The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Thursday postponed the trial of former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder; JURIST news archive] due to his health problems. Thursday's trial came to an abrupt end [Reuters report] when Mladic complained that he did not feel well. The court stopped the hearing, and the former commander was taken to the hospital for medical check. ICTY spokesperson Nerma Jelacic announced that the hearing will resume on Friday if Mladic can attend but will be postponed if he cannot. The prosecutors and victims have expressed concern that Mladic could die before facing a sentence, much like former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic [ICTY backgrounder; PDF] who died [JURIST report] in 2006 before the ICTY could issue a sentence against him. Mladic is charged with several counts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian civil war including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages.
Mladic's trial has been making slow progress after being postponed numerous times. On Monday the ICTY resumed [JURIST report] the trial with the testimony of witness Elvedin Pasic, who was a juvenile at the time of the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive] in the 1990s. Last month the ICTY postponed the trial after suspending proceedings [JURIST reports] due to an error in disclosing documents to the defense lawyers. The trial had been already postponed indefinitely [JURIST report] in May due to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct related to evidence disclosure. Judge Alphons Orie adjourned the trial to allow the defense lawyers more time to consider the evidence the prosecution will present. Earlier that month, chief prosecutor of the ICTY had told reporters that he believes Mladic is mentally and physically fit to stand trial [JURIST report]. The ICTY had ordered [JURIST report] a medical examination for Mladic after he missed a hearing before the court a week earlier. His first appearance [JURIST report] before the ICTY was in June of last year when he contested charges against him while simultaneously asking for more time to review them. A day after, during his second appearance [JURIST report], Mladic refused to enter a plea without lawyers of his choice representing him and he was removed from the court for disrupting the proceedings.