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Kordic & Cerkez Trial: Politicians Were Calling The Shots

Tribunal Update 151: Last Week in The Hague (November 8-13, 1999)

"The decision to engage in warfare is a political decision. The military is the technical executor of such policy", the prosecutor concluded. Prosecution witness Colonel Paulus Schipper - commander of the Dutch-Belgian Battalion of UNPROFOR at the time in question - testified against both Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez and said "Kordic and Blaskic appeared to be the main decision-makers in central Bosnia, and Blaskic was a military expert for Kordic."

The former commander of the British Batallion in the Lasva Valley, General Alistair Duncan, said when talking about the responsibility for the crimes, "Anto Valenta - with his shocking ideas that Bosnia ought to be divided and that the population should be moved, forcibly if necessary - produced a doctrine for future events. That policy was distilled by Kordic and put into effect by the HVO whose commander in central Bosnia was Tihomir Blaskic".

The prosecution witnesses, which at this stage of the trial are mostly former members of UNPROFOR, confirmed to the Prosecutor that Kordic who was a chief leader in that area and a major influence on the HVO.

"The roles of the HVO and HDZ BH tended to become more blurred. At the operational level even more so. The identity of political leader became that of an HVO leader", testified Lieutenant-Colonel Jay Carter, an American who was a civil affairs officer with UNPROFOR in Central Bosnia.

"Kordic's responsibility would have been to ensure that policies he persisted in formulating - that might have been sent from Zagreb, but were certainly delivered from Grude ("capital" of so-called Croatian Community Herzeg-Bosnia) would be executing terms of military objectives", Carter said.

According to Carter this was an outcome of the practice in the former Communist system in which "political officers ensure that political direction is executed."

To the objection by Judge Mohammed Bennouna that "in all the world systems the military follows the political line", Carter responded that "in democracies, it is a government who develops the policy, not one political party. You don't have a political officer overseeing the execution of military events on the ground."

Carter added "special police tended to be used by political leadership" and that police used tactics to agitate and move people through propaganda."

General Duncan testified that his battalion assessed that Kordic was a superior to special units. "My officers visited the units and gathered information about that."

Several witnesses had listed problems experienced by humanitarian convoys, saying that it was often Kordic who decided about their freedom of movement and not Blaskic, as a commander of the operative zone.

"When the Convoy of Joy was blocked by Croatian civilians and local police, I told them I had Blaskic's authority for the convoy to go through, but they answered that Kordic's authority was needed", Duncan said. "It was clear that Kordic was calling the shots in this game. It was a well orchestrated plan".

Kordic was also in the position to decide whether the blockade of the Bosnian enclave in Stari Vitez would be lifted, Duncan testified.

"Kordic said that our further access to Stari Vitez would be denied while BH Army kept attacking the Lasva valley."

In an attempt to prove that Kordic's role was not decisive, his defence counsel Stephen Sayers pressed these witnesses to confirm that Blaskic held effective command over the army in Central Bosnia and that Kordic was up to 1994 only one of the deputy-presidents of the HDZ BH.

The witnesses confirmed that Blaskic was the highest military commander and they allowed the possibility that he did not control absolutely all HVO units in that area, but all agreed in their assessment that Kordic did have a role in military events in Central Bosnia.