AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Yugoslavia war crimes court said it would hold just one trial for genocide suspect Ratko Mladic, rejecting a prosecution request for two separate trials to speed up proceedings because of his ill health.
Former Bosnian Serb military chief Mladic, arrested in May and transferred to The Hague after 16 years on the run, is accused of orchestrating the genocide of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo in which 10,000 people were killed.
Mladic, 69, has frequently complained of ill health, most recently last week, since his arrest and extradition. On Tuesday his lawyer said Mladic had been admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia.
Prosecutors had proposed splitting the case against Mladic in two to speed up proceedings, mindful that former Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic spent four years on trial but died in 2006 before a verdict could be reached.
But in a ruling published on Thursday, judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said a split, instead of making the trial more manageable, could in fact have the opposite effect.
“The chamber considers that there is no reason to sever the second amended indictment and further considers that severance could prejudice the accused, could render the trials less manageable and less efficient, and risk unduly burdening witnesses,” Presiding Judge Alphons Orie wrote in the ruling.
Claims that a split trial would address the issue of a possible deterioration in Mladic’s health were speculative and unsubstantiated, not supported by medical documentation, the judges added.
The prosecution had asked for the indictment to be broken up between one covering the Srebrenica crimes and a second pertaining to Sarajevo and other municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as hostage-taking.
Judges accepted the prosecution’s request to include the killing of over 30 Bosnian Muslim men in the village of Bisina in Eastern Bosnia in July 1995 in the charges. Mladic will be asked to enter a plea on the new charge on November 10.
Reporting By Greg Roumeliotis and Aaron Gray-Block; editing by Andrew Roche