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Ratko Mladic Trial Should Start In Weeks, UN Prosecutor Says

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Former Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic is seen at the start of his trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 16, 2012.  (AP Photo/Toussaint Kluiters, Pool)
Former Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic is seen at the start of his trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, Wednesday, May 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Toussaint Kluiters, Pool)

BELGRADE, Serbia -- The chief U.N. prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia said Tuesday that evidence errors that postponed the trial of Ratko Mladic are of "limited" impact and do not warrant a delay of six months as sought by the defense.

Serge Brammertz said during a visit to Serbia that the prosecution believes the long-awaited proceedings against the former Bosnian Serb army commander accused of genocide could start within weeks.

"We have not opposed the request of the defense to delay for some time ... but we are more thinking about weeks and not months," Brammertz said. "We think that the impact for the defense to present its case ... is very limited."

A judge at the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, earlier this month postponed Mladic's trial citing "significant disclosure errors" by prosecutors, who are obliged to share all evidence with the defense.

Mladic is accused of commanding Bosnian Serb troops who waged a campaign of killings and persecution to drive Muslims and Croats out of Serb-held territory during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. The campaigns included the siege of the capital, Sarajevo, and the execution of thousands of Muslim boys and men in Srebrenica – Europe's worst crime since World War II.

The wartime Bosnian Serb army chief had been on the run for years before he was arrested in Serbia last May, and the start of the trial was important for the victims. The delay cast a shadow over one of the tribunal's most important cases and the reputation of the court itself.

Brammertz said the evidence in question hinges on three percent of the documentation, mostly transcripts of previous testimonies or translations. Those documents were in attachments that were not uploaded when over 100,000 documents were disclosed last year, he explained.

Brammertz said the prosecution filed a motion on Monday that paves the way to solving the problem.

"It is really important to put things into perspective," he said. "In the end of the day, this delay will have very little impact on the overall length of the trial."

Mladic has refused to enter pleas to the charges, but denies any wrongdoing. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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