Mladic legal counsel assigned within 10 days: UN court

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Assigning legal counsel to former Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, who is facing charges before a UN war crimes court, could take up to 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 Registry of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

He told a press briefing it depended on a meeting next week between Mladic and a list of seven lawyers he requested, and on Mladic himself to make a choice, for the process to go ahead.

Petrov said the court continued with intense discussions to get the issue resolved, but he added: "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 Hague-based court 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 not allowing him to have his lawyers present.

Petrov said court rules could be amended to have Mladic's Belgrade-based lawyer Milos Saljic, requested by Mladic, appointed as co-counsel.

Saljic indicated he spoke neither English nor French, one of the court's requirements to be appointed a defence lawyer.

"The language requirement could be waivered exceptionally if the interest of justice so requires," said Petrov.

"Therefore Saljic could be co-counsel in Mr Mladic's case," he said.

Mladic's lead counsel, however, would have to be appointed according to the court's rules, he added.

Asked about the joining of Mladic's case with that of Bosnian Serb 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.

© 2011 AFP

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