Ratko Mladic set for extradition to the Hague

In this handout image released by the Serbian government Thursday, May 26, 2011, Ratko Mladic (in baseball cap) enters court in Belgrade, Thursday, May 26, 2011. HANDOUT,AP Photo / Serbian Government

Updated at 12:05 p.m. ET.

BELGRADE, Serbia - Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic can be extradited to a U.N. tribunal on war-crimes charges despite defense claims he is too sick to face trial, a Belgrade court ruled Friday.

A defense lawyer said Mladic would appeal the decision on Monday. The former fugitive could extradited within hours if that appeal is rejected.

If Mladic is extradited, he will argue that he's innocent of war crimes charges that include orchestrating some of the worst atrocities of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, the suspect's son indicated after visiting the former fugitive in jail.

"His stand is that he's not guilty of what he's being accused of," Darko Mladic told reporters outside the Belgrade court.

Mladic is accused of directing the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, and involvement in the relentless four-year siege of Sarajevo.

Video: Mladic arrest reopens old wounds
Mladic: Genocide suspect, goat herder, "God"
Video: Mladic arrest reopens old wounds

A police photo of Mladic showed him looking hollow-cheeked and shrunken after a decade and a half on the run, a far cry from the beefy commander accused of personally orchestrating some of the worst horrors of the Balkan wars.

Mladic's son said the former general suffered two strokes while on the run, has a partially paralyzed right hand, and can barely speak.

The photo taken moments after his arrest in a tiny northern Serbian village shows a clean-shaven Mladic with thinning hair wearing a navy blue baseball hat and looking up with wide eyes, as if in surprise.

Serbian security forces told The Associated Press that Mladic was arrested in the garden of a relative's house in the village of Lazarevo. After being taken to a jail cell at Serbia's war-crimes court where, he requested strawberries, Leo Tolstoy novels and a television set.

A judicial official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the AP Mladic had also asked to visit the Belgrade grave of his daughter Ana, who killed herself in 1994.

A Thursday extradition hearing was adjourned after the judge cut short the questioning because Mladic's "poor physical state" left him unable to communicate, defense lawyer Milos Saljic said.

State TV showed Mladic walking haltingly into the closed-door extradition hearing. Saljic said Mladic needed medical care and "should not be moved in such a state."

Deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekaric said that Mladic, 69, is taking a lot of medicine, but "responds very rationally to everything that is going on."

Weakness is not a term that would have been used to describe Ratko Mladic in his prime, says CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips. Ruthless, maybe. Also: murderous, brutal, pitiless, even sadistic.

One of the world's most-wanted fugitives, Mladic was the top commander of the Bosnian Serb army during Bosnia's 1992-95 war, which killed more than 100,000 people and drove another 1.8 million from their homes. Thousands of Muslims and Croats were killed, tortured or driven out in a campaign to purge the region of non-Serbs.

Mladic is accused of ordering the shelling of Sarajevo, and of targeting areas where civilian casualties were likely to be highest, like the water taps that were set up because the city's main water supply was cut off.

Mladic was the commander whose troops overran what was supposed to be a U.N. safe haven in Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims had taken refuge. It was Mladic who guaranteed the safety of those present, before separating the women and children from the men, and then ordering the systematic slaughter of more than 7,000 men in the worst mass killing in Europe since the Nazi atrocities of the Second World War.

He was accused by the Hague tribunal of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Appearing on CBS' The Early Show" Friday, retired Gen. Wesley Clarke said Mladic "seemed to pursue ideological savagery against the Muslim and Croatian members of the citizenry" in Sarajevo.

"There's no question that he [had a] very strong, sadistic streak," Clark told anchor Erica Hill. "He was a very intelligent man who had intimidated some of the U.N. Commanders. I thought that he was blustery. He was full of passion and ideological zealotry for this cause of Serb nationalism - and ultimately, he was a murderer and a war criminal."

Gen. Clark said Mladic was a regular officer of the Yugoslav national army who was chosen to lead the Republka Srpska forces. "He was simply a Serb general until [President] Milosevic brought him home, and he was somewhat lionized by these right wingers there."

After Milosevic was taken to the Hague, Mladic's support gradually fell away. "The nations of the West never gave up on pursuing Ratko Mladic, and the Serb government itself was constantly pressured to turn him over to justice." Clark called his arrest "an historic step and a very positive step, for Serbia and the West."

Also on "The Early Show," Serbia's ambassador to the U.S., Vladimir Petrovic, said that before Mladic's arrest, "We have arrested and sent to the Hague tribunal about 45 people, including two former presidents of Serbia, including President Slobodan Milosevic, and many generals."

He called the arrest of Mladic not only Serbia's legal obligation under international and domestic law but also "our moral obligation."

Mladic was arrested by intelligence agents in a raid before dawn Thursday at a relative's house in a village in northern Serbia. The act was trumpeted by the government as a victory for a country worthy of European Union membership and Western embrace.

Comments