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Blaskic Trial: More On HVO's Chain Of Command

Only one new prosecution witness appeared last week in the trial of General Tihomir Blaskic, accused of war crimes against Bosniak civilians in Central Bosnia, particularly in the Lasva Valley.

His testimony did not add much detail to the portrait of the accused that the prosecutor aimed to paint, but it confirmed the conclusions of numerous earlier witnesses who had been present in the area as UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) or ECMM members about "the functioning chain of command" within the HVO and "good communications" between HVO units on the ground and their headquarters in that part of Bosnia.

Among other things, Major Meyboon once saw Bosniak detainees being forced to dig trenches along HVO's front lines, and a local Croat commander told Meyboon on the occasion that if it were up to him, he would not detain Muslims but "kill them and nail them to the cross." Answering a question by Judge Fouad Riad, the witness, nonetheless, said that he "had not seen anyone do it."

The Dutch major also witnessed a kind of Serb-Croat "rent-a-tank" deal in central Bosnia. One day he saw a line of tanks of the Army of Republika Srpska rushing to aid the HVO forces that were attacking Muslim positions near Fojnica.

Major Meyboon was particularly thorough in his description of Ivica Rajic, the commander of HVO's operative group in Kiseljak, who was subordinated to the accused Blaskic.

Rajic is one of two Bosnian Croats accused on public indictments (the other is Zoran Marinic) who are still at large. Rajic is accused of an October 1993 massacre of Bosniak civilians in the village of Stupni Do.

Major Meyboon testified last week about the failed attempts by the ECMM to enter that village and launch an investigation into the events. During their third attempt, Rajic personally forbade them to enter into Stupni Do.

Soon thereafter, upon an order from Mate Boban, then president of the so-called Croat Community of Herceg Bosna, Rajic was stripped of command duty and was appointed "advisor to the commander." But Meyboon believes that Rajic continued to be in charge.

Prior to that, the Dutch major heard Rajic talk via radio link with his commander, which, according to the prosecutor, proves that communications between HVO units and their headquarters were functioning.

The prosecution has only ten working days left to end its already marathon presentation of evidence (it began on 23 June 1997) and deal its expected "final blow" to the defense of General Blaskic.

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