On the last day of the closing arguments, Mladic’s defense lawyer Ivetic denied Mladic was responsible for the terror campaign in Sarajevo, genocide in Srebrenica and taking UN staff hostage. According to the defense, Mladic should be acquitted. If, however, the judges do find him guilty, his prison sentence should not exceed five to 15 years
According to Ratko Mladic’s defense, the prosecution has failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt as it was required to and therefore the only just decision would be to acquit him. If, however, the Trial Chamber decides to find him guilty, the sentence should be between five and 15 years in prison and should on no account exceed 20 years, as that was the harshest sentence foreseen by the SFRY’s penal code which was in force when the crimes the former VRS Main Staff commander is charged with were committed. As the defense lawyer pointed at the end of the three-day closing arguments, the European Court for Human Rights reaffirmed the principle when it rescinded the judgments issued by the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The last day of the defense’s closing arguments started with the bid to challenge the prosecution evidence on the artillery and sniper terror campaign in Sarajevo. According to Ivetic, Sarajevo was ‘a defended city’ and as such was ‘a legitimate military target’ for the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps which engaged only in self-defense. dan.
On the other hand, Ivetic went on, the BH Army was a superior force, better armed and highly mobile. It was also ‘prone to shooting their own people’ and used civilian buildings for military purposes, thereby‘invalidating their protected status’. As the defense lawyer also noted, Karadzic and Krajisnik ‘were in cahoots’ with the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps commander, General Milosevic, meeting him behind Mladic’s back. In effect, Mladic was excluded from the decision-making regarding the operations in the Sarajevo theatre of war..
From Sarajevo, Ivetic moved on to Srebrenica, challenging first Mladic’s responsibility for the forcible transfer of more than 25,000 women, children and the elderly. As Ivetic said, the decision to evacuate them from Potocari was made by UNPROFOR, which sought Mladic’s help to provide buses which were to take the people to the BH Army-controlled area. If anyone’s to blame for their transfer, that’s the UN, not Mladic, his lawyer said..
According to Ivetic, there were no plans or orders to kill the Srebrenica men. Mladic had ordered that they be treated as prisoners of war and be prepared for an exchange. When the killings took place, Mladic was in Belgrade. Upon his return, Mladic was ‘horrified’ to learn what had happened, his lawyer told the court. According to him, the killings in Srebrenica were committed by ‘people who wanted revenge, local Serbs and rogue security service personnel’.
Ivetic also addressed the accusation that his client was responsible for incidents in which UN staff were taken hostage and used as human shields. According to the defense, their capture was ‘justifiable’ because they had sided with the enemy and acted as spotters for the NATO planes, helping them target VRS facilities. With the exception of a few cases when the paramilitaries tied the captured blue helmets to the military facilities in order to deter NATO from targeting them, the captured UN staff were treated in line with the Geneva Conventions, Ivetic concluded.
At the end of the hearing today, Ivetic relayed Mladic’s request for ‘a two-minute silence’ for all the victims of the ‘senseless war in BH’. The judges refused it, noting that this went ‘beyond the scope of its work’.
The closing arguments at Ratko Mladic’s trial will end on Thursday, when the parties will have 90 minutes each to respond to the arguments presented in the previous six days.