Regional media ponder Mladic's trial defiance

Former Bosnian Serb army commander Gen. Ratko Mladic smiles during his appearance at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014 in the Hague Netherlands. Image copyright AP
Image caption Papers branded the refusal to testify by Mladic as a "scandal" and a "snub"

The media in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia have been quick to report that former Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, has refused to testify as a defence witness for his wartime political leader, Radovan Karadzic, at The Hague war crimes tribunal.

The oldest Bosnian newspaper, Oslobodjenje, runs an article on its scrolling news section headlined: "Together in the courtroom: Mladic examined by Karadzic."

A large composite photo of the two men side-by-side accompanied the piece. "Mladic cannot and does not want to testify: Sorry, Radovan!," reads the updated headline following a brief interruption of the court proceedings.


"Mladic began with his solemn declaration and then asked for his dentures to be brought from his cell at the start of yet another 'performance' in his signature style," the daily says.

"Circus in The Hague tribunal courtroom," reads a headline of the widely read Dnevni avaz.

"Mladic refused to testify against Karadzic, court did not use its right to force him to do so," says another headline in the paper.

In an apparent attempt to underline how close the two defendants worked together, the paper carries a photo of Mr Mladic - in military fatigues - leaning close towards Mr Karadzic to whisper into his ear.

"I cannot and I do not want to testify! Thank you Radovan, and I am sorry!" reads the headline of a report on the website of the Sarajevo-based portal Klix.

"Following a farce at the opening of the proceedings, Mr Mladic refused to testify, asking the court to read his own statement but the court refused his request," the website notes.

Both Oslobodjenje and Dnevni avaz list the six questions asked by Mr Karadzic, including the one on the killing of men and boys in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo, and note that Mr Mladic had only one reply: he did not wish to testify as he believed this could worsen his health and prejudice his own court case.

Both sources also highlight that, at the start of the proceedings, Mr Mladic denounced the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as a "satanic court".


Oslobodenje also quotes the founder of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, Hatidza Mehmedovic, as saying that Mr Mladic's testimony was a "big scandal and snub for the Bosniak (Muslim) people".

"I could not bring myself to watch the court proceedings. The conduct of this war criminal in the courtroom is a big scandal. This should not have been allowed," Ms Mehmedovic is quoted as saying.

"This is like adding salt to the wound. It's a snub and a new genocide against the Bosniaks. The court should have never allowed this scandal to go ahead," she added, according to the daily.

Snub is also the word used in the headline of the main regional portal BalkanInsight - "Mladic Snubs Karadzic in Hague Courtroom".

"Mladic's silence about Srebrenica and Sarajevo," reads the headline of the main report on the website of the regional TV broadcaster, Al-Jazeera Balkans. The channel, which aired the proceedings live, notes on its website that the two defendants addressed each other as "Mr General" and "Mr President" throughout the proceedings.

Al-Jazeera Balkans quotes another member of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, Kada Hotic, who describes The Hague tribunal's decision to include the testimony as "absurd".

"Today, the Srebrenica mothers watched the court proceedings together, the entire scandal. Everything was so naive and senseless. The tribunal was made to look foolish."


In Serbia, where both Mr Mladic and Mr Karadzic had hidden for many years before they were arrested in 2008 and 2011 respectively, the media seem to be more preoccupied with the upcoming snap election and the arrest of the Kosovo Serb leader, Oliver Ivanovic.

However, the main state broadcaster, Radio-Televizija Srbije (RTS), carries an article on its website headlined "Mladic refuses to testify", which summarises the main points of the proceedings.

"Mladic refuses to testify after all," the independent B92 website, reports.

The Politika newspaper carries a very brief report citing the Tanjug news agency. It notes that the session was interrupted after 20 minutes because "Mladic did not want to answer the questions" but "insisted" on reading his own statement.

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