Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Cerkez Lawyers Concerned Over New Documents

The long-awaited testimony of Mario Cerkez, the former commander of the Croatian Defence Force, HVO, in Vitez, was interrupted abruptly last week after a large number of new documents were presented by the prosecution.

Cerkez is accused of HVO crimes in the Lasva Valley in central Bosnia and of involvement in the planning of the Ahmici massacre on April 16, 1993 which claimed the lives of at least 100 Muslim civilians.

His lawyer, Bozo Kovacic, had requested a two-week delay of Cerkez's testimony because of the large amount of new material from Croatia.

The judges were quick to avoid a postponement, however. "This is already the 221st day of the trial during which 227 witnesses have already been called," said judge Richard May.

The prosecution case is scheduled for mid-November. Further arguments over documents are expected, as the prosecutor's investigators are still searching the Zagreb archives which only became accessible after the change of power in Croatia.

The defence opposes the introduction of the "Zagreb documents", arguing that 16 months into the trial is too late to introduce new evidence against Cerkez and his co-accused, former Bosnian Croat leader Dario Kordic.

The prosecutors argue that Croatia refused to cooperate with their investigations for five years, withholding many pieces of evidence. The court, while trying to limit the new evidence, says it is interested in all documents that will help it establish the truth about the events in the Lasva Valley.