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Delic Trial Hears Closing Arguments

Defence says charges not proven, while prosecution calls for conviction and 15-year jail term.
By Simon Jennings
The defence team of Rasim Delic called for his acquittal this week, saying he was not responsible for crimes committed by foreign Muslim fighters.

The prosecution, meanwhile, demanded that the former commander of the main staff of the Bosnian army be convicted and sentenced to 15 years, saying they had presented enough evidence during the trial to support the charges against him.

The former Bosnian general is on trial for failing to prevent or punish crimes committed by a group of mujahedin which fought on the Bosniak side during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. They are alleged to have slaughtered and mistreated dozens of Croat and Serb prisoners between 1993 and 1995.

The prosecution used its closing arguments to show that the El Mujahed detachment, which it says was subordinated to the Bosnian army’s 3rd Corps, was under Delic’s control, that the unit committed crimes during the period relevant to the indictment and that the general failed to put a stop to them.

The prosecution showed the court documents and cited testimonies that it says proves that in June 1993, members of the El Mujahed detachment executed 25 Croat civilians and Bosnian Croat soldiers in the village of Bikosi in the Travnik municipality.

Prosecutor Kyle Wood showed the postmortem reports of captured Serb soldiers Momir Mitrovic and Predrag Knezevic, who were tied up with electrical cable in the village of Livade in July 1995 and beheaded – a style of killing the prosecution attributes to the mujahedin.

Prosecutor Daryl Mundis told the court about the decapitations by members of the mujahedin who proceeded to parade the severed heads in front of villagers and school children. He said that reports of such acts would have alerted Delic to the unit’s criminal tendencies.

“That is precisely the type of notice…that should be extremely alarming when it reached the security administration of the main staff and was therefore available to the accused,” he said.

The prosecution contends that while Delic knew about the mujahedin’s propensity to commit such crimes, he failed to stop them.

“A superior on notice of a risk of future crimes must take necessary and reasonable steps to prevent the future crimes from occurring,” said Mundis.

To substantiate its claim that the unit came under the command of the Bosnian army, the prosecution cited the evidence of Ali Hamad, a former commander of the El Mujahed detachment.

“I had to cooperate with the [Bosnian] army. We could not attack any location without asking them,” he told the court in September last year.

Prosecutor Matias Neunens contested the defence’s argument that the El Mujahed detachment only had a “horizontal” relationship with the 3rd Corps, saying it never launched attacks without authorisation and shared its training compound.

The prosecution also cited oral reporting between the detachment and the Bosnian army as evidence of its subordination.

Delic’s defence team, meanwhile, denied subordination existed, saying that the oral reports only contained information on military positions and casualties and were indicative of a less formal relationship.

“This is cooperation, not reporting,” said Delic’s counsel, Vasvija Vidovic.

She also reminded the court that the issue at stake was whether Delic – not the Bosnian army in general – was responsible for the El Mujahed detachment.

“Where is Delic’s place in all this?” asked Vidovic. “What they [the prosecution] had to prove was that the detachment followed the orders of the accused.”

Vidovic contended that the El Mujahed detachment was not under the control of the Bosnian army, and instead answered to the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan. It also reported to al-Qaeda, said Vidovic.

Vidovic referred to combat reports sent by the detachment to the Islamic Cultural Institute.

“Who do you send reports to?” she asked. “Your bosses. Your superiors.”

She also cited the words of the witness Hamad, who had told the court that mujahedin never received orders from the Bosnian army.

Vidovic added that even if the foreign Muslim fighters had been under the control of the Bosnian army, the position of the detachment within the 35th division of the 3rd Corps, as the prosecution alleges, “would be too far removed from [Delic] for him to receive reports”.

Detailed reports were dealt with at a lower level of command and information that reached Delic would have been generalised, she said.

Vidovic used her closing statement to attack the prosecution’s methods, saying it had “generalised matters” and “constructed and construed facts”. She also said the office of the prosecutor had “adopted the most atrocious means in order to influence witnesses”.

She cited statements from two witnesses: one said he had been “forced into making a statement” while another said his answer “was placed in a different context” from the questions he was originally asked.

The judgement in Delic’s case will be announced at a later date.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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