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

COURTSIDE: Bosanski Samac Trial

By Vjera Bogati in The Hague (TU 295, 6-10 January 2003)
By IWPR

There was another last week, when the accused, Blagoje Simic, unexpectedly interrupted the hearing with a serious complaint against his own lawyer.


During cross-examination of a defence witness, Simic objected to a question posed by the prosecutor. He then complained that he had “poor cooperation with his attorney” and alleged that the lawyer “did not know what he was doing”.


Later, his lawyer Igor Pantelic said, “[Simic told me] that he has no confidence in my work, and that I was not acting to his benefit. He said that he was not sure for which department and which service, inside or outside the court, I worked.” He added that his client was “very nervous and agitated”.


Presiding judge Florance Mumba ordered the secretariat of the tribunal to submit a report to the trial chamber. But relations were restored the next day and Pantelic remains in his post.


The defence is trying to prove that the seizure of power in Samac on April 17, 1992, in which Simic was allegedly involved, was nothing more than “self-defence against an imminent attack” by forces of the Croatian army and Croat-Muslim paramilitary formations.


Simic, the highest civilian official in the municipality, says he could not control army and police units and therefore cannot be responsible for what happened.


This has been a roller-coaster trial so far. The defendant’s fellow accused Milan Simic, a leading politician in the municipality during the campaign, decided to plead guilty in May 2002 and has been sentenced to five years imprisonment.


In addition, another of the accused had been shot dead in Yugoslavia. Slobodan Miljkovic Lugar, commander of a paramilitary unit called the Grey Wolves, was killed in a bar fight in Kragujevac in 1998.


Of the original 1995 indictment, six - Miljkovic, Blagoje Simic, Milan Simic, Miroslav Tadic, Stevan Todorovic and Sima Zaric - are accused of severe violations of the Geneva conventions, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war.


Vjera Bogati is an IWPR correspondent in The Hague and a journalist with SENSE news agency.


More IWPR's Global Voices