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Blaskic Trial: Commander's 'command impotence'

By Mirko Klarin
By IWPR

During a record fifth week of his testimony, General Tihomir Blaskic last week sought to convince the judges of his "substantial command impotence." He was indicted under the principle of "command responsibility" for war crimes committed in 1993 in the Lasva River Valley in Central Bosnia by Croatian Defence Council (HVO) units under his operative command.


Blaskic maintains that it was only during the latter part his command of an Operative Zone, i.e. after the heaviest crimes attributed to him by the Prosecutor were committed, that he was able to take control over the Military Police and the special units. Up until then, they had been "very active both in crime and combat." Blaskic confirmed that those same units were on 15 April 1993 - the day before the killings in Ahmici took place - put under his command, but he was "only able to give them orders, although they were not responsible to him." In the earlier part of his testimony, which stretched over a 20 day period, Blaskic had claimed and has attempted to demonstrate that he did not order the murder of civilians in Ahmici, the shelling of Zenica's town centre, or the detonation of lorry-bomb in the centre of the Muslim part of the town of Vitez.


Last week he tried to convince the judges that he had used every resource at his disposal to investigate those crimes, particularly the events in Ahmici, where more than 100 Muslim civilians were murdered on 16 April 1993. Blaskic's defence team have attempted to demonstrate that the general had a special interest in identifying and bring to justice those responsible for the massacre, not only because it was committed within his area of responsibility, but also because of suspicions that events may have occurred as part of a conspiracy aimed against him.


The Defence presented a theory that Blaskic was a thorn in the side of hardliners in political and military leadership of the so-called Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosnia. According to the theory, those hard-line Bosnian Croat leaders organised "parallel command chains" that made possible the execution of the massacre in Ahmici in order to "compromise Blaskic" as the commander of the Operative Zone. The theory further goes that the massacre was meant to provoke a vehement Bosnian Muslim reaction in which they would perform the 'ethnic cleansing' of Croats in the Lasva River Valley enclave and thus enhance their plan to cede Herzegovina from Bosnia.


This hypothesis was never previously discussed before the Tribunal in any detail - at least not in public hearings. Over the last two weeks the hearings were held in camera on several occasions, usually at the most informative moments. The witness testimony of defendant Blaskic is to be continued on the 6th of April. The Defence reportedly intends to continue its examination for another two days, after which what looks like a very exciting cross-examination by the Prosecutor is to follow.


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