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Blaskic Trial: Chamber to call Morillon, Stewart And Other High-Ranking Witnesses

By Mirko Klarin
By IWPR

"Two years of trial for two years of war. Too much!" exclaimed Presiding Judge Claude Jorda in the closing stages of the marathon direct examination of defendant General Tihomir Blaskic.


The defence had planned to complete its examination of Blaskic on Monday, April 12, leaving the Prosecutor with 13 full days for his own cross-examination.


The trial started on June 24, 1997, and seems certain to last longer than the two year Bosnian Muslim-Croat conflict (1992-1994) during which time the alleged crimes were committed.


For now that Trial Chamber I has decided to use its power under Rule 98 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence "to summon witnesses and order their attendance," it looks likely to continue even further.


On March 25 the chamber’s Judges said they would at least six witnesses: General Philippe Morillon, Commander of UNPROFOR at the time of the alleged offences; Colonel Robert (Bob) Stewart, Commander of the British Battalion of UNPROFOR during part of the time covered by the indictment; Mr. Jean-Pierre Thebault, then Chief of the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM); Colonel Serif Patkovic and other Commanders of the 7th Muslim Brigade of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina from May 1992 to January 1994; General Enver Hadzihasanovic, then Commander of the 3rd Corps of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and General Milijov Petkovic, then Commander of Main Staff of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO).


The Chamber decided that these witnesses must appear before the closing arguments of the Prosecution and Defence, "that is, before the end of June 1999". The order of appearance remains to be set.


The Chamber's decisions require each witness to "testify freely about matters of which he had knowledge that occurred within the scope of his then mission and that relate to the acts with which the accused has been charged as they appear in the indictment".


The witnesses "may rely on personal notes" but "not read a prepared statement".


The witnesses will then answer the questions put to them by the Judges, by the prosecution and the defence. Both prosecution and defence will have an equal and limited period of time and will question the witness within the scope of the latter's statement at the hearing.


The Chamber's Decisions were transmitted on March 25 to the Embassies of France, the United Kingdom, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina so that the authorities may take "all the necessary measures" to ensure that the witnesses appear.


General Philippe Morillon will thus be the first officer of the French Army to appear before a judicial body that French Minister of Defence, Alain Richard, once dismissed as "la justice spectacle". Richard once vowed that French soldiers would never testify before it, but both French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and his Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine have since promised full cooperation during personal visits to the Tribunal.


The names of the summonsed high-ranking officers and officials were frequently mentioned during Blaskic's trial, and Blaskic himself often cited them during his testimony.


Thus the two-year trial is thus expected to come to an exciting, if not spectacular, finale.


Blaskic's Case


During Blaskic's direct testimony, the events in the Operative Zone of Central Bosnia he commanded were recounted from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour.


Last week the story came to the signing of the Washington Agreement in March 1994, halting the Bosnian Muslim-Croat conflict. Thereafter he was promoted first to Deputy and then to Chief of Main Staff of the Bosnian Croat Defence Council (HVO).


Since the Washington Agreement foresaw the formation of a joint Croat-Muslim Army, Blaskic represented the HVO at the Joint Headquarters Army of the (Croat-Muslim) Federation. Blaskic said that none of the Bosnian Muslim political and military leaders of the day -- including President Alija Izetbegovic, Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic and Bosnian Army Commander General Rasim Delic -- objected to his representing the HVO.


In other words, Blaskic implied, they did not hold him responsible for the atrocities in the village of Ahmici and other Muslim inhabitants of the Lasva River Valley, as described in the indictment.


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