Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Prosecutors reveal "hidden documents"

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Prosecutors reveal "hidden documents"

Saturday, 14 October, 2000

Defence lawyers for Mario Cerkez, former commander of the Croatian Defence Force, HVO, Vitez brigade insisted last week that the prosecution clarify allegations against their client ahead of his own appearance in the witness box.

Cerkez is scheduled to give evidence next week. Among other things, Cerkez is accused of involvement in the Ahmici massacre on April 16, 1993 which claimed the lives of at least 100 Muslim civilians.

Cerkez's defence team claims the Vitez brigade did not take part in the attack on Ahmici. During the April 1993 offensive in the Lasva river valley, the defence argue, the brigade was still in the process of being formed and was not at the time a military force capable of carrying out "systematic and planned expulsions of Bosniaks" - one of the charges facing Cerkez.

In response, the prosecution has produced documents made available by the Croatian government over the past year. In one of those documents, dated April 16, Cerkez informed HVO commander in central Bosnia Tihomir Blaskic - currently serving a 45-year prison sentence for his part in crimes committed in the Lasva valley - of combat actions in villages surrounding Vitez.

"Village Donja Veceriska is 70 per cent done...Ahmici is also been 70 per cent done..." the report said.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice stressed the document proved not only that the Vitez brigade was established and organised, but was involved in the overall plan of action against Ahmici.

The defence contested, however, that another document made available by Zagreb, and presented during a closed session, acquitted the Vitez brigade of responsibility for crimes in Ahmici. Bozo Kovacic, representing Cerkez, demanded the prosecution make clear whether his client was accused of the attack on Ahmici before Cerkez takes the stand.

Nice replied that there were no contradictions in his position. "Our case is...that Cerkez was involved in the plans laid down for Ahmici," the prosecutor said. The documents presented, he added, demonstrated that "once the dirty work was done, it may be that Vitez brigade was brought in to secure positions."

Nice pointed out the documents on which he was relying had been "concealed for several years" from the tribunal and that the prosecution should not therefore be criticised for introducing this new evidence at such a late stage in the trial.

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