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Blaskic trial: Defence unhappy about General Petkovic's testimony

Tribunal Update 131: Last Week in The Hague (21-27 June, 1999)

Summoned as the court witness, General Petkovic last Thursday gave his testimony via a video-link from Croatian capital Zagreb on the second anniversary of the Blaskic trial. Blaskic was indicted for crimes against Muslim civilians in the Lasva River Valley.

At the request of Croatian Ministry of Defence, General Petkovic gave evidence in camera. Without revealing the exact nature of Petkovic's testimony, Blaskic's Counsel, Anto Nobilo, admitted immediately afterwards that the Defence was "deeply dissatisfied" with what they had heard. This was also clear from the worried facial expressions of Nobilo, his co-counsel Russell Hayman and Blaskic himself, who was allegedly appalled by the testimony of his former chief.

It had been previously announced that at the request of the court, General Petkovic was to testify on the structure and the chain of command of HVO, on the responsibilities of civilian and military authorities of the so-called Bosnian Croat Community of Herzeg Bosnia (HZ HB), and on the investigation into the crimes committed in the village of Ahmici on 16 April 1993. It is therefore logical to expect that the "deep dissatisfaction" of the Defence is based on the fact that Blaskic's former commander did not support basic tenets of the Defence strategy on those issues.

The Defence claims that a "dual chain of command" existed within the HVO; that the Military Police and the so-called special units, such as the 'Vitezovi' (Knights) and the Jokers - which appear to be responsible for the Ahmici and other crimes quoted in the indictment - were not subordinated to the commander of the operative Zone; and that Blaskic had ordered an investigation into the Ahmici atrocity on several occasions. The Military Police and the Intelligence Service however, ignored his orders.

If Blaskic's former commander failed to confirm all those claims, the Defence then has reasons to be worried and "deeply dissatisfied," even more so since those same claims were also disputed in the previous week by Colonel Bob Stewart, former commander of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) Brit-Batt in Central Bosnia (see Tribunal Update 130).

Another witness to appear last week also at a closed session, was French General Philippe Morillon, former UNPROFOR commander in Bosnia. The Defence rated his testimony as 'honourable,' which may mean that the French general showed more understanding for the above-mentioned Defence claims than either the British Colonel or the Croatian General did.

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