COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Trial

Historian claims Croats “bore no ill-will” to Muslims.

COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Trial

Historian claims Croats “bore no ill-will” to Muslims.

Saturday, 28 September, 2002

A historian last week disputed tribunal prosecution claims that Croats were responsible for the war with the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) in 1993.

Mladen Ancic, giving evidence in the trial of Mladen "Tuta" Naletilic and Vinko "Stela" Martinovic, said Bosnian Croats had organised to defend themselves after what he called the breakdown of the Bosnian state structure following the outbreak of war in 1992.

Prosecutors allege Bosnian Croats, backed by Croatia, started the war with the Bosniaks in order to form their own breakaway state, Herceg-Bosna, and that Tuta and Stela commanded HVO troops which persecuted Bosniak civilians.

Ancic is the second historian to give evidence in the case. Two weeks ago, Stela's defence called Davor Marjan (see TU No. 281) who blamed Bosniaks for the outbreak of the 1993 war.

Ancic said that after the conflict broke out in the spring of 1992, Bosnia-Hercegovina had no functioning state system and its political elite had no historical experience in governing a country.

He said that in early 1992 up to 90 per cent of Serbian deputies left the government, and state organs could no longer function, "Those authorities had lost their formal and electoral legitimacy."

Ancic blamed the Belgrade leadership for starting the war in order to capture parts of former Yugoslavia and form them into a new state. He said Muslims and Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina joined forces in resistance to this, but later fell out as differences emerged over their political goals.

He said people in the region had a "tradition of violently solving problems".

The historian emphasised that Croats bore no ill-will towards Bosniaks, saying that during the Second World War the pro-Nazi Croat forces, the Ustashas, protected Bosniaks from Serb extremists.

Ancic said he was pleased that the international court was "not writing history" and added "We luckily don't live in a society where judgments become history".

Following the conclusion of the defence case, the court adjourned until October 7.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

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