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Kordic & Cerkez: Defence Claims Undermined

Prosecution witnesses counter Kordic's claim that his was merely a local journalist and small-time politician, instead of a major war criminal

Prosecution witnesses, last week, cast into doubt the basic premise of Dario Kordic's defence, according to which the accused - at the time to which the indictment refers - was "a minor local figure, a journalist turned politician - without any influence on the army."

Last week, however, it turned out that that the "minor figure" was a partner of British General Roderick Cordy-Simpson and leading Bosnian Serb generals and the B-H Army, who, together with Kordic, representating the HVO, made up the Mixed Military Working Group.

General Cordy-Simposn, UNPROFOR's Chief of Staff under General Morillon, presided over the work of that group which regularly met at Sarajevo Airport. At the beginning, the HVO was represented in the MMWG by Colonel Blaskic, but, on 28 November 1992, Dario Kordic showed up with him at the meeting, and presented himself as Colonel and Deputy Commander of the entire HVO and, as General Cordy-Simpson stated before the court, was accepted as such. On 28 November 1992, the witness was categorical, Kordic "definitely introduced himself - in front of the Serb and BH Army delegation - as Colonel and commander responsible for the HVO at the Mixed Military Working Group."

Since Kordic also presented himself on that occasion as superior to Colonel Blaskic, the British General assessed that it was "necessary to have rank of Colonel in order to ensure that he was not subordinated to Colonel Blaskic."

Kordic, General Cordy-Simpson went on, was "clearly the leader of the HVO delegation and had the authority directly from General Petkovic - who was the overall commander - which meant that Kordic was superior to Blaskic in official chain of command. Since he was also a Politician, he had considerable influence."

According to the assessment of the former UNPROFOR Chief of Staff, General Petkovic and the President of the self-declared Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia Mate Boban, were at the time primarily linked to Mostar, so that Kordic "exercised considerable authority in Central Bosnia with the authority of Petkovic and Boban."

The Defence's basic premise about a "minor figure" did not fare any better even in the testimony of Payam Akhavan, a former member of the UN Commission on Human Rights in the former Yugoslavia (better known as "Mazowiecki Commission").

At the end of April and the beginning of May 1993, Akhavan was investigating the massacre in Ahmici, interviewing the surviving Muslim inhabitants of the village and talking with all main actors in the region, including the accused Dario Kordic, Mario Cerkez and Tihomir Blaskic.

Akhavan had already testified about the results of his investigation two times before the Tribunal, in Blaskic and Kupreskic & Others trials (see Tribunal Updates 57 and 91). Last week his testimony focused on the role of Dario Kordic.

Since Akhavan had in the meantime become a Legal Adviser with the OTP, Kordic's defence made sure to draw the attention to the "common employer" of the witness and the prosecutor, causing an indignant reaction of Prosecutor Geofry Nice.

Using the notes of the conversations with the representatives of the Brit Batt and other international agencies that were present in Central Bosnia at the time, Akhavan offered the following sketch for the portrait of Dario Kordic: "The mastermind of HDZ-HVO policies in the region; Mate Boban's right hand man; Implements policy of Boban; Head of HDZ for Central Bosnia; Input into all HVO brigades in Central Bosnia. Kordic gives political directions to Blaskic; He gets openly involved in political matters, specially in Busovaca area."

Akhavan talked with Kordic in his headquarters in Busovaca at the beginning of May 1993. He described how they waited for an hour to be received, how the building was well secured, and how armed bodyguards were in the room during the entire time.

As for Kordic, he said he was in the uniform and was very arrogant towards the representatives of the UN, categorically denying any participation of the HVO in the massacre in Ahmici, shifting the responsibility to the Serbs or the Muslims themselves. He explained how the Croats soldiers, as "good Christians", could never commit such a crime and refused the need for any investigation for the responsibility for what had happened.

Akhavan said he (Kordic) did not "give the impression of being in the least disturbed by the crime about which we were talking."

Apart from the already mentioned indication at the "common employer", the Defence tried to dispute the credibility of this witness and the results of his human rights investigation, pointing to some - according to its assessment, unsubstantiated - conclusions from the UN Commission Report on the Ahmici Massacre.

Kordic's US Defence counsel Steve Sayers particularly attacked Akhavan's asssessments of the role of the media in inspiring hatred and violence among ethnic groups. He cited a lengthy quote from the report, which, says, among other things:

"There is considerable evidence that prior to the attack on Ahmici, political figures repeatedly used the media for advocacy of national and religious hatred, that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence. The (UN Human Rights) team gained impression that those political figures have considerably more influence in the decision making process than the HVO military commanders."

After he read that, Sayers asked the witness what the "considerable evidence" was, and whether he personally saw "any video-tape, news broadcast of press conferences during which leading political figures made such statements?" The witness replied that he had not personally seen that, but that it was written on the basis of the conversations with "several individuals who spoke local language and who suggested that Kordic made all sorts of statements that they believe to be of an inflammatory character, distorted truth and involved misinformation."

As the Defence counsel refused to give up, but continued to stress that the "witness never actually saw any evidence himself", and that the witness does not speak the local language, so that even if he had seen and heard he would not have been able to understand.

Akhavan noted that the Croatian media - in Bosnia or in Croatia itself - never showed what had happened in Ahmici. The only thing shown on HTV (the official Croatian TV) about the Lasva Valley crimes, were pictures of Croat mothers mourning their killed sons

Since even that was not enough for the American lawyer who argued that that the witness neither spoke nor understood the language, Akhavan gave him a rather clear message:

"Even if I cannot speak the language, the mere fact that the images do not even appear on TV, I think, would tell to any man of average intelligence that this is not an impartial, but biased and distorted, coverage."

Sayers, however, did not understand the message, but continued to claim that "there is no evidence", all until Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson warned that "the whole line of cross-examination (was) too argumentative" and that he "should move on."

The courts are in recess until 30 August. Hence, there will be no hearings until the end of this month, except in the case of new arrests or surrenders of indictees.

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