Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Lawyers argue over admissibility of "Zagreb documents"

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Lawyers argue over admissibility of "Zagreb documents"

Saturday, 25 November, 2000

Judges in the trial of Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez, accused of crimes against the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) population of central Bosnia, have laid down strict criteria for the prosecution in their efforts to present new evidence gleaned from Croatian government archives opened to Tribunal investigators in April this year.

Prosecutors are seeking to introduce as new material evidence large numbers of documents from Zagreb, including intelligence reports and official military orders, even though this phase of the trial is normally concerned with rebutting evidence presented by the defence.

The documents prove, the prosecution claim, that Kordic, a former Bosnian Croat political leader, did issue military orders in central Bosnia, especially on the eve of the HVO offensive in April 1993.

Likewise, prosecutors argue, the papers prove Cerkez, as commander of the HVO Vitez brigade, had a well-organised force at his disposal during the offensive against Bosniaks in the Lasva river valley.

Kordic's defence team claim the accused exercised no military authority in central Bosnia. Cerkez's lawyers have claimed the Vitez brigade was not fully formed at the time of the Lasva valley offensive and could not have been involved in that campaign's most notorious crime, the Ahmici massacre, which left over 100 Bosniak civilians dead.

The defence oppose the introduction of the Zagreb documents claiming the material is "irrelevant" and "unreliable". The bulk of the evidence contained in the papers, the defence claims, is cumulative and overlaps with evidence already presented in the trial.

Prosecutors insist the evidence is relevant and called on the judges not to "punish" them because Croatia had failed to make the material available earlier.

The judges said their only concern was getting at the truth and ensuring a just outcome. But given the quantity of material involved and the late stage in the trial proceedings, they ruled the prosecution could only introduce documents which it could prove had not been available before, were relevant to the specific events referred to in the prosecution case, did not overlap with evidence already presented in the trial, and could directly aid the court in establishing the guilt or innocence of the accused.

It has yet to be announced just how many documents are to be accepted as new material evidence.

Tribunal prosecutors, meanwhile, claim the Croatian government is still denying them access to several crucial documents relevant to the Kordic and Cerkez trial.

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