COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Trial

Defence shows film of Croatian suffering at Bosnian hands.

COURTSIDE: Tuta & Stela Trial

Defence shows film of Croatian suffering at Bosnian hands.

Defence lawyers for Mladen “Tuta” Naletilic and Vinko “Stela” Martinovic, accused of persecuting Mostar Bosniaks in 1993, last week showed the court a video about the treatment of Croats in Bosnian army prisons.

Naletilic's counsel, Kresimir Krsnik, disputes the sections of the

indictment that claim Bosnian Croat forces, aided by Croatians, attacked the Bosnian army with the aim of annexing Herzegovina to Croatia, committing serious crimes in the process.

The video, of a UN-filmed prisoner exchange, included shots of an inmate covered in festering wounds.

It formed part of the testimony of a former member of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO. He was wounded and captured by the Bosnian army in June 1993 and was kept with other prisoners in the cellar of the local school for three months before he was exchanged.

The witness said the military hospital director waited nine days before inspecting his leg, by which time it was already infected. "Let the Ustasha die" – a reference to Croat fascist forces during the Second World War - was the director’s only remark. The witness said the pain became unbearable and he was terrified when he saw a worm crawling from the wound.

The prosecution said one crime did not justify another, but Krsnik maintained that Bosnian forces bore the responsibility for most of the crimes.

The defence drew attention to the fact that, in some indictments, the prosecution alleges Bosniaks committed crimes against Croats whereas this one accuses Croats of offences against Bosniaks.

"The prosecution must choose once and for all who attacked who and what really happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Krsnik said.

But Judge Liu Daqun said the court was not obliged to establish who fired the first shot and that their mandate was only "to consider the events described in the indictment as submitted by the prosecution".

The defence strategy of focusing on which side started the conflict is not unique to this case. Slobodan Milosevic has exploited the same tactic and is trying to prove that KLA terrorism and NATO bombs - not Serbian forces - first triggered the mass exodus of Kosovo Albanians in 1999.

Mirna Jancic is an IWPR assistant editor.

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