Kordic and Cerkez Trial - Zagreb Asks Tribunal To Take Over 'Ahmici Case'

Tribunal Update 189 Last Week in The Hague (September 4-9, 2000)

Kordic and Cerkez Trial - Zagreb Asks Tribunal To Take Over 'Ahmici Case'

Tribunal Update 189 Last Week in The Hague (September 4-9, 2000)

Saturday, 9 September, 2000

Last Thursday the prosecutor in the Kordic and Cerkez trial demanded an explicit response as to why all the requested documents relating to the Ahmici massacre, in which over 100 Bosniak civilians were killed in April 1993, had not been made available.

The Ahmici killings form the central accusation against Kordic, former political leader of the Bosnian Croats, and Cerkez, former commander of the Vitez brigade. The documents also have a bearing on the case of former Croatian Defence Force, HVO, commander Tihomir Blaskic, sentenced to 45 years imprisonment by the tribunal in March 2000.

Then over the weekend the Croatian government asked the tribunal to "take over" the case of two suspects arrested in Croatia for their alleged personal involvement in the Ahmici killings. The two men - Anto Sliskovic, former chief of the HVO intelligence service in Central Bosnia and his former aid Tomo Vlajic - have not been publicly indicted by the tribunal. As a result it was thought they would be tried in Croatia.

The tribunal has yet to respond to Zagreb's request.

Meanwhile, the tribunal has confirmed a subpoena has been issued to General Petkovic, former HVO headquarters commander, to appear as a witness in the Kordic and Cerkez trial.

Petkovic gave evidence in a closed hearing last year during the Blaskic trial via video link from Croatia. Blaskic's lawyers later said Petkovic's evidence was damaging to their client.

Cerkez's lawyers continued their defence last week calling former HVO members and village guards to give evidence on the Vitez brigade and the accused's role as a commander. The defence claims the Vitez brigade was not involved in the Ahmici attack. Furthermore, last week's witnesses said the brigade was formally organised only after a full draft was organised on April 21, 1993 - after the Ahmici killings.

"Therefore," the defence said, "he [Cerkez] could not hold command responsibility for all crimes committed against Bosniaks before that date."

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice claimed, however, the witnesses were understating the professionalism of the Vitez brigade at the time of the Ahmici events and things were in fact well organised. Nice said this was supported by documents relating to the composition of units and other material presented as evidence by the prosecution.

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