Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 57: Last Week in The Hague (December 15-20, 1997)

Blaskic Trial

Tribunal Update 57: Last Week in The Hague (December 15-20, 1997)

Saturday, 20 December, 1997

Lasva Valley, and particularly Ahmici, were the subject of investigations by the UN Human Rights Commission (then led by former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki), the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) and the ICRC, whose representatives were already at the place of the crimes or arrived there immediately afterwards. One protected witness-victim has already testified in a closed session. Last week three foreigners who were in the area as representatives of international organisations gave their testimonies in the Blaskic trial. They were: Payam Akhavan, a member of the Mazowiecki Commission; Major Erick Frees Pedersen, a member of ECMM; and Major Michael Buffini, from Britt-Bat.

Akhavan, now a legal adviser with the ICTYs Office of the Prosecutor, arrived in Ahmici at the end of April 1993. With the help of the British troops within UNPROFOR, he investigated the whole area and talked with about 100 Muslim survivors (mainly women, children and the elderly) who, after spending two weeks at the hands of the HVO, were transported to the territory controlled by the B-H government.

Akhavan also talked to the top Bosnian Croat's military and political leaders from the area including Blaskic and Kordic and Cerkez (who are awaiting trial). Without trying to deny the crimes in Ahmici and other mainly Muslim villages in Lasva Valley, all three were worked hard to persuade Akhavan that the crimes were not committed by their forces, but by Serbs, or even Muslims themselves. Akhavan described Kordic as the "master mind" and the "most serious power broker in Central Bosnia", while Blaskic is, in his view, "less of political master and more of military executor". He gained the impression that two of them were "operating very closely: Kordic would have an overall theory, what objectives would be, and Blaskic would implement the policies".

Blaskic also introduced himself to Akhavan as a commander of all HVO forces in Central Bosnia, and when Akhavan asked about the existence of paramilitary elements, Blaskic suggested that although there might be some, he was in command in the Lasva region, and that no military operation could take place without his knowledge. Akhavan reminded Blaskic of his responsibilities to investigate the crimes and punish those involved in them, even showing him a list with the names of 18 soldiers identified by the survivors of the massacre. As far as Akhavan was aware, Blaskic never did anything about it.

Major Michael Buffini also described Blaskic as the undisputed commander of the Croatian forces in Central Bosnia. "Most commanders from HVO were fairly scared of Colonel Blaskic" he said. Buffini went on to explain how Franjo Nakic (second in command) and Mario Cerkez (commander of the HVO Vitez Brigade) "insisted that they had to speak with Blaskic before they could agree to anything".

Major Pedersen said in his testimony that ECMM and ICRC representatives had not once informed Blaskic and his subordinate HVO commanders that the imprisoned Muslims were being made to dig the frontline trenches and warned them that this was a breach of the Geneva Convention as well as of laws and customs of war. Those warnings were ignored.

The case against Blaskic continues on January 22, 1998.

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