By Lauren Comiteau
Serbian war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic was ordered out of his own arraignment by judges at the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The former military commander of the Bosnian Serbs refused to enter pleas to the 11 counts against him, leaving judges to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf, without him present.
It was high drama in the courtroom from the start. As soon as Ratko Mladic entered, he tipped his hat and gave a thumbs up to the public gallery. The presiding judge warned him not to do that, but the former general continued to defy the judge throughout the proceeding, interrupting him and even laughing as the judge spoke.
Mladic also accused judges of trying to impose a lawyer on him, a charge judges denied.
But it was when presiding Judge Alphonse Orie started to read out the genocide charge that Mladic threw off his headphones and started shouting. An interpreter can be heard translating some of the exchange.
Mladic removed from court
Judge Orie had the curtains drawn while Mladic was taken out of court. On the other side of those curtains, in the public gallery, survivors of the Srebrenica massacre were calling the former Serb commander a murderer.
Hasan Nuhanovic was one of the survivors watching from the public gallery. He was a translator for Dutch U.N. troops in charge of protecting the Srebrencia safe haven in 1995. He watched as his mother, father and brother were handed over to forces led by General Ratko Mladic. He never saw them again.
Mladic is charged with genocide for what happened there. Nuhanovic called the former general’s court outbursts typical of his behavior. “Speaking about Mladic’s personality, that is not the point. I do not really care about Mladic’s personality. It is a spectacle, for everyone. I do not care about that. I care about the substance of the case. And it is much more than Mladic’s personality,” he said.
Not guilty plea
After a brief recess, judges reconvened without Mladic present and entered not guilty pleas to all the charges on his behalf.
Mladic’s court appointed attorney, whom the former general refuses to talk to now, asked to be dismissed. Judges denied his request. They asked him to inform Mladic that they pleaded not guilty for him.