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Aleksovski Trial: Prosecution Ends Its Presentation Of Evidence

Tribunal Update 75: Last Week in The Hague
The trial of Zlatko Aleksovski, the former commander of the camp (or prison) Kaonik near Busovaca, who is accused in the original Lasva Valley indictment of alleged crimes against detained Muslim civilians, continued last week in the "intimate" atmosphere of Courtroom Two. Last week's proceedings once again vividly demonstrated to what extent separate trials of persons indicted in a single indictment waste the Tribunal's resources. For all of last week, the prosecution's expert witness was attempting to prove the international character of the war in central Bosnia, about which numerous experts have already testified in the Blaskic trial. The experts will be called in again with the same purpose in the upcoming trial of Dario Kordic and Mario Kerkez, who are also named in the same indictment as Aleksovski and Blaskic but have arrived in The Hague at different times. Last week, the prosecution expert witness in the Aleksovski case, Stefano Bianchini, finished his testimony, which he had started at the end of February (see Tribunal Update 65). With the proverbial Italian talkativeness, the University of Bologna professor, who is obviously knowledgeable in the issue, managed to beat the record in the length of testimony previously held by Dr. James Gow from King's College in London. According to Professor Bianchini, there is no doubt that the war in Bosnia had an international character, i.e. that Bosnia was a victim of a dual foreign aggression--first by Serbia and Montenegro and then by Croatia. Since the accused in this particular case is a Bosnian Croat, Bianchini focused more on the role of the Zagreb government and the regular Croatian army in the conflict in central Bosnia, where the Kaonik camp (or prison) was situated. He backed his statements with a large number of documents, ranging from concrete orders by Croatian Army commanders related to the operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to official documents of the international community (primarily those of the Security Council) that demanded an end to Croatia's military interference in Bosnia. According to Professor Bianchini, the Croatian Army and the HVO (Bosnian Croats' military and civilian structure) were "so tightly linked that, from a political and military point of view, they represented a single army." Despite its international character, the war in Bosnia, the expert witness argued, was less of a conflict among the three engaged armies (Serb, Croat, and Bosniak), and more of a "war against civilians" with the purpose of creating ethnically clean territories. Within each of these sides, a conflict between "nationalists" and "anti-nationalists" (i.e. the advocates of the ideas of civil society) was going on, and the international community, Bianchini believes, made a big mistake when it negotiated only with the nationalists, ignoring the democratic forces that existed within each of the conflicting sides. The Italian professor qualified the international community's reaction to the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia as "very weak and inadequate." Bianchini blamed the international community's failure to understand the problem at hand and the absence of a unanimous position among the leading European powers, primarily Germany and France, as well as the initial American attitude that the former Yugoslavia was "a European problem." The West simply didn't understand that it was faced with the problem of new ethnic-nationalistic legitimization of power in the former communist countries. The manipulation of history, according to Bianchini, presented a "political instrument to legitimize power in a certain area," and all sides manipulated the maps of the past in order to legitimize their present political goals. Professor Bianchini's testimony ended the presentation of evidence by the prosecution, which started on 6 January 1998. The trial continues on 20 May, with an opening statement by Goran Mikulicic, the attorney for Zlatko Aleksovski.