THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal said Wednesday that he is considering trimming the indictment against former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic to speed up the case.
Serge Brammertz said his staff is looking at how to streamline the trial after judges last week refused his request to split Mladic's indictment in two.
Brammertz had asked to try Mladic first for his alleged involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and later for other Serb atrocities committed throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War.
Brammertz had argued that splitting the trial was necessary in part because of fears the frail 69-year-old general's health could further deteriorate during a lengthy trial. The trial is expected to start next year, but Brammertz could not say exactly when.
The court faced criticism in 2006 for the pace at which it delivers justice when former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died in his cell of a heart attack, ending his four-year trial without a verdict.
The decision not to split Mladic's case came as the former general, who was arrested in May after 16 years on the run, was receiving treatment for pneumonia. His lawyer and family also say he suffered two strokes in his years as one of Europe's most-wanted fugitives.
Brammertz told Dutch-based foreign correspondents that cutting down the sprawling indictment is a delicate balancing act between attempting to ensure the trial is completed in a reasonable time while at the same time reflecting the magnitude of the alleged crimes.
The Mladic trial will almost certainly extend beyond the Dec. 31, 2014, closing date the Security Council has set for the tribunal to wrap up all its cases.
Mladic's 11-count indictment includes two genocide charges and covers atrocities ranging from the ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs in the early days of the war through the deadly siege of Sarajevo and culminating in the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica.
Brammertz said prosecutors will attempt to use as much written evidence as possible at trial to reduce time-consuming direct witness testimony and would attempt to rely on so-called "adjudicated facts" — allegations already proven and accepted as facts in other trials at the tribunal. He said he could trim the indictment by removing some of the municipalities allegedly ethnically cleansed by Bosnian Serbs, meaning prosecutors have to present less evidence at trial.
But Brammertz ruled out dropping entire sections of the indictment, saying he wants to prosecute them all.
"We are currently not exploring the possibility to cut out a full component," he said. "For sure not in relation to the ethnic cleansing of the municipalities, the siege of Sarajevo or the genocide in Srebrenica."