Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 54: Last Week in The Hague (November 24-28, 1997)

Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 54: Last Week in The Hague (November 24-28, 1997)

Friday, 28 November, 1997

According to the indictment, Bosnian Croat Forces (HVO), under the command and control of the accused, perpetrated the atrocities against the Muslim population of Amhici in the middle of April 1993.

As was the case during the past several weeks, the witnesses were mainly women whose husbands, sons, brothers and other male family members were killed in the HVO operation. Others were young men or children at the time of the crime, who were either spared by the soldiers’ in their systematic killing of adult males, or somehow miraculously managed to escape.

Adnan Zec, last week's witness, falls into the latter category. Although, he was 13 years old in April 1993, he certainly was not spared because of his age. On the contrary, he was wounded, and survived only after feigning death for a whole day. Afterwards, he spent seven days hiding in the ruins of burnt Muslim houses in the village of Ahmici, where the British UNPROFOR soldiers found him. His father, mother and a seven-year-old sister were killed as they escaped from their burning house

This is how Adnan Zec described the events of 16 April 1993: "Early in the morning we were awoken by shooting. Bullets were smashing windows and tiles on the roof... My parents ran towards us so we could get dressed and run away... The house was already on fire... First my little sister Melisa (six years old) and my mother ran out, then me and Alisa (seven years old) and then my father... I was running along this red road (shown on an aerial photo of Ahmici), and our parents ran along the green road... When I turned the corner there was a burst of tracer bullets from the direction I was running from... I continued to run... I saw a soldier standing next to the house marked by the letter A... "

"He said to me 'Where are you going, kid?'... Then he shot two bursts of fire. One hit my father and Alisa and another hit my mother. Melisa was not hit but she fainted... Alisa and my father were killed... A bullet hit the upper part of my left leg and another went through the heel of my left foot and out the other side... I fell and didn't dare to move because the soldiers were next to me... I put my arm over my face so they would not see I was alive... I stayed there whole day... I was able to observe what was going on around me..."

Along with Adnan Zec, Djula Djidic, Azra Dedic, Habiba Pijanic, as well as protected witnesses "M", "N", and "O" provided detailed testimonies on what was going on. All Muslim women, they had lost husbands, sons or brothers in April 1993. Three of them are from Santici, another village in the Lasva Valley, where an identical massacre took place at the same time, of the same day.

That attack came at dawn: Muslim houses were burnt, men killed and women and children taken to the detention centre or camp. During this time, witness "M" , part of a group of Muslim women and children, was used as a human shield, while witness "N" was raped twice. They were allowed to leave several weeks later, following a prisoner exchange, and sent to territory under the control of Muslim forces, i.e. the Army of B-H.

The last witness to appear was Sergeant Major Steven Hughes, commander of the 2nd platoon of the Cheshire regiment of the British UNPROFOR contingent. He completed the picture of events in Vitez, Ahmici, Santici and other villages. Patrolling the Lasva Valley with his platoon, Hughes was an eye-witness to the co-ordinated offensive by the HVO against the Muslim part of Vitez and the nearby villages. This entailed the systematic cleansing of the area of the Muslim population; destruction of Muslim houses and mosques and robbery of Muslim property. The absence of any kind of organised resistance on the part of the attacked civilian population at the time was notable.

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