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Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 124: Last Week in The Hague (3-8 May, 1999)

The marathon trial of General Tihomir Blaskic entered the final stage and should be finished by the end of July. Last week, Prosecutor Gregory Kehoe continued the cross-examination of the accused general, who has been in the witness-box since February this year.

The aim of the last week's examination by the Prosecutor was to show that General Blaskic shared the political ideas of the so-called Herzeg Bosnia and "Greater Croatia", which were created in Zagreb and which led to the Croat-Muslim conflict in Central Bosnia at the end of 1992.

With the help of this, the Prosecutor is trying to prove the international character of the conflict in that part of Bosnia, of importance for the grave breaches counts with which the accused general is charged.

He claims that in the spring of 1992 he joined the HVO in order to organise the defence of Central Bosnia from the Serbian aggression, and that, at least at the beginning, he was not familiar with the political platform of Herzeg-Bosnia. Later, he says, "the circumstances led to the Croat-Muslim conflict", but "the policy evolved" so that Croats eventually accepted the Federation with the Muslims.

In a response to this, the Prosecutor reached for the document of political leaders of Herzeg-Bosnia, Mate Boban and Dario Kordic, in which the Bosnian Croats are called upon to work on the realisation of the "centuries-old dream about the common Croat state" (which would clearly encompass the parts of Bosnia), but Blaskic claims that not only did he not participate in the creation of such a political platform, but he did not implement it either. But, it did not seem logical to the judges, so they asked

Blaskic if it was not the task of the army - regardless that it might be depoliticised - "to implement the goal of the political leadership?". Blaskic replied that the soldier must be "reasonable" and recognise when some orders of the politicians are unacceptable.

Starting with the premise that Blaskic was not supporting the conflict with the Muslims, but that, on the other hand, the leadership of Herzeg Bosnia had some other aims - the judges went further in an attempt to define Blaskic's positions and asked whether "he felt he was manipulated by Kordic and Boban? You must have had strong reasons to stay in the HVO in such a situation?"

Blaskic, however, claims that statements by Kordic and other politicians were not binding for him since he received the orders from the headquarters of the HVO. Nonetheless, after the questions were repeated, Blaskic allowed for the possibility that Boban and Kordic had "some program of theirs", and that there "might have been" goals to join Herzeg-Bosnia with Croatia, which he then tried to relativise by saying that the leaders of Bosnian Croats took part in the negotiations with the international community and signed the peace plans.

On several occasions, during his marathon trial, the judges asked Blaskic why he did not resign from the post of the commander of the Operative Zone HVO...if, as he claims, he did not agree with the policy that brought HVO into the conflict with the Army of B-H? When he was asked this question last week, Blaskic replied that - had he done that - the relations between the Croats and Muslims in Central Bosnia would have been much worse.

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