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Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Final witnesses called to the stand as trial draws to a close

After 19 months the trial of Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez, accused of crimes against Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilians in central Bosnia, is finally drawing to a close. Final witnesses were called last week and closing arguments from the prosecution and defence counsels are scheduled for December 14 and 15.

The final prosecution witness was Halid Genjac, a member of the Bosnia-Herzegovina tripartite presidency. During the Bosnian war Genjac was president of the Bosniak Muslim Party of Democratic Action, SDA, in Travnik.

"From the beginning the HDZ [Croatian Democratic Union] obstructed municipal political life," Genjac said. "That ended in complete blockade."

In 1992, he said, "a kind of ultimatum" was issued demanding Bosniaks join the Croatian Defence Force, or HVO. "We stressed the recognition of the HVO government would be unconstitutional. The government in Travnik could not be named after only one people."

According to Genjac the only legal institutions in the town were the municipal presidency and the executive board.

Kordic, as former vice-president of the so-called Croatian Community of Herceg Bosna and of the HDZ in Bosnia-Herzegovina, is charged with making the most important political decisions in central Bosnia. The defence claim Kordic exercised no political power.

Genjac said the local Croatian leadership in Travnik "asked or quoted Kordic."

Last week the judges also accepted into evidence several documents gleaned from Croatian archives after the government in Zagreb open up its co-operation with The Hague tribunal.

Of the large volume of material submitted by the prosecution only 16 documents were accepted by the judges as meeting their strict criteria for the admission of new evidence at such a late stage in proceedings. The documents - HVO reports, orders and the logbook of the HVO central Bosnia command - were deemed "sufficiently significant" and additional to evidence already submitted that their adoption at such a late stage would not "outweigh the need to ensure fair trial."

At this stage it is difficult to assess the new evidence presented because not all the exhibits were read out in public and some of the prosecution's rebuttal witnesses did not testify in open court.

But if the defence's rejoinder is any indication, the new evidence includes allegations concerning Kordic's participation at a meeting of central Bosnia political and military leaders in Vitez on April 15, 1993 - the eve of the Lasva valley HVO offensive.

It is alleged those at the meeting laid down plans for the attacks against Bosniaks the following day.

Kordic's defence team called three witnesses, HVO political and military officials, to testify the accused was not present at the meeting and that they also knew nothing of it.

Cerkez's lawyers focused on evidence implicating the accused in organising the attack on Ahmici on April 16, 1993, which left over 100 Bosniak civilians dead. The defence argued that reports sent by Cerkez, then commander of the HVO Vitez brigade, to his superiors about the "advances of the HVO forces on Ahmici" did not imply the accused knew of or had responsibility for the massacre in the village.

During 237 days of the trial the prosecution has called 122 witnesses, the defence 117, and the court two. In all the prosecution presented 2743 exhibits, Kordic's defence 1614 and Cerkez's 210.

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