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

Kordic And Cerkez Trial Continues

Prosecutors conclude the presentation of their evidence against Bosnian Croat leaders, Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez.
By IWPR

Eleven months and 114 witnesses later, the prosecution has finally concluded their case against Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez, the Bosnian Croat leaders accused of crimes perpetrated by Croatian Defence Force (HVO) personnel in central Bosnia.


A protected witness, AO, presented evidence linking Kordic to events in Stupni Do, near Vares. Ivica Rajic, the former commander of the Kiseljak based Second Operative Group of the HVO, was accused by the Tribunal of a massacre in the village of Stupni Do. The indictment alleged at least 16 Bosniak civilians were killed or burnt. Given his influential position in central Bosnia, the prosecution has also charged Kordic with the killings in Stupni Do.


Witness AO, who described himself as one of the top five people in a right-wing paramilitary formation from Vares (HOS) in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, testified that Slobodan Praljak and Dario Kordic sent Rajic to Vares in October 1993.


"Rajic had orders from Grude, the Herzeg-Bosnia presidency, to oust the Croat civilian leadership in Vares and seize some peak elevations around the town," the witness said. He claims that he saw the signatures of Slobodan Praljak, Dario Kordic and Mate Boban on various orders that Rajic had shown him.


Rajic arrived in Vares on October 19 with the "Maturice" unit through territory controlled by Serbian forces. The "Apostoli" (Apostles) and "Sijuksi" (Sioux) units soon followed Rajic's arrival.


According to witness AO, Rajic ordered the arrest of Bosniaks in Vares and the removal of the local Croatian leadership. He then ordered his units to attack Stupni Do. The witness claimed Rajic promised the soldiers they could take as war booty everything they captured in the village. The units attacked the village from three directions in the early hours of October 23.


This attack, AO said, was the only way to force Croats to leave Vares before an expected counter-attack by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Army (BH Army). The prosecution has presented a body of evidence over the previous months that the Bosnian Croat authorities were keen to establish ethnically pure Croat areas. Part of this strategy involved moving Croats from areas like Vares to areas under HVO control.


Witness AO said he had heard that the subsequent evacuation of Croats following the Stupni Do attack through Serb territory was carried out in agreement with the Serbian authorities.


Kordic's defence disputed the credibility of this witness, pointing out a number of imprecisions in the testimony. They disputed that the Bosnian Croats had a body called the "war presidency" and pointed out the witness could not say definitively which of the orders carried Kordic's signature. After establishing some contradictions in AO's testimony, the trial chamber ordered the prosecution to recall the witness. The defence has requested that his testimony be excluded.


Suljeman Kalco, a former member of the Bosniak Territorial Defence (TO) in Vitez, also appeared for the prosecution last week, accusing Cerkez - as local HVO commander - of responsibility for a truck bomb explosion and attacks on Bosniak areas of Vitez in 1993.


"This was done on the command of the Vitez brigade," Kalco said. The BH Army intercepted a conversation between Cerkez and his subordinate, Kalco claimed, during which Cerkez ordered HVO artillery to target a Muslim sacred building.


Kalco also claimed that during negotiations Cerkez threatened to burn the entire municipality around Novi Travnik, following TO moves to block the passage of an HVO brigade to the town.


The defence is scheduled to begin presenting their case on April 10, 2000.