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Kordic & Cerkez Trial: ECMM Reports On Croatian Role In Bosnia

Tribunal Update 154: Last Week in The Hague (November 29-December 4, 1999)

"Based on ECMM reports, I learned that Dario Kordic had an influential position in some areas and a controlling position in HVO," said Ole Brix Andersen, former deputy head in charge of political affairs at the ECMM HQ in Zagreb from September 1992 until July 1993, in his testimony to the tribunal last week.

The prosecutor sought to demonstrate the view of senior ECMM officials towards Kordic's role in Bosnia, of the HVO and its actions and the role of Croatia proper in Bosnian Croat policy, by citing reports sent to Brix Andersen from the war zone.

Brix Andersen told the tribunal that he was reviewing the reports from ECMM centres in Bosnia-Herzegovina and sending them to the Danish EU presidency in Copenhagen.

"In Novi Travnik, Vitez and Busovaca area, HVO which prevented movements of relief convoys, answered only to Dario Kordic (who was) a minister for (Bosnian Croat) Herceg-Bosna, political leader, effective military commander in Busovaca and a cousin of Mate Boban," says one report sent to Brix Andersen.

The European monitors adjudged Kordic as "responsible for problems in Busovaca," where the accused lived at the time. Kordic has pleaded not guilty to charges of attacks on Muslims in the Lasva Valley region in central Bosnia-Herzegovina, where hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded in 1993.

In one of the presented reports, ECMM head in Zenica Jean-Pierre Thebault cited attempts by the so-called Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna to create "ethnically clean areas" even if it meant forcibly moving Bosnian Croats if they lived in areas where they comprised a minority.

"It seems Machiavellian, but it's only Balkan," Thebault wrote. "Everyone who has met regularly the top Bosnian Croat leadership - Boban, Kordic, Valenta - in various situations where their paranoia and their extremism were not hidden, could easily believe it."

The ECMM concluded that "an organised offensive by HVO against Muslim towns and villages" in the spring of 1993 was a result of the intentions of the HVO to take over total control over the cantons eight and 10 that were marked in the Vance-Owen plan as "majority Croat".

Prosecutor Kenneth Scott took special note of the ECMM's views on the involvement of Croatia in events in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "Our assessment was that there was a strategy of support by the Croatian government to Herceg-Bosna leadership," Brix Andersen said.

"It was difficult to establish evidence of direct involvement of Croatian Army (HV), but there were many signs that Croatian government supported them politically, with equipment and with troops," Brix Andersen said. Although the ECMM found it difficult to establish "hard evidence" of HV involvement in Bosnia, he said, it was confirmed by the fact that EU pressure on Croatia would have "some effect" on the Bosnian Croats.

"According to our assessment, Tudjman had a large degree of influence on what happens among Bosnian Croats," Brix Andersen said.

Kordic's defence seeks to prove that his political significance in the region was limited and he did not play a military role. They tired to cast doubt on the accuracy of the ECMM reports, noting that Kordic was never a 'Minister in Herzeg-Bosna', nor 'a member of the HVO government', as said in one of the presented reports.

Brix Andersen however thought this was "of no significance". In the ECMM's view he was a leading figure. "I don't know his precise formal title, but he did exercise authority."

The Kordic & Cerkez trial continues this week.

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