Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 102: Last Week in The Hague (16-20 November)

Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 102: Last Week in The Hague (16-20 November)

Friday, 11 November, 2005

As a Defence witness, Zeljka Rajic gave statement on the attack of Muslim forces on the village of Dusina in January 1993 and the slaughter of Croatian civilians which-- according to General Blaskic's defence--had started the spiral of violence in the Croatian-Muslim conflict in the Lasva River Valley in central Bosnia.

On 26 January 1993, Rajic was in the house where the captured men of the village of Dusine were held. According to her statement, Serif Patkovic took eight men one by one, from the house in ten-minute intervals. After each man was taken, there was the sound of gunfire after which Patkovic returned to the house alone.

During one of the intervals between executions, Patkovic reputedly told Rajic that he "discharged an entire clip" into the head of her husband, who was the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) commander in the neighbouring village of Lasva, and who had surrendered together with his unit to the Seventh Muslim Brigade.

In a video recording of the bodies of murdered men of Dusina, witness Rajic identified the body of her murdered husband, his head shattered, hands cut off and heart removed from the body.

Following her statement, Prosecutor Mark Harmon requested the permission of Blaskic's Defence to speak to Zeljka Rajic. The Counsel, Russel Hayman and Anto Nobilo agreed, and she went on to give a statement to the Office of the Prosecutor investigators on the events in the village of Dusina and the role of Serif Patkovic in them.

Other Defence witnesses last week spoke mainly on "the disorganized and chaotic" Defense put up by the HVO--whose commander was the defendant General Blaskic-- in face of attacks mounted by the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The latter, the Defence argues, redeployed majority of its forces fighting the Bosnian Serb Army in an offensive against their former Croat allies.

This Defence is therefore disputing the Prosecutor's thesis that on 16 April 1993, the HVO mounted a coordinated attack under the command of General Blaskic against a number of Muslim villages in the Lasva River Valley, killing hundreds of civilians, burning and destroying their homes, as well as destroying religious and educational objects.

The Prosecutor's thesis was confirmed by several British and other members of UNPROFOR who were stationed in the immediate vicinity of the site of the war crimes. To counter that, the Defence last week brought another former member of BritBat who experienced --or at least, interpreted--events in the Lasva River Valley in a different light from that of his officers and colleagues who appeared as Prosecution witnesses.

Like Matthew Whatley, who gave his witness statement in late October, Chris Leyschon, former BritBat intelligence officer, described HVO last week as a poorly organised military formation, made up of untrained and undisciplined soldiers who acted on the revenge principle of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth," rather than on the principles of military doctrine and command subordination.

When during the cross-examination, the Prosecutor confronted him with reports and statements by Blaskic himself which state the opposite, witness Leyschon replied that it is understandable that Blaskic would have tried to present the situation to his superiors and the public in a better light than what it really was.

Blaskic's own statements and reports written at the material time state that throughout HVO the military discipline is properly maintained, the commands were being executed and that the chain of command functioned well. In response to the judges' questioning, Leyschon admitted that Blaskic "acted unprofessionally" by submitting false reports to his superiors.

Leyschon, however, added that he understood Blaskic for having been in control over things he could not control, where several lines of command existed.

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