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Blaskic Trial: On Orders to 'Prevent or Punish' War Crimes
last week's demonstration of how the Tribunal determines responsibility for
failure to prevent or punish, as given by Prosecutor Gregory Kehoe at the
grand finale of the cross-examination of General Tihomir Blaskic.
The former commander of the Bosnian Croat Defense Council (HVO) in central
Bosnia is equally attributed with "command responsibility" for acts
committed by his subordinates.
Last week Kehoe pointed out that nobody was arrested, charged with or
sentenced for the massacre in the village of Ahmici, he this week continued
with other crimes committed by forces under Blaskic's command in Central
Bosnia. Furthermore, it turned out that nobody was ever arrested, charged
with or sentenced for the explosion of a lorry-bomb in the Muslim section
of the town of Vitez, on 18 April 1993, in which several civilians were
Although this happened some 400 meters from Blaskic's own headquarters, and
many witnesses pointed out that Bosnian Croat inhabitants of Vitez were
forewarned of the explosion, Blaskic maintains that he knew nothing of the
plot. He said instead that when the bomb exploded he had believed that his
headquarters had taken a direct hit by a shell, adding that he had only
subsequently learned about the explosion from members of the special
military police unit, the "Vitezovi" ('Knights').
Blaskic said that he ordered his security advisor to carry out an
investigation, and that he requested the same from the late commander of
"Vitezovi," Darko Kraljevic. But, he said, they never reported the results
of the investigation, and he never received the names of the culprits - and
thus could not punish anybody.
The Prosecutor asked for written evidence of the order for investigation,
to which Blaskic replied that he had issued a verbal command. The Defence
objected that it was up to the Prosecutor to prove that Blaskic did not
order an investigation. Presiding Judge Claude Jorda of France retorted
that the Prosecutor's insistence was "not illegitimate," but assuaged the
Defence, saying that "judges will not take the worst possible conclusion
from the lack of written evidence."
Blaskic could not say either whether anyone was punished for using Muslim
prisoners of war as "human shields" in front of his headquarters in Vitez,
or for forcing prisoners of war to dig trenches at front-lines.
Prosecutor Kehoe concluded that defendant in fact encouraged his
subordinates to commit crimes with his laissez-faire attitude. By the end
of the week, Prosecutor Kehoe concluded his cross-examination and the
Defence started its direct examination of the Defence witnesses, which due
to a one week break - is set to continue on 7 June. Blaskic will
subsequently have to answer to the Judges' questions.
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