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- Ratko Mladic war crimes trial begins
Serbian commander charged over worst atrocities in Europe since the Nazi era, 17 years after Bosnian war ended
Ratko Mladic, the former Serbian military commander during the Bosnian war, has gone on trial for crimes against humanity, 17 years after the conflict came to an end.
Mladic faces 11 charges including two counts of genocide, extermination, murder inhumane acts and deportation in connection with the worst atrocities Europe has seen since the Nazi era. More than 100,000 people died, mostly Muslim and Croatian civilians.
Prosecutor Dermot Groome said Mladic and other Bosnian Serbs had divided the territory of the former Yugoslavia along ethnic lines and implemented a common plan to exterminate non-Serbs.
“The prosecution will present evidence that will show beyond a reasonable doubt the hand of Mr Mladic in each of these crimes,” he said.
Groome began his opening statement by focusing on the plight of a 14-year-old boy whose father and uncle were among 150 men murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in November 1992.
He said Mladic’s forces had continued such killings until 1995, when they massacred 8,000 Muslim men and boys from the town of Srebrenica..
“By the time Mladic and his troops murdered thousands in Srebrenica … they were well rehearsed in the craft of murder,” Groome told the court.
He then showed judges video footage of the aftermath of a notorious shelling of a market in Markale, in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in which dozens of people were killed.
He said all the attacks were part of an “overarching” plan to rid parts of Bosnia of non-Serbs.
Prosecutors would present evidence that showed “beyond reasonable doubt the hand of Mr Mladic in each of these crimes”, Groome said.
Mladic, 70, cuts a far more feeble figure than the stocky, bluff and ruddy-faced former Yugoslav artillery officer who gained notoriety during the war. He suffered a stroke while on the run after the war, but the court has rejected his claims he is too sick to stand trial.
As the blinds covering the thick glass between the courtroom and the gallery were raised at the start of the hearing, Mladic scanned the rows of survivors, bereaved Bosnian families and journalists. He gave them a sarcastic slow handclap and a wave, a smile playing on his lips.
As the prosecution made its opening statement, he mostly listened intently, occasionally taking notes. His right leg jiggled almost constantly under the table. From time to time he would interrupt his focus on the proceedings and look through the glass into the gallery, his eyes going from one person to another as if looking for a particular individual.
After nearly an hour and a half, he called for a bathroom break. The manner in which he did so – pulling a finger across his throat – momentarily caused consternation among the Bosnian families in the gallery. After the two-day statement, the prosecutors have given themselves 200 hours to make their case. They will present the testimony of more than 400 witnesses, most of it in the form of written statements.
“I don’t have to tell you how important it is that finally this trial can start, 17 years after the first indictment was issued,” said the chief prosecutor at the nternational criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Serge Brammertz.
Prosecutors will point to extensive video archives showing Mladic commanding his troops at the sites of the atrocities.
At Srebrenica, he is seen telling Muslim men and boys, some as young as 11: “Surrender your weapons and I will guarantee you life. You can survive or you can disappear”.
The bodies of the 8,000 victims were later found in mass graves The defence is expected to opening its case in October. A not guilty plea has been entered on behalf of Mladic, who refused to co-operate with the court. At a preliminary hearing last year, he heckled the court, claiming he had fought only to defend his people.
Mladic’s lawyer, Miodrag Stojanovic, said: “He says: ‘Tell me what I’ve done wrong. Tell me what bad things I’ve done.’” .
Mladic managed to evade justice for 16 years with the help of Serbian army comrades and the connivance of the Serbian state. He was seen in public in Belgrade and drinking with friends on widely distributed videos. He was caught only after the election of a reformist president, Boris Tadic, who set about rooting out ultra-nationalists from the intelligence and security forces.
As the layers of protection fell away, Mladic was cut off from funds and had been reduced to hiding in the garden shed of a relative in a Serbian village when he was finally caught last year.
The Bosnian Serbs’ wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic, was caught in 2008 and is already midway through his trial. Sloban Milosevic, the former Yugoslav president who orchestrated the Balkan wars from Belgrade, died of a heart attack in his cell in 2006 before a verdict could be delivered in his case.
At the start of today’s hearing the presiding judge, Alphons Orie of the Netherlands, said the court was considering postponing the presentation of evidence, due to start on 29 May, owing to “errors” by prosecutors in disclosing evidence to the defence. Groome said he would not oppose a “reasonable adjournment”.guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
- Sam Hallam to appeal against murder conviction
Young man jailed as a teenager over death of trainee chef in London to challenge guilty verdict after new evidence emerges
A young man convicted of murder will take his case to the court of appeal on Wednesday after new evidence emerged raising doubts over key parts of the prosecution case against him.
The appeal court will examine evidence that questions the safety of the murder conviction of Sam Hallam, 24, from Islington, north London.
Hallam – who was 17 at the time – was convicted in 2005 of murdering trainee chef Essayas Kassahun in Hoxton in October 2004. He was sentenced to life with the recommendation he serve 12 years.
But his family and friends, including the actor Ray Winstone, have campaigned to have his case reopened for a number of years.
After Hallam failed to have his conviction overturned at his first appeal, his case was referred to the criminal cases review commission (CCRC), which spent three years examining the evidence. They instructed Thames Valley police to carry out inquiries on their behalf, which involved examining the whole of the original Metropolitan police murder investigation.
Their report is key to Hallam’s claim of innocence, and unearths new evidence said to undermine the disputed identification evidence from two witnesses that put Hallam at the scene of the killing.
The Thames Valley report is also understood to contain criticism of the original Met police investigation into the killing. The original inquiry did not analyse mobile phone cell site evidence or CCTV footage, it is understood.
That inquiry was led by then Detective Chief Inspector Michael Broster, who was recently criticised by the coroner in the inquest into the death of MI6 officer Gareth Williams over his role as the liaison point with MI6.
The Westminster coroner, Fiona Wilcox, criticised Broster – now a detective superintendent in the anti-terrorist unit, for failing to inform the head of the Williams investigation that he had found nine memory sticks and a holdall belonging to the dead man at his MI6 office. Instead of passing these to the inquiry team he left MI6 to examine them.
It is understood in the Hallam case there is further criticism. Broster’s murder investigation is found to be of poor quality and to lack control.
Hallam, was a kitchen fitter who planned a career in the army when he was arrested for the murder of Kassahun in 2004. Kassahun, 21, had come to the aid of a friend, Louis Colley, who was being attacked on Old Street, in central London, by a mob of youths over a trivial perceived insult.
Hallam was convicted on the basis of disputed identification from two witnesses who placed him at the scene of the killing. In his defence, Hallam claimed he was playing football with a friend at the time. He said he knew there was going to be trouble on the night of the killing as a mob set off to look for Colley and had wanted to avoid it.
One of seven charged with the murder, Hallam initially, on the advice of his lawyer, declined to answer police questions, something his supporters claim may have counted against him at the trial.
Another man, Bullabeck Ringblong, was also convicted of the murder and is serving life. The trial judge recommended Hallam, who is in HMP Bullingdon, should serve a minimum of 12 years.
The CCRC said it decided to refer the case after deciding there was “the real possibility that the court of appeal would now quash the conviction”.
Hallam’s appeal is set to last two days in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds