THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Three of five judges considering the appeal of Ratko Mladic against his convictions for genocide and other crimes are being replaced because they have an “appearance of bias” against the former Bosnian Serb military chief.
The residual mechanism for United Nations international criminal tribunals released a decision Wednesday by French judge Jean-Claude Antonetti removing from Mladic’s appeal proceedings three experienced judges, saying that their involvement in previous cases linked to Mladic means that there is a risk they might not be impartial.
The decision granting a request by Mladic’s defense lawyers is likely to delay the appeal of the ailing 75-year-old former general who is being held in a U.N. cell in The Hague.
Mladic was convicted last year of 10 charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in Serb atrocities during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Among those removed from the case are the residual court’s president, Theodor Meron, an American who is one of the world’s most experienced war crimes judges. The replacement judges, from Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Uganda, have far less experience.
Mladic’s lawyers argued in a motion calling for the removal of Meron and two other judges that their past involvement in convictions of senior Bosnian Serbs linked to Mladic mean that they may not be impartial.
Mladic was convicted on Nov. 22, 2017, of crimes committed throughout the Bosnian war, from early purges of Bosnian Muslims and Croats from towns and villages overrun by Serb forces to the siege of Sarajevo and the war’s bloody climax in the Srebrenica enclave, where forces commanded by Mladic systematically murdered some 8,000 Muslim males and dumped their bodies in mass graves.
Mladic always maintained his innocence.
More than 100,000 people died in the Bosnian conflict before a peace agreement was signed in 1995. Mladic went into hiding for around 10 years before his arrest in Serbia in May 2011.
Mladic’s political master during the war, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, has also been convicted for genocide and sentenced to 40 years. He also is appealing his convictions.
Serbs have long accused the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal of anti-Serb bias.
After Mladic’s conviction last November, top Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik said the court was established with the “single purpose” of demonizing Serbs.