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Kordic and Cerkez Initial Re-appearance

Tribunal Update 97: Last Week in The Hague (12-18 October, 1998)

This amended indictment extends the period of time covered by the initial (Lasva Valley) indictment, specifies the positions held by the accused and describes in greater detail their roles, powers and authorities, as well as describing at greater length, the "campaign of persecution, violence and ethnic cleansing implemented and carried out on a widespread or systematic basis, by various means and methods" against the Bosniak (Muslim) population of the Lasva Valley in central Bosnia.

The amended indictment, finally, aggravates the charges against the accused. Both are now charged with 22 counts of persecution of the Bosniak civilians on political, racial, ethnic or religious grounds; unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian objects; wilful killing, murder and causing serious injury; inhumane acts and inhumane treatment; imprisonment; taking of hostages and the use of human shields; destruction and plunder of property.

A great deal has already been heard before the court about the crimes committed in the Lasva Valley in 1993. These events are dealt with in as many as four on-going trials: of General Tihomir Blaskic; camp commander Zlatko Aleksovski; special police unit commander Anto Furundzija; and six Bosnian Croats gathered together in the indictment "Kupreskic and Others."

At the time of those events, Dario Kordic was the highest political leader of Bosnian Croats in that part of Bosnia, whilst Mario Cerkez commanded the HVO (Croatian Defence Council) brigade in Vitez, the town close by the village of Ahmici, where some of the worst crimes perpetrated in central Bosnia.

Although the accused both received and read the indictment in their own language - their defence counsels, Zagreb lawyers Mitko Naumovski and Bozidar Kovavic, stated at the very beginning of the hearing that they were unclear as to what they are accused of.

Consequently, Presiding Judge Claude Jorda ordered that the indictment be read out to them once again in its entirety before the Court. Asked for a plea on each count, the accused pleaded "not guilty" 22 times each. Cerkez was more emphatic than Kordic. "Absolutely not guilty!" he replied each time.

The beginning of the trial has not yet been scheduled. According to the Defence counsels, chances that it might begin before next spring are minimal.

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