Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 176 Last Week in The Hague (May 15-24, 2000)

Kordic & Cerkez Trial

Tribunal Update 176 Last Week in The Hague (May 15-24, 2000)

Wednesday, 24 May, 2000

Although admitting that the crimes of one side do not justify the crimes of the other, defence lawyer Stephen Sayers said it was important to establish "what was done to whom."

Kordic is accused of the widespread and systematic persecution of Bosnian Muslims on the territory of the so-called Croatian Community of Herzeg Bosnia. His defence team argues, however, that no such policy existed and that both sides in the conflict bear responsibility for atrocities and crimes.

The defence last week cited the suffering of Bosnian Croat civilians in Kakanj, Travnik and Novi Travnik.

Pavo Sljivic, former leader of the civilian Croatian Defence Council, HVO, in Kakanj, said following the defeat of and HVO brigade at Kakanj in 1993, between 13,000 and 15,000 Croats had to flee to Vares to escape Muslim encirclement.

"Attempts by people to return resulted in around 30 civilian deaths, mainly elderly people," Sljivic said. The witness dismissed as "ridiculous" the idea that Croats wanted to expel Bosniaks from the areas under HVO control.

The prosecution has alleged that the Bosnian Croat leadership encouraged ethnic Croats to leave areas out-with total HVO control and resettle in ethnically pure Croat areas. Prosecutor Susan Somers highlighted the fact that the entire Bosnian Croat leadership left the Kakanj municipality in the summer of 1993 and then subsequently abandoned Vares in the same way.

"We were expelled because of the attack of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Army, and not because the Croatian minority wanted to occupy all the rest," Sljivic maintained.

Major Franjo Ljubas, former commander of the HVO Travnik brigade, then described the BH Army offensive against Croat villages within the Travnik municipality.

"During the fiercest offensive on June 8, 1993, 92 Croats were killed in one day. Sixty eight were civilians. Croats' homes were burnt down," Ljubas said.

The witness went on to say he had never heard of a policy within the HVO to expel the Bosniak population. Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice claimed the witness was placing all responsibility with one side. When challenged Ljubas insisted the HVO did not play a role in the worsening of inter-ethnic relations.

During the witness testimonies on crimes perpetrated against Croats, Judge Mohamed Bennouna reminded the defence that the purpose of the trial was not to research "revenge, retaliation or the concept of an eye for an eye. We, in this case, are dealing with specific issues" - namely the responsibility of the accused.

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