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Kordic & Cerkez Trial: Accused 'Pulling Strings' In The Lasva Valley

Tribunal Update 155: Last Week in The Hague (December 6-11, 1999)
By IWPR

Kordic and his fellow suspects are accused of serious violations of international humanitarian law during the period of May 1992 to May 1993 when the armed forces of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) attacked the Moslem civilian population of the Lasva Valley area of Central Bosnia.


"Apparently, Kordic was pulling strings in the (Lasva) pocket and everything went through him", testified a former member of the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) in Central Bosnia, adding that Kordic "didn't have to pick up the telephone to consult" anyone before making decisions.


The witness, whose identity was protected, explained that the monitors approached Kordic with issues that ranged from the demilitarisation of some areas to the freedom of movement for certain individuals, such as, for example, a Busovaca imam.


The other witness, Nasiha Meslamovic, testified that she addressed Kordic personally, when, at the beginning of 1994, she wanted to leave Busovaca, where, as a Bosniak, "she could not survive any longer."


The witness from the ECMM, who monitored the no-fly zone in Bosnia-Herzegovina, said that she personally did not see helicopters which allegedly supplied aid and equipment to the HVO by night and carried out evacuations from the surrounded Lasva Valley.


She did, however, add that the HVO and HV (Croatian Army) helicopter flights were "common knowledge" and that Kordic himself used a helicopter to leave the enclave. The ECMM mission assessed that Kordic was responsible for the problems in Busovaca, where his headquarters was located.


Among other things, witness Meslamovic talked about the arrests of Bosniaks and their detention in Kaonik prison. She also stressed that the commander of the Busovaca brigade of the HVO reported to a uniformed Kordic personally, when soldiers of that brigade were swearing an oath.


In addition, Kordic had a "special connection" with Pasko Ljubicic, the commander of the military police of the HVO in Central Bosnia: Kordic's sister was Ljubicic's girlfriend. A member of the 'Jokers' unit from Busovaca, a special task force of the military police regularly linked in testimonies to massacres in Ahmici, told Meslamovic that the Jokers carried out "only special missions" and that they "get their salaries from Zagreb."


"There was a great degree of uncertainty in the ECMM about the position of Kordic," claimed Kordic's defence lawyer Stephen Sayers, who pointed out before the witness from the ECMM that she herself had confirmed this in an earlier statement to the investigators.


The defence, which disputes Kordic's military role, argues that the HVO was responsible to the leadership in Mostar, and not to Kordic.


Pointing out that Kordic was only one of the vice presidents of the "Croatian Community of Herzeg Bosnia", Sayer presented to the judges the Stoltenberg and Owen plan for a union of three republics in B-H under which the HZBH was renamed "the Croatian Republic of H-B." The defence warned that the plan was proposed by the international community.


These testimonies brought to a close the main hearing in the trial of Kordic and Mario Cerkez for this year. The largest part of last weeks hearing was closed to the public in order that witnesses who have complete protection of identity and testimony could appear.


The prosecutor, who has summoned 70 witnesses since the beginning of the trial in April, will continue his submissions on January 10 2000. According to unofficial estimates this trial will probably continue until the end of next year.


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