COURTSIDE: Tuta And Stela Trial

Heceg-Bosna statelet, says defence, was set up to prevent genocide against Croats.

COURTSIDE: Tuta And Stela Trial

Heceg-Bosna statelet, says defence, was set up to prevent genocide against Croats.

The defence in the Mostar trial contested the charge that the Bosnian


Croats initiated the 1993 Croat-Bosniak conflict to establish their own statelet.


Mladen Naletic "Tuta" and Vinko Martinovic "Stela", both former commanders in the Bosnian Croat army, the HVO, are accused of ethnic cleansing in the Mostar area of south-west Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Bozo Rajic, a Bosnian Croat who served as Bosnia's defence minister in 1993 and was later president of the Bosnian branch of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, testified about Herceg-Bosna's creation in late 1991.


He said the Bosnian Croats took the initiative after Alija Izetbegovic,


Muslim president of Bosnia's collective presidency, remained neutral in the face of the Serbs' war for territory.


The motive, he said, was to prevent genocide against the Croats. "Creating a state was not on the agenda, though I know that there were some reinterpretations in later stages," he said.


Prosecutor Douglas Stringer rejected this, producing a statement by


Croatia's former president Franjo Tudjman to a Bosnian Croat delegation in Zagreb in December 1991. In it, he said Bosnia's preservation "is not in our interest. It would lead to the constant frustration... of the [Bosnian] Croats".


Rajic replied that he did "not believe President Tudjman put it


that way".


The indictment blames the Bosnian Croats for the outbreak of hostilities, when they issued an ultimatum ordering Bosniaks to accept HVO command in the areas designated "Croat Cantons" under the Vance-Owen peace plan.


Rajic admitted issuing the order, adding that he also ordered HVO forces in designated Bosniak provinces to accept Bosnian army command. "I did it in good faith," he said. The minister was later dismissed. The trial continues.


Vjera Bogati is an IWPR special correspondent at The Hague and a journalist with SENSE News Agency.


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