A cousin of former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic [ICTY backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday received a suspended sentence of one year in prison for hiding the accused war criminal in his house for five years before Mladic was arrested in 2011. Branislav Mladic hid his cousin [Reuters report] at his home in the village of Lazarevo in northeastern Serbia. Serbian authorities accepted a plea bargain from Branislav Mladic after he admitted to hiding his cousin [JURIST report] at his home. The court suspended his one-year sentence for three years in exchange for Branislav pleading guilty. Ratko Mladic is currently on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] for charges on several counts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian civil war [JURIST news archive] including murder, political persecution, forcible transfer and deportations, cruel treatment and the taking of peacekeepers as hostages. He was a fugitive for 16 years.
Ratko Mladic's trial has been making slow progress after being postponed numerous times. Last month the ICTY postponed [JURIST report] the trial due to health problems. The trial came to an abrupt end when the former commander complained that he did not feel well. The prosecutors and victims have expressed concern that Ratko 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. The ICTY resumed [JURIST report] the trial only three days earlier with the testimony of witness Elvedin Pasic, who was a juvenile at the time of the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s. In June 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. Ratko Mladic's 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], he refused to enter a plea without lawyers of his choice representing him and he was removed from the court for disrupting the proceedings.