Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update No. 177 (Last Week in The Hague, May 22-27, 2000)

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update No. 177 (Last Week in The Hague, May 22-27, 2000)

Saturday, 27 May, 2000

The prosecution claims Kordic held a senior political position and exercised military authority in the area.

A series of defence witnesses have refuted this description. Last week Niko Grubesic, secretary of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, in Kordic's home-town of Busovaca in 1993, described the accused as a "spokesman of the encircled Croat enclave in the Lasva valley."

Kordic is charged with the arrests of Bosniaks in Busovaca and their detention in the HVO prison of Kaonik, as well as individual killings and the destruction of the Bosniak property.

When asked by the defence whether Kordic had influenced events in Busovaca, Grubesic said the accused had not participated in the work of the municipal council and had only occasionally attended local meetings of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, political party and "some negotiations."

During cross-examination, however, the prosecutor presented to Grubesic several military orders signed by Kordic. "How can a spokesman issue an arrest warrant?" prosecutor Geoffrey Nice asked. Grubesic answered that Kordic probably signed the order "to prevent the escalation of the incident in question."

At that point presiding judge Richard May intervened to insist the witness answer more precisely. "You claim that Kordic was a spokesman and the prosecutor claims that he was much more than that - that he issued orders in the name of the regional HVO?" Grubesic, however, stuck rigidly to to the defence line that Kordic was only vice president of the HDZ in Bosnia and the Croatian Community of Herzeg Bosnia and held no military authority.

Grubesic and other defence witnesses then went on to refute prosecution allegations that Bosniaks in Busovaca had been persecuted. The witnesses claimed Bosniaks left the town due to pressures brought by an influx of refugees fleeing Serb attacks in other parts of Bosnia and not because of discriminatory policies enforced by the HVO authorities. The witnesses denied that Bosniaks were obliged to swear an oath of allegiance to the HVO in order to keep their jobs. The witnesses insisted humanitarian aid had been distributed equally.

The witnesses described Kordic as an "educated young man" who "helped the development of the town" and "protected poor workers" in his role as manager at a local factory.

After the outbreak of war, the witnesses said, Kordic acted to raise the morale of the HVO soldiers. Grubesic described how Kordic had told HVO troops he would go at their head to defend Jajce. Judge Patrick Robinson asked Grubesic to explain in what capacity Kordic had made such a promise to troops. "I understood that he said and went there as a politician," Grubesic replied.

Support our journalists