The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Thursday delayed [order, PDF] the trial of former Serbian general and alleged war criminal Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder, PDF; JURIST news archive], setting a new start date of May 14. The previous start date for the trial [JURIST report] was March 27. The delay was ordered after Mladic's defense lawyers argued they needed more time [BBC report] to sift through thousands of pages of evidence. The prosecution alone intends to present approximately 27,906 exhibits throughout the course of its case. Mladic faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages committed by Bosnian Serb forces under his command during the Bosnian civil war, which saw over 100,000 casualties and hundreds of thousands more displaced. The order also set a pre-trial conference [press release] for April 17. The next status conference in the case will be held on March 29.
In December of last year, a three-judge panel for the ICTY accepted a request brought by prosecutors to reduce the number of crimes [JURIST reports] they intend to prove against Mladic from 196 to 106. The request came days after the ICTY ordered a medical examination [JURIST report] of Mladic's physical condition in response to his absence from court the week prior due to illness. In October, the ICTY prosecutor refused to seek further appeal [JURIST report] of the tribunal's refusal to split Mladic's trial into separate actions: one for his conduct during the Srebrenica massacre [JURIST news archive], where approximately 8,000 people were killed, and one for all of his other charges during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive]. Mladic made his first appearance [JURIST report] at the ICTY in June, contesting the charges while simultaneously asking for more time to review them, which he was granted. Before that, he had lost his final appeal in Serbia to avoid extradition, and was transported to The Hague [JURIST reports]. Serbian authorities captured Mladic [JURIST report] in May, ending a 16-year manhunt for the former general colonel and commander of the army of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.