The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), composed of Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe, presiding, Judge Aminatta Lois Runeni N’gum, Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam, Judge Seymour Panton, and Judge Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya heard yesterday and today oral arguments in the appeals filed by Mr. Ratko Mladić and the Prosecution against the judgement rendered on 22 November 2017 by the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
On 16 December 2019, the Appeals Chamber scheduled the appeal hearing to take place on 17 and 18 March 2020. Followed by a motion filed by Mladić, the Appeals Chamber stayed the appeal hearing on 6 March 2020 on the basis of Mladić’s then upcoming surgery. On 1 May 2020, the Appeals Chamber noted Mladić’s progress in recovering from the surgery and rescheduled the hearing to take place on 16 and 17 June 2020. On 28 May 2020, based on submissions from the Registrar and the Defence, the Appeals Chamber found it not feasible to hold the rescheduled appeal hearing due to coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions, and stayed the hearing until further notice. On 17 July 2020, the Appeals Chamber rescheduled the hearing to take place on 25 and 26 August 2020 and found it in the interests of justice to conduct the hearing partly through videoconference due to coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions. On 14 August 2020, the Appeals Chamber denied Defence requests to stay the rescheduled hearing and to order a competency review of Mladić’s capacity, finding that the Defence had, among others, repeatedly failed to substantiate that Mladić is unable to communicate, consult with his counsel, and/or understand the essentials of the proceedings.
During the appeal hearing on 25 and 26 August 2020, Judge Ibanda-Nahamya was present in the courtroom in person, while Judges Nyambe, N’gum, Kam, and Panton participated via videoconference-link.
Mr. Mladić was appointed by the Bosnian Serb Assembly as Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Republika Srpska, the VRS, on 12 May 1992 and remained in command until at least 8 November 1996. The Trial Chamber convicted Mr. Mladić of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws or customs of war and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Specifically, the Trial Chamber found him responsible for committing these crimes through a “leading and grave role” in four joint criminal enterprises which purposes were to: (i) permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 12 May 1992 until 30 November 1995 through persecution, extermination, murder, inhumane acts (forcible transfer), and deportation; (ii) spread terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo through a campaign of sniping and shelling between 12 May 1992 and November 1995; (iii) eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by killing the men and boys and forcibly removing the women, young children, and some elderly men from the days immediately preceding 11 July 1995 to at least October 1995; and (iv) capture United Nations personnel deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and detain them in strategic military locations to prevent the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from launching further military air strikes on Bosnian Serb military targets from approximately 25 May 1995 to approximately 24 June 1995.
On appeal, Mr. Mladić contended that the Trial Chamber violated his fair trial rights and erred in law and in fact in convicting him and in imposing the sentence. He requested the Appeals Chamber to quash his convictions, or alternatively, order a new trial or reduce his sentence. The Prosecution challenged certain findings or conclusions of the Trial Chamber pertaining to the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory in municipalities throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina from 12 May 1992 until 30 November 1995 and for not convicting him of genocide on this basis.
The Appeals Chamber will render its judgement in due course.