THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The two alleged chief architects of Serb atrocities committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war could meet in a United Nations courtroom for the first time, if one of them gets his wish.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sought a subpoena Thursday to compel his one-time military chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, to testify in his defense during his genocide trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.
Although the two Bosnian Serb wartime strongmen are on good terms in the U.N. detention unit where they are both being held during their separate trials, Mladic's lawyers argue that the former Bosnian Serb army commander has the right to remain silent in Karadzic's case because it is so closely interwoven with Mladic's own trial.
In a letter to Karadzic's lawyer, Mladic's legal team says a suspect has "the protected right to remain silent and not testify or be forced to testify so as to potentially incriminate himself" and that the right extends to Mladic not having to appear as a witness in Karadzic's trial.
Both men are accused of genocide and other offenses for their alleged roles in commanding Serb forces involved in crimes, including Europe's worst massacre since World War II, the 1995 slaying of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
Both men insist they are innocent. They face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
Karadzic and Mladic originally were indicted together, but are now standing trial separately because Karadzic was arrested before Mladic.
In the request for a subpoena, Karadzic argues that Mladic could be a key defense witness in several areas of his trial, including the Srebrenica massacre.
"General Mladic is expected to testify that he never informed Dr. Karadzic orally or in writing that prisoners from Srebrenica would be, were being, or had been executed, nor had there been any orders, plans or intention on the part of President Karadzic to execute the prisoners," the subpoena motion said.
Karadzic's lawyer, Peter Robinson, said the two former close allies are in regular contact in the tribunal's detention unit and remain on good terms.
In his motion seeking a subpoena, Karadzic says he has "made efforts to obtain the voluntary cooperation of General Mladic without success."
Mladic's lawyers also say the 71-year-old career soldier is in poor physical and mental health due to the rigors of his own trial.
"Every break from his own trial is spent recovering physically and mentally from the exhaustion and fatigue that he experiences on an accumulated basis from his own trial," the lawyers wrote.