The end of the second round of closing arguments by the prosecution and defense in the case against Ratko Mladic today marked the end of the last trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Any future trials (i.e. retrials and contempt of court proceedings) will be held before the Tribunal’s successor, the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals
The lead prosecutor Alan Tieger landed the first blow in the last round of the closing arguments presented by the parties over seven days. As he challenged the arguments Mladic’s defense had put forward in its final brief and the three-day closing arguments, Tieger noted that the defense was relying on evidence that has been mischaracterized, unreliable, taken out of context and even non-existent. Ignoring the four and a half years of the trial and the huge case file which contains numerous witness testimonies and exhibits pointing to the guilt of the accused, the defense instead decided to imply that Mladic was on trial ‘simply because he is a Serb’ and is using unfounded claims to support its argument.
General Mladic is on trial ‘not because he is a Serb and not because he is a military officer. He is on trial because there is evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide’, the prosecutor added.
The prosecutor paid particular attention to the arguments presented by the defense describing the Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic as ‘a precursor to ISIS’ who wanted to ‘destroy Serbs with his Islamic war machine’. As Tieger noted, the ‘apocalyptic image does not tally with the evidence and cannot be used to isolate General Mladic from being held responsible’ for the crimes. The prosecutor recalled Karadzic’s description of Bosnian Muslims as ‘Europeized Slavs’, rather than Islamic fanatics. He also noted that after the first multi-party elections in BH the three ethnic-based parties formed a coalition government. Izetbegovic’s Islamic Declaration was mentioned for the first time in late 1993 at a session of the Republika Srpska Assembly.
Mladic’s defense lawyer Dragan Ivetic countered by invoking the evidence of Milorad Dodik, Nenad Kecmanovic and Vojo Kupresanin who all testified that the Islamic Declaration and the call to Jihad and the establishment of a Muslim dominance over the infidels it contained caused a great deal of fear among the Bosnian Serbs.
The defense’s argument that ‘the entire city of Sarajevo was a legitimate military target’ was termed ‘terrifying’ by the prosecutor, who urged the judges to reject it. The defense stuck to its guns and referred to the appellate judgment which acquitted Croatian generals Gotovina and Cermak of the shelling of Knin. The presence of mobile mortars in Sarajevo, Ivetic said, is proof that Sarajevo was ‘a defended city’. He also questioned the prosecution’s allegations about unlawful indiscriminate targeting of the city.
Tackling the ‘insinuation’, as he called it, of Mladic’s lead counsel Branko Luketic who compared the trial of the former VRS Main Staff commander with ‘the Fourth Reich’, prosecutor Tieger presented some figures: the trial lasted four and half years, over 400 witnesses testified in the course of the trial, more than half of them in Mladic’s defense, and the defense took 700 hours to examine the witnesses, more than the prosecution and the judges. Furthermore, the defense tendered more than 2,000 exhibits, including the three exhibits admitted this week, several months after the expiry of the deadline for the presentation of evidence. All those facts, the prosecutor concluded, indicate that Mladic has had a fair trial. .
In its final response, the defense insisted that the prosecution had failed to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt and that he should therefore be acquitted.
After hearing the final responses presented by the parties, judges Alphons Orie, Bakone Moloto and Christoph Fluegge withdrew to deliberate. The judgment will be delivered next November.