Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 64: Last Week in The Hague (February 16-21, 1998)

Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 64: Last Week in The Hague (February 16-21, 1998)

Saturday, 21 February, 1998

The insistence of Claude Jorda, the Trial Chamber I Presiding Judge, that both the Prosecution and the Defence stick strictly to the central issues while fiercely reacting to everything that appears to be a repetition or prolongation has paid off. In order to limit the trial's duration Judge Jorda allocated 39 hearing days to the Prosecution to present their evidence, and 60 days for the Defence, when its turn arrives.

Last week, however, it looked as if the Blaskic trial would have to be postponed due to the illness of Judge Fouad Riad, one of the members of Trial Chamber I. To avoid that, Judges Claude Jorda and Mohamed Shahabuddeen made an innovative use of Rule 71 of the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, in order to hear scheduled witnesses notwithstanding Judge Riad's absence

. As a result, at last week's hearings Judges Jorda and Shahabuddeen - at the request of the defence - acted in their capacity as Officers appointed to take the depositions of the witnesses. The depositions were taken in a manner similar to the way in which witness testimony is heard in the course of a trial, and all participants - judges, prosecutors, defence lawyers and members of the Registry - took part in the depositions-hearings in plain clothes, as "civilians". The record of the deposition will be transmitted to the Trial Chamber in its full composition.

Protected witnesses "AA", "BB" and "CC" (indicating that the Prosecutor has already used all letters of the alphabet for his protected witnesses, and is now entering round two) thus offered depositions about the attack of Bosnian Croat forces (HVO), under the command of the accused general Tihomir Blaskic, on the villages Visnjica and Jelinak in the Lasva Valley.

The toponyms are different from the villages mentioned earlier (Ahmici, Nadioci, Pirici, Santici, Gacice, Loncari), but the procedure was the same. Between 16 and 19 April 1993, the attacks would start at dawn with shelling, then continue with shooting from infantry weapons, with Croat soldiers entering Muslim houses, killing or expelling the inhabitants as houses were plundered and set on fire.

Those who survived the attack were taken to the detention centres where they were subjected to inhumane living conditions, physical and psychological mistreatment, whilst men capable of work were taken to dig trenches or perform other forced labour.

The Defence questioned the witnesses only briefly, satisfying itself mainly with their confirmation that they did not see Blaskic during the attacks and the ensuing detention.

The Blaskic trial continues this week, parallelly with the trial of Zlatko Aleksovski, commander of the Kaonik camp in Central Bosnia also situated in the operative zone under General Blaskic's command.

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