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Kordic & Cerkez Trial - New documents from Croatia link defendant to Ahmici

Tribunal Update 193 Last Week in The Hague (October 2-7, 2000)

The defence argued the Vitez brigade, and Cerkez as its commander, were not involved in the attack against Ahmici. Several defence witnesses said their units were deployed south of Vitez, well away from Ahmici, on the day of the attack.

Anto Bertovic, a former commander of one of the Vitez brigade battalions, said Cerkez had given him an order on the eve of the attack to "block the the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina from the villages of Kruscica and Vranjska." Bertovic added the brigade only consisted of one battalion at that time and that those forces were not sent elsewhere.

During cross-examination, the prosecutor responded with documents made available by the Croatian authorities. One, an order from former HVO commander in central Bosnia Tihomir Blaskic, indicated the Vitez brigade had been ordered to other villages including Ahmici.

The order was issued at 1035 on April 16, 1993, five hours after the Lasva valley offensive had begun. Blaskic addressed the order to the Vitez Brigade commander Mario Cerkez, "regarding your report, do the following: take the villages of Donja Vecerska, Ahmici, Sivrino Selo and Vrhovine".

Bertovic said he never received such an order because "given the numerical strength of the Vitez brigade, it was not capable of carrying out such instructions".

Next the prosecutor presented another Blaskic order sent to various HVO units on April 16. On the reverse side of one of the documents, the prosecutor pointed out, was a hand written note entitled "Vitez brigade". The message read, "Donja Vecerska fell, we are advancing in Ahmichi (sic.), Sivrino Selo and Vrhovine are offering a truce, we have three casualties".

Bertovic said he could not confirm the document was genuine. The defence insisted the prosecutor clarify whether the hand written message belonged to the original Blaskic order or not. The prosecution has yet to formally introduce the document as evidence.

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