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Blaskic Trial: Defence's Key Witness under Prosecutor's Cross-Fire

Tribunal Update 96: Last Week in The Hague (5-10 October 1998)

Hayman came to regret that ironic remark last week, however. Prosecutor Kehoe set out to deconstruct Marin's testimony point by point.. He started with the witness's assertion that the headquarters of the Operative Zone of Central Bosnia (OZCB), under the command of Blaskic, was required to have between 220 and 225staff yet actually only had 23-25. Marin's calculation was based on NATO charts, and suggested that, according to its manpower and the area it covered, the OZCB was comparable to a "NATO corps." Kehoe asked him how many armoured units, artillery, engineering and intelligence brigades, helicopters and transport planes the OZCB had, and the witness replied to every question. "None!"

Indicating that the OZCB had between 8,000 and 8,200 men under arms, and that VII Corps of the US Army in the Gulf had some 100,000 people, Kehoe asked the witness whether his comparison of the OZCB with NATO was "inaccurate" and "grossly exaggerated", but Marin disagreed. He went on insisting that his figures were the correct ones, in spite of the prosecution?s presentation of a document signed by Blaskic in August 1993 which states that the headquarters is "filled up to 59 percent of its needs" with the current 38 people. If 59 percent of the OZCB headquarters' "capacities" were covered by 38 people, the Kehoe insisted, it would then mean that the headquarters needed only 62 people for full cover. But he failed to convince Marin.

Kehoe then moved on to Marin's claim that there were only three officers with military training in Blaskic's headquarters. There followed a two-hour long reading of the list of the members of the OZCB headquarters and the commanders of brigades and other units subordinated to General Blaskic, during which time the prosecution asked the witness to describe each man?s military training. It turned out that all of them had some military training: some with the Military Academy, others with the Military College or the Secondary Military School, and the majority with the Reserve Officers' School. Many were also either active or reserve officers of the former Yugoslav People?s Army (JNA).

Kehoe took Marin as an example (he was a reserve captain of the JNA before the break-up of Yugoslavia) and pointed out that he was a "very educated military cadre." Marin himself stated before the court that he had to go through different degrees of military training for eight years before he reached the rank of a reserve captain. This, undoubtedly, contributed to his promotion to the rank of a brigadier, i.e. general of the Army of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After two hours and some 50 names read out, Presiding Judge Claude Jorda pleaded with Kehoe: "We understand what you are aiming at, but couldn't it be little faster?." Kehoe soon abandoned the list, having satisfied himself that it was a "rather well educated group of people, i.e. officers which (given the number of people they had under their command) would be hard to find in the French or the American army."

After this Kehoe examined Marin's claim that the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) was an "unorganised group of volunteers" that could not be likened to a "real army." He first pulled out the documents of the so-called Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia (HZ-HB) which in July 1992 "lifted the principle of voluntary recruitment and introduced military duty." The he brought out a series of Blaskic's orders implementing this, and insisting that all men fit for military service were not to leave their places of residence without the prior approval of the military authorities, and that they were also to take part in work units. As the witness claimed that "there was no time or conditions for military training of recruits", and that it was "minimal", the Kehoe showed him the document with Blaskic's signature prescribing the training programme for HVO recruits, with a timetable of a strict military drill from dawn to dusk.

He also showed him a rather thick "Manual for training of HZ-HB", and asked him to leaf through it and say whether he found in it anything about the Laws and Customs of War or the Geneva Conventions. "There's nothing", Marin said, after he leafed through the document. Finally, the prosecution showed the witness and the judges ITN footage from the HVO training in Central Bosnia, which looked as if it was a clip from some American film about the training of marines. "It was not like that," Marin insisted.

Kehoe also challenged other statements made by Marin during his testimony. These included statements on Blaskic's inability to appoint or replace the commanders of the HVO units under his control; the idea that there were no officers of the HV (Croatian Army) in the OZCB; and that Blaskic could not issue orders to the civilian authorities. Kehoe particularly picked up on Marin's analysis of the causes of the Croat-Muslim conflict in Central Bosnia in 1992 and 1993. The latter will be dealt with more extensively this week in the continuation of Marin's cross-examination.

Kehoe's job was made significantly easier by the behaviour of Marin himself. Last week Marin appeared to be suffering from a syndrome common to Tribunal defence witnesses: while under direct examination they remember everything, even the most minute details, but under cross-examination they suddenly begin to suffer from amnesia. Presiding Judge Jorda warned Marin several times last week that such behaviour was inadmissible, pointing out that his testimony in its entirety will be judged on the basis of what he said as well as on the basis of what he omitted to say, by avoiding questions and claiming that he "didn't remember" or "didn't know." By refusing to accept facts contained in Kehoe's questions (such as the arrival of Generals Petkovic and Praljak from Croatia to command the army of Bosnian Croats, and the presence of Croatian Army officers and soldiers in the HVO units), Marin significantly undermined his own credibility.