladic's Belgrade-based lawyer Milos Saljic, requested by the accused, appointed as co-counsel.

But Saljic has indicated he spoke neither English nor French, a court requirement to be appointed as defence lawyer, Petrov said.

"The language requirement could be waived exceptionally if the interest of justice so requires," said Petrov, stressing that no special exceptions would be made in Mladic's case.

"Therefore Saljic could be co-counsel in Mr Mladic's case," he said, with a lead counsel appointed according to the court's rules.

Asked about the possibility of joining Mladic's case with that of his wartime political head Radovan Karadzic, the prosecutor's spokesman said it was unlikely.

"We are preparing for the Mladic trial," said Frederick Swinnen, special advisor to UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz. "At this stage the prospect of joining the two trials is unlikely," he said.

Karadzic is representing himself at trial, having waived his right to a lawyer.

Mladic is accused of masterminding the Srebrenica massacre -- Europe's worst mass killing since World War II -- and the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo from May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

His trial could take months to get under way and is likely to last several years.

Mladic face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

© 2011 AFP

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