Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Kordic & Cerkez Trial: Fourth Time At The Stand For Mujezinovic
Mujezinovic, who was director of the Health Centre in the town of Vitez and a member of the "Council for the Protection of the Interests of Muslims", described once again how the rise in ethnic tensions eventually spilled over into war. The first incident took place in May 1992 when two Muslim soldiers were badly beaten and another one was killed.
In June, soldiers of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) took over the local police station, disarmed the Muslim policemen and hoisted the flags of Herzeg-Bosnia and the Republic of Croatia. Local Croat leaders started to describe the area as "historic Croat land", and warned Muslims not to resist the Croat authorities, saying that 90 per cent of the Croats were armed.
The HVO went on to establish its own municipal authorities, demanding that Muslims employed in the administration sign statements of allegiance to the new government. The HVO even set up check-points around the town, limiting the movement of Muslims and requisitioning their vehicles and the goods they were transporting.
By the spring of 1993, the vast majority of shops belonging to Muslims had been looted, blown up or else burnt down. On 16 April 1993 the HVO launched an attack on the Muslim part of Vitez and all the Muslim villages in the Lasva valley. Mujezinovic heard of the attack on Ahmici from nurses who had treated wounded Croat soldiers alongside him. The Bosnian Army launched a strong counter attack on HVO forces around Vitez on April 19. The town's
HVO brigade commander, the accused Mario Cerkez, summoned Mujezinovic and demanded he call the Bosnian Army headquarters in Zenica as well as President Izetbegovic in Sarajevo, to tell them that more than 2,200 Muslim prisoners would be killed unless the counter attack was halted. Mujezinovic followed his orders and received guarantees from both Zenica and Sarajevo that the Bosnian Army would not enter Vitez.
Mujezinovic said that he remained in the town even after the incident and continued to treat wounded HVO soldiers. In mid-May 1993, a Croat professor from Vitez warned him that Dario Kordic had issued an order for his murder during his forthcoming visit to patients in the near-by Central Bosnian town of Busovaca, he said.
However, presiding judge, Richard May of Great Britain, refused to accept such testimony as evidence. He also rejected other parts of Mujezinovic's testimony as 'hearsay', including his claim that Vitez's former chief of military police, Ivan Budimir, told him that Mario Cerkez had killed a Muslim while he was leaving the bar of the Hotel Vitez, in May 1992. An earlier witness, Edib Zlotrg, had also testified on the same incident (see Tribunal Update No. 124).
Judge May pointed out that the murder was not listed in Cerkez's indictment, and rejected this part of the testimony as hearsay, particularly in view of the fact that Ivan Budimir was dead and unable to confirm the fact.
Prosecutor Geoffrey Nice said that he had wished to revisit the case on the grounds that he wanted to demonstrate the "developing state of thinking and disposition toward Muslims in general (...) and that the Croats, Cerkez included, were willing to abuse the power and control they had."
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