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Kordic & Cerkez Trial - Defence Witness Finds Himself In Hot Water Over Stupni Do Massacre

Tribunal Update 183 Last Week in The Hague (July 3-8, 2000)
By IWPR

Bozic, a former commander in the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, in Vares, was appearing as a defence witness on behalf of Dario Kordic, accused of crimes against Bosniaks in central Bosnia in 1993.


Kordic's defence lawyers had called Bozic to testify that the defendant "did not have any military powers" and that as a politician he "could not issue orders to the army."


The prosecution claim that Kordic, a leading political figure among the central Bosnian Croats, did exercise military authority in the region and had, among other things, issued a written order for an attack by Croatian forces on the village of Stupni Do. At least 16 Muslim civilians died in the attack on October 23, 1993.


In 1995, the then Chief Prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, issued an indictment against Ivica Rajic, commander of the HVO Second Operational Group, for the Stupni Do massacre. The prosecutor in the Kordic trial claimed Rajic had carried out a "coup" in Vares on the eve of the attack, removing from office and placing under guard with "his men" members of the HVO's political and military regional bodies.


One of "his men", the prosecutor said, was Kresimir Bozic, who Rajic personally appointed as HVO commander. During cross-examination Bozic denied ever speaking to Rajic about the attack on Stupni Do. But the direction the cross-examination was taking prompted judge Richard May to ask the prosecutor if he was alleging the witness was involved in the crimes at Stupni Do.


The prosecutor's veiled response left the option of an indictment for those offences open. Judge May, therefore, advised Bozic he had the right to refuse to answer any question he believed could be incriminating or could be used against him at a later date.


Visibly nervous at this turn of events Bozic blurted out: "I do not understand the purpose of such conduct against me. The aim is to discredit me by placing me in the context of committed crimes. That I take part and patiently endure this is only a reflection of my wish to help."


The prosecutor then advised the court that the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina have issued a warrant for Bozic's arrest in connection with the killings at Stupni Do. Bozic currently lives in Croatia and serves in the Croatian Army. Bozic denied all knowledge of the Bosnian warrant and said he lived in Croatia for "economic reasons."