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Mladic to appear at war crimes tribunal on Friday

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Mladic arrives in The Hague
  • Mladic remains in isolation after his extradition to The Hague
  • The onetime Bosnian Serb commander faces war crimes charges, including genocide
  • His lawyer says Mladic would not be able to participate in a trial
  • The prosecutor says Mladic has been lively, joking

The Hague, Netherlands (CNN) -- Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Ratko Mladic will make his first appearance at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague on Friday morning, the court said.

After more than 15 years in hiding before his arrest last week, Mladic will go before the court at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET), according to Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"His arrest confirms that no one can have impunity for the crimes they've committed," Brammertz told reporters on Wednesday.

"I hear many people commenting that his arrest ends an important chapter for international criminal justice. But the process of establishing Rako Mladic's accountability has only just begun," he said.

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Mladic, 69, was the commander of Bosnian Serb forces during the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the bloodiest of the conflicts that accompanied Yugoslavia's breakup in the 1990s.

The years since, Brammertz said, "is a long time to wait for justice. It is a long time to know that someone responsible for their trauma is walking free. We understand why the victims have been impatient for their day and we recognize their courage."

Facing charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war, Mladic remained in the custody of the court Wednesday, where he was taken a day earlier after losing his fight against extradition from Serbia. He is being held in isolation.

An amended indictment was filed on Wednesday against Mladic to make sure charges "reflect the most recent developments in the Tribunal's case law."

Brammertz said the transfer brings the tribunal closer to completing its mandate to capture those responsible for the most serious crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

"As a result of the arrest, today only one of the 161 persons indicted by the Tribunal remains at large," Brammertz said, referring to Goran Hadzic, a political leader of the Serbian entity in Croatia during the mid-90s.

"We want to see the remaining ICTY fugitive Goran Hadzic arrested without further delay," Brammertz said.

Brammertz points out that the international community and Serbia played a key role in apprehending Mladic.

"I have no doubt that Mladic will receive a fair trial and that his rights will be respected. We will draw on the many lessons we have learned over the years to make the Mladic prosecution successful," Brammertz said. "Our challenge is to present a manageable case that reasonably reflects Ratko Mladic's alleged criminality and the harms suffered by his victims. We will need resources to complete the work that now lies ahead. The continued support of the international community will remain critical to our success."

Authorities have been critical of Serbia's inability to capture Mladic over the years but, Brammertz said, officials are pleased with the country's efforts to arrest the fugitive.

"Could he have been arrested earlier? Of course he could've been arrested earlier. It's late, but not too late," he said.

Brammertz said that there are many cases being handled by prosecutors in other Balkan nations and not being brought before the tribunal.

"We must not forget that the victims of many thousands of other crimes committed during the wars are still waiting for justice."

Mladic is accused of leading a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against Bosnia's Muslim and Croat populations that included the shelling of Sarajevo and the torture, abuse and rape of civilians.

More than 200,000 Muslims and Croats died in the 1992-95 conflict, including nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys slaughtered at Srebrenica in 1995 -- Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

"He was the most powerful military figure in Bosnia during the war. He's charged with crimes that shocked the conscience of the international community," Brammertz said on Wednesday.

Mladic's lawyer, Milos Saljic, argues that Mladic would not be able to participate in a trial at The Hague because of his ill health.

Saljic said he wants Mladic examined by specialists "who can investigate his specific needs," including a gastroenterologist, a cardiologist, a psychiatrist and a neurologist.

Mladic's son, Darko, told an ultranationalist rally Sunday that his father "needs medical treatment that he is not getting."

But Serbia's chief prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, said Mladic was "lively and joking," and had asked for Russian classics to read while being held in Belgrade.

John Hocking, ICTY registrar, said it's up to the judges to determine whether he's unfit to stand trial.

"My role is to ensure that detainees receive the best medical attention and care," Hocking said.

"He'll get the full treatments that any of our detainees would receive. We provide the best medical facilities available to all of our detainees. At this stage, it's all very much routine."

He and Mladic communicated through interpreters during his induction at The Hague. He said Mladic was cooperative and "we communicated extremely well."

"There's no question at this stage that he will be segregated. In terms of whom he'll share the wing with is still being discussed. There are 12 detainees in each wing, and it's still being assessed where best is to place Mr. Mladic," he said.

Mladic gave himself up without a fight Thursday, despite having two handguns, according to Rasim Ljajic, the government minister in charge of searching for fugitive suspected war criminals.

Officials located Mladic in a village called Lazarevo, north of the Serbian capital, after culling information from his former comrades, those who supported him financially and his close family members. It is not clear what source led investigators to the former military commander.

The arrest clears a major hurdle that once stood between Serbia and its long-awaited entrance into the European Union, but the move could also usher in political backlash from the country's electorate, some of whom consider Mladic a hero.

Speaking to a Serbian Radical Party demonstration outside Belgrade's parliament building Sunday, Darko Mladic described his father as "a freedom fighter." The elder Mladic "defended his own nation, defended his people, which was his job," his son said.

The other fugitive war criminal suspects previously captured are Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in jail in 2006 during his trial at The Hague.

Authorities say it's theoretically possible that the trials could be merged.

"The Karadzic trial is now ongoing for one and a half years. Based on the rules of proceedings it's still theoretically possible to envision a possible joinder. No decision has been taken in this regard," Brammertz said.

Bosnia remains largely divided nearly 16 years after the end of the war, with its largely autonomous Serbian half taking steps that the U.N. high representative in Sarajevo warns will undermine the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the war.

"Sometimes we enter this process which is very fragile, but then something happens and draws us back," Miranda Sidran-Kamisalic, the Bosnian ambassador to the Netherlands, said.

She said Mladic's capture could be an "incredibly important" step toward reconciliation. But she added that Bosnian Serbs need to hear the same kind of "clear message" from Belgrade that Croatian President Ivo Josipovic delivered to Bosnian Croats in 2010: "that Bosnia-Herzegovina is their home, and Sarajevo is their capital."

Sidran-Kamisalic met with Mladic for about half an hour Tuesday to discuss any needed consular services. She told CNN the meeting was professional but "incredibly difficult" personally and noted

Mladic "seemed very fit, a very healthy man."

"In my city, there were so many thousands of people who were killed," said Sidran-Kamisalic, a former Sarajevo resident. "Not only adults, but also more than 1,600 children were also killed in my city." But, she added, "I did feel that this was the first day that justice really, really almost became tangible."

As for Hadzic, he is charged with a number of crimes committed in Croatia's eastern Slavonia region. They include the murder and persecution of Croatian and non-Serbian civilians, imprisonment of civilians in jails where there were torture, beatings and killings, and the forced transfer of non-Serbs.

CNN's Nic Robertson and Ivan Watson contributed to this report.

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