Today was obviously a pretty important day here in the Hague.
I arrived at the ICTY around 8:30 (earlier than usual) and, as directed, used the back entrance so as not to be part of the managed chaos at the front entrance. As I approached the gate, I realized that the police had stopped traffic on the street, and I could hear the sound of approaching sirens. Just as I was walking through the gate, two cars pulled through: one police car with the siren and lights on, and a black van. After consulting with others, we’ve concluded there is a good chance that this was Mladić arriving. Talk about timing!
A few of us went down to the second floor terrace to get a closer look at the various tv crews and protesters in front of the building.
It wasn’t possible for us to watch the trial in the actual courtroom (seating is limited for regular trials, let alone for a big one like this, and priority goes to victims and others who have a personal connection to the case). Fortunately, we were able to watch via live stream and joined a few other people from OTP in a conference room.
It wasn’t immediately apparent to us which one Mladić was – I had missed the very beginning of the proceedings, and none of the various people the cameras showed made me think of someone capable of so much hatred and murder. (I also had just seen a picture of Mladić from shortly after his capture, and no one matched that picture.) It turns out that Mladić was someone they’d shown several times before I asked about him. As the pictures show, he was wearing a gray suit – and I swear, he could have been a law professor. There were times when he’d take off his glasses and hold them with a pensive look on his face exactly like a typical academic. I wish we could have watched a split screen with both him and the prosecutor so that we could have watched his reactions more closely. In general, he looked pretty calm and confident… perhaps a bit TOO confident.
The lucky (?) timing I might have had in terms of seeing him arrive did not continue long enough to let me catch the first few minutes of the trial, so I missed the threatening gesture he apparently made towards some members of the public audience. I did, however, see Judge Orie remark on it when court resumed after the first break; he said there had been inappropriate interaction between Mladić and the audience (he did not place blame on who initiated) and that if it continued he would have to do something about it. I saw nothing else happen.
I did see Mladić smile at one point. I don’t remember what the prosecutor was talking about at that moment, but it was enough that I gasped out loud at the impropriety of that action. It was a very “yes, I killed all those people, and I’m proud of it” kind of look.
Court recessed around 1:30 and resumes again tomorrow at 9. Tomorrow the rest of the opening statement concerns Srebrenica, so it should be a particularly memorable couple of hours.
Finally, these people were protesting outside the Tribunal today:
They were holding various signs with country flags on them and the words “also guilty” – I think I saw Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. (We were wondering why the US was not among them.) Not entirely sure what that’s all about.