Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 33: Last Week in The Hague (June 16-21, 1997)

Celebici Trial

Tribunal Update 33: Last Week in The Hague (June 16-21, 1997)

Saturday, 21 June, 1997

This week, that courtroom will be working in two shifts: the trial of General Tihomir Blaskic will proceed in the mornings, and in the afternoons Trial Chamber II will continue its snail-paced judging of the Celebici four.

Last week the court had an opportunity to compensate for some of the delays in Celebici trial, because the pre-sentencing hearing of the Tadic case (originally scheduled for June 17-20) had been postponed, leaving the courtroom free

. The prosecutor proposed that the trial should proceed by hearing new prosecution witnesses; but the defence objected, claiming that it was unprepared for cross-examination, and the judges did not try very hard to persuade them otherwise. (Those in the know, however, say that the real reason was that the US defence lawyers had already booked their tickets for a five-day visit home.) Thus the opportunity was lost to make up for even a little of the time lost in this trial.

The main reasons for the dramatic delay are the general slowness of any proceedings with four accused and eight defence lawyers; a two-week break to investigate the publication of confidential documents (the list of prosecution witnesses) in an obscure Sarajevo weekly; and a 10-day debate about whether the rule of law prevails in Austria and whether the rights of suspects are sufficiently respected there (see Update 32).

The only witness last week was Novica Djordjic, a Celebici detainee mentioned in counts 42 and 43 of the indictment (inhumane acts involving the use of an electrical device). he was arrested and taken to Celebici on Mary 30 or 31, 1992, with a group of 20 to 30 people from the village of Bradina.

The “special treatment” greeting detainees from Bradina on arrival in the camp had already been described in previous testimony: they were lined up against the wall and beaten severely for several hours. Djordjic's group suffered the same treatment. During the time he spent against the wall, he saw the body being dragged away of a man who had been killed in the truck on the way to the camp.

How the people from Bradina earned such harsh treatment could be discerned later, during the cross-examination of Djordjic. He was the first witness to confirm that many people in Bradina were armed, and admitted that he took part in defending the village, along with approximately 350 others. According to him, about 6,500 Muslim soldiers attacked Bradina, and the Serb defenders managed to hold them off for about two days.

In addition to describing the incident described in the indictment, according to which Hazim Delic used an electrical device on his naked chest and leg, inflicting pain and burns, Djordjic also gave evidence about the sufferings of other detainees. He gave particularly detailed evidence about the “special treatment” to which the accused Delic and Esad Landzo had subjected Zeljko Milosevic (Counts 3 and 4) who, according to the indictment, was killed on July 20, 1992, after frequent severe beatings.

He also spoke in detail about the torture of Slavko Susic (Counts 11 and 12). Delic and Landzo had demanded that Susic tell them where he had hidden the radio transmitter he allegedly had at home. After one such interrogation, Susic was returned to Tunnel No. 9 in a state which Djordjic described as follows: “He was staggering. . . . he slid down the wall and started to die. We laid him down on the floor, tried to give him artificial respiration, but there was no way that we could help him. He was dead.”

In addition to Delic and Landzo, whom he saw virtually every day and who beat him from time to time, the witness said that he saw Zdravko Mucic (another defendant in the case) at least 20 times in Celebici, and that Mucic would decide who would stay in Tunnel No. 9 and who would be transferred to Hangar No. 6. Some time in July 1992, the witness learned that Zdravko Mucic was the camp commander, and that the commander of the operational group who was above Mucic was Zejnil Delalic (the fourth defendant).

He claimed that he heard guards saying that “the boss had come,” and that the inmates got food (after being starved for four days) thanks to Delalic, concluding that “obviously he was someone who was above the camp administration.” Djordjic saw Delalic at the Celebici camp once: “I met him as he was walking out of the administration building. He didn't say anything to me. he just went out and he was wearing a military uniform.”

The witness recognised Delalic as he knew him from before the war, as “one of the well off people in town.” The witness used to frequent Delalic's disco in Konjic.

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