Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kordic and Cerkez: Surprising Witness

Tribunal Update 136: Last Week in The Hague (26-31 July, 1999)

His appearance in the witness box caused great surprise, both for the reporters from The Tribunal, as well as for the Defence. Kljujic had been planned as a "super secret" Prosecution witness, who was supposed to testify in camera.

Kljujic did not in fact arrive at The Hague on his volition, but under a subpoena. His decision to jettison the protective measures granted to him, and testify publically, triggered a storm of protests by the Defence. Presiding Judge Richard May, however, overruled the Defence's objections and allowed the public testimony.

Kljujic spoke about the creation of the HDZ B-H and its evolution from its support for a sovereign and single Bosnia-Herzegovina in which the Croat nation would be equal, to implementing a policy initiated in Zagreb, which endeavoured to break-up Bosnia-Herzegovina and conduct negotiations with the Serbs about border changes.

As in the prosecutor's closing arguments in the trial of General Blaskic, much was said about the ideas and actions of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. Kordic and his political patron Mate Boban were presented as mere "spokesmen" for the policy created in Zagreb.

With Kljujic's assistance, Prosecutor Geofry Nice introduced a large number of documents - minutes from the sessions of the Presidency of the HDZ BH and notes of conversations held in the Zagreb "seat" of the HDZ, most often in Tudjman's presence. Nice appeared to be more interested in introducing those documents, than in what the witness actually said.

Among the presented documents was the transcript of the conversation that Kljujic had with President Tudjman in Zagreb at the beginning of 1993. While it was not made clear how the Tribunal received such a sensitive transcript, it is believed Kljujic himsmelf handed it over to the prosecution. In their conversation, Kljujic said Tudjman explicitly declared himself against the preservation of a unitary Bosnia.

According to the quote, read out to the court, Tudjman argued that the "cantonisation" of Bosnia-Herzegovina (according to the Vance-Owen peace plan) was a less favourable solution than "demarcation" since "the entire history demonstrated that Bosnia-Herzegovina is not a solution for the Croatian people." Tudjman went on to describe Bosnia as a "colonial creation", the outcome of Turkish conquests, that disappeared between the two world wars in order to be later "invented by communists". This left Croatia in a "territorially impossible situation."

Tudjman went on to claim that were Bosnia to "survive, the Croats would find themselves in a demographically impossible situation because "plans are being made [in Sarajevo] to bring half a million Muslims from Turkey."

Kljujic described his dismissal from the post of a leader of HDZ BH, and then from the BH Presidency, as a "conspiracy" between Franjo Tudjman, Alija Izetbegovic and Mate Boban.

Izetbegovic, Kljujic argued, had a personal motive to remove him, since, in December 1993, Kljujic was to replace him as President of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the end, Kljujic alleged, Izetbegovic emerged as the biggest victim of the "conspiracy" since, by "violating" the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina so as to extend his mandate, Izetbegovic reduced himself to the "president of the Muslims" - as his "co-conspirator Tudjman later put it to him.

In attempting to characterise the results of the "extremist faction" of the HDZ BH, Kljujic concluded that its policy and activities in collusion with Zagreb inflicted "great damage to the Croatian people of BH, the Republic of B-H, and finally, to the people of Croatia."

Kljujic's cross-examination by Defence counsels of Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez was postponed for September.

After testifying in the Blaskic trial in 1997, and in the Kupreskic and Others Trial last year, Colonel Bryan Watters - who was the deputy commander of the British battalion of UNPROFOR in Central Bosnia appeared before the Tribunal for the third time last week. Describing the situation as he saw it in Central Bosnia, the strategic goals of the HVO and the BH Army and the conflict between them in 1993, Colonel Watters repeated his earlier statements, covered at length in Tribunal Updates 52 and 90.

The prosecutor's emphasis this time focused on the role of the two accused, and, especially Kordic. On the other hand, during the cross-examination of Watters, the Defence, and, especially, Kordic's Defence, tried to shift all responsibility back down to General Blaskic on trial one floor below.

In some of his statements, Colonel Watters, confirmed Blaskic's arguments about the "dual chain of command"; the refusal of Kordic and his soldiers to submit to Blaskic's orders; about Kordic's "direct connection" with Mostar. Watters said Kordic had obvious political and military influence in the region, so that the representatives of the international forces always addressed him whenever they could not solve their problems with Blaskic.

Watters also spoke about the contradictions and disagreements between the political (Kordic) and military (Blaskic) chain of command, and confusion, which according to him, was caused by Kordic wearing a uniform even though he was not a soldier.

After a cease-fire agreement was concluded between the HVO and the BH Army, on 21 April 1993, Watters had expressed his concerns to General Milivoj Petkovic, HVO's commander, about Blaskic's "ability to deliver...given the fact that in past his orders and assurances [had] been overturned by Mr Kordic".

Kordic's Defence, however, managed to point the finger at Blaskic several times. It succeeded in getting Watters to agree that Kordic did not participate in the negotiations on the cease-fire whereas Blaskic did. The latter was also said to have been included in the so-called Joint Commission of the HVO-BH Army, whereas Kordic was not. The Defence also found Watters confirming that he had handed Blaskic (and not Kordic) a list with the names of 11 suspects for the massacre in Ahmici, compiled by UNPROFOR and ECMM from "very sensitive sources." Blaskic however denied he received such a list.

Finally, Kordic's Defence managed to obtain the confirmation that Watters had received a statement said to be from Blaskic that Serbs or Muslims were responsible for Ahmici. That very day, Blaskic's Defence counsel attributed this same statement to Kordic.