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Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 86: Last Week in The Hague (20-24 July, 1998)

The Tribunal has already demanded those documents, first in January 1997 by Subpoena duces tecum. Then, after the Appeals Chamber ruled that sovereign states could not be subpoenaed, the documents were demanded by a so-called binding order, against which Croatia also appealed. Until the Appeals Chamber makes a decision, Trial Chamber I has demanded the same documents by an "ordinary" order.

Last week the prosecution tendered more than 100 documents, which it had obtained in the meantime from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Among those documents are several orders signed by the then Colonel Tihomir Blaskic in his capacity as the Commander of the Operational Zone of Central Bosnia. Blaskic is accused of crimes that the forces under his command allegedly committed against Muslim civilians in the Lasva Valley in central Bosnia in the period 1992/1993.

The tendered orders and other documents suggest that Blaskic had full control over not only the military but also the police and other special forces in this area. Among other documents is Blaskic's report to the Supreme Command of the HVO from May 1993--just a month after the most horrifying crimes in Ahmici and other Bosniak villages had been committed. In the report the accused states that "the chain of command functions... with the full coordination and control".

Enclosed is also the documentation on the establishing and functioning of the system of communication and signalling between Blaskic's headquarters and the HVO units on the ground, on the basis of which the prosecutor is trying to prove that the accused "knew or could know" what was happening on the ground. There are also documents showing that Blaskic could pass disciplinary measures against his subordinates and that he, in the words of Prosecutor Mark Harmon, "had very broad powers".

Having accepted the tendered documents the Trial Chamber stressed that the defense will have the opportunity to question their authenticity when the trial resumes. The last prosecution witness in the marathon-style presentation of evidence against General Blaskic, which started on 23 June 1997, will appear on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. This will be followed by a month long break during which the defense will prepare for the presentation of its case, scheduled to begin on 24 August.

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