Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 182 Last Week in The Hague (June 26 - July 1, 2000)

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 182 Last Week in The Hague (June 26 - July 1, 2000)

Saturday, 1 July, 2000

Prosecutors allege former Croatian President, Franjo Tudjman, aimed to divide Bosnia, BiH. This policy, the prosecution argues, resulted in the creation of a separate Bosnian Croat entity and an orchestrated campaign of attacks against Muslim inhabitants living within its boundaries.

The two defendants - Kordic a former Bosnian Croat vice president, and Mario Cerkez, Croatian Defence Force, HVO, brigade commander - are accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and breaches of the Geneva Conventions for their alleged participation in this systematic campaign of persecution.

Kordic's defence is trying to prove, however, that no criminal intent or definite strategy existed and the war between Bosniaks and Croats was the result of unfortunate circumstances, particularly of Serbian aggression.

Defence witness Mark Almond, a lecturer in history at Oxford University, believes too much weight has been given to the meeting between Tudjman and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at Karadjordjevo in March 1991.

Prosecution witnesses have claimed the two leaders discussed the division of Bosnia at the meeting. Almond, however, argued such "conspiracy theories" collapse in the face of subsequent events, particularly Serbian attacks on Croatia and in BiH.

"But why then was the future of BiH discussed without representatives from that state?" the prosecution asked. Almond said the bilateral talks on the future of the former Yugoslav federation took place during the process of dissolution and therefore offer no proof of criminal intent, "not at a time when BiH still had not been granted international recognition."

The second expert witness, Stjepan Mestrovic, a sociology professor from the United States, said the Bosnian Croat-Bosniak conflict grew out of the "immense pressure" placed on both communities by Serbian aggression.

Mestrovic said responsibility for the hostilities between Croats and other ethnic groups could not be ascribed to Tudjman. Sociological studies, Mestrovic said, especially from the 1980s, indicate ethnic tensions escalated before Tudjman came to power in Croatia. The sociologist argued nationalism developed "from the bottom up", that each ethnic group produced their nationalist leaders.

When asked by the prosecutor whether he therefore believed the policy of ethnic cleansing evolved spontaneously, Mestrovic said he did not.

Prompted by judge Patrick Robinson, Mestrovic said it was possible to apply both "bottom up" and "top down" interpretations to the events in question.

The sociologist described as "problematic" prosecution claims that the violence in central Bosnia was planned and systematic. The sociologist argued the "social and cultural structures" necessary did not exist in the region.

Mestrovic compared, as an example, the detention camps at Prijedor and the Nazi concentration camps. According to Mestrovic the killings at the former were rather unsystematic, often the result of drunkenness on the part of guards. The Holocaust on the other hand, Mestrovic said, was carried out thoroughly because the necessary social structures did exist within Nazi controlled Europe.

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