Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 181 Last Week in The Hague (June 19-23, 2000)

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 181 Last Week in The Hague (June 19-23, 2000)

Friday, 23 June, 2000

The indictment against Kordic alleges one of the aims of the Croatian Community was to establish closer ties or a union with Croatia proper. The prosecution claims the Community's political and military bodies "engaged in a campaign of persecutions and ethnic cleansing against Bosnian Muslims" within its territory. By virtue of his position, the prosecution contest, Kordic exercised power over those operations.

Last week, the defence called a series of former officials from Herceg Bosna, who presented a rather uniform definition of the Community and Kordic's lack of authority there in.

"Croats in Bosnia were in a difficult position as a result of Serbian aggression and the non-functioning of the joint authorities," the witnesses said. One witness said the Herceg Bosna institutions came "live only in mid 1992", that is after the war had started, despite the foundation of the Community in November 1991.

Zoran Buntic, the then president of the Herceg Bosna justice department, said the Community's new institutions were formed to organise the functioning of civilian life because the war had interrupted the working of state institutions. Where legal authority ceases to function, Buntic said, anarchy soon follows.

Prosecutor, Susan Somers, criticised the Bosnian Croat leadership for their decision to form separate institutions rather than working with the government in Sarajevo. Anarchy was avoided, she said, by a coup. The word "coup" infuriated Buntic, who retaliated that the Community's institutions were entirely legal.

The prosecution pressed on, however, pointing out Bosnia's constitutional court had declared Herceg Bosna illegal in the autumn of 1992. Buntic said he had only learnt of that decision "a couple of years later" implying he may have implemented the ruling had he known of its existence.

Buntic said Kordic, as the Community's vice president, had powers of a "parliamentary nature" only. The prosecutor replied by presenting a document , signed by the Community's leading men, which was presented to the then Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in December 1991. "The president of Herceg Bosna, Mate Boban, and vice presidents, Dario Kordic and Bozo Rajic, are authorised to represent Herceg Bosna in Zagreb," the document read.

When asked if he was surprised Kordic had been invested with such authority, which far exceeded that of an ordinary parliamentarian, Buntic replied only, "It's a document of the HDZ [Croatian Democratic Union] party."

Zulfo Robovic, a former Herceg Bosna government minister and the first Bosniak to publicly testify in Kordic's defence, said he had decided to appear for Kordic because, "I saw in Kordic the strength and will to make sure the Washington Accords were implemented... for mutual respect between Croats and Bosniaks".

The prosecutor then pointed out Kordic had said before the signing of the Accords that he opposed their implementation. Robovic countered that Kordic respected authority and supported the consistent implementation of the Accords after they were signed.

Robovic was a member of the small Muslim Democratic Party and minister for reconstruction in the Herceg Bosna administration. The defence hoped to demonstrate through his testimony that neither Kordic nor the Community as a whole discriminated against Bosniaks as claimed by the prosecution.

Robovic confirmed, however, to the prosecutor that he had met Tudjman in Zagreb several times. The prosecutor claimed it was only Robovic's clearly demonstrated loyalty to the late Croatian president, which secured his position within the Herceg Bosna government.

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