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Kordic & Cerkez Trial: The Witness Who Refused The Order

Tribunal Update 153: Last Week in The Hague (November 22-27, 1999)
By IWPR

In April 1993, he refused to carry out the order of Tihomir Blaskic, the commander of the Operative Zone Central Bosnia, to attack the forces of the Bosnian Army in the village of Dusina, near Fojnica.


"We at Fojnica have decided not carry out that order, since we continue to hope for an agreement with the Bosniaks," the witness said and added that he sent a letter to Blaskic in which he said he was "aware of his duties, but he could not carry out orders that would lead to the killings and war."


Tuka later confirmed that the combat order he had received from Blaskic did not order the killing of Bosniaks and the burning of houses, but he added that it would be difficult to avoid civilian victims since the army and civilians were mixed.


The Croat-Muslim conflict broke out in Fojnica in July 1993, after Blaskic replaced Tuka as the HVO commander. In those clashes, the witness said, about 70 percent of the Croatian villages in the vicinity of Fojnica were destroyed. He himself was arrested and spent 10 months in the custody of the Bosnian Army.


Prosecutor Susan Sommers used the testimony of this former member of the HVO to prove that Kordic influenced events in Central Bosnia since 1991. The witness confirmed that he, together with the then president of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in Fojnica, used to go to have consultations with Kordic, to talk about organising defences after the war broke out in Croatia.


In order to prove Kordic's involvement in military issues, the prosecutor also pointed out that Kordic often appeared in Blaskic's company, that he wore a uniform and that he was present when the members of the Fojnica HVO took an oath.


In order to prove that Kordic had nothing to do with combat orders and HVO activities, Kordic's defence counsel Mitko Naumovski asked the witness to confirm that Blaskic was subordinated to the HVO headquarters, and that the orders reached him from outside central Bosnia, and not from Busovaca (where Kordic was). The witness confirmed that he never received a combat order from Kordic, but "maybe something civilian".


Witness U, a Bosniak resident of Santici - a majority Croat village, several kilometres away from Vitez - testified on the HVO attack on the village in October 1992. The witness also spoke of the subsequent deterioration in conditions and relationships between the Croats and the Muslims and the April 16 1993 attack on his village, which is connected with Ahmici.


Major Angus Hay, who served as a liaison officer with the British Army BritBat UN unit in central Bosnia from April until November 1993, testified about a meeting with the accused Cerkez, at which Darko Kraljevic, the commander of the special "Vitezovi" unit, was present.


In numerous testimonies before this Tribunal, witnesses alleged that this unit was responsible for a number of crimes against Bosniaks in Lasva valley. The prosecutor emphasised that Kraljevic operated in Cerkez's area of responsibility. "Kraljevic's presence was very unsettling", said Hay describing him being armed head to toe.


In a subsequent testimony, former BritBat commander Alistair Duncan said that Cerkez and Kraljevic were personal friends. Major Hay also recalled several meetings with Dario Kordic and that he was wearing "a kind of HVO uniform and a wooden cross... It was obvious people around Kordic respected him".


The cross-examination of Brigadier Alistair Duncan took place last week, two weeks after he gave evidence. The defence questioned him about the situation in the Lasva area during his service there, the balance of forces between the HVO and the Bosnian Army, attacks that the Bosniak side carried out on areas under HVO control and about his assessment of the HVO chain of command.


"Blaskic had full and complete operational command of all HVO forces in central Bosnia", suggested Kordic's counsel Stephen Sayers. Duncan, who had also testified as a prosecution witness in Blaskic case, confirmed his previous statements that "Blaskic was very much in command", but in replying to Kordic's defence he also said that he "did not know the command status of all HVO units in the area".


Thus he left open the possibility that certain units, in fact those outside regular HVO brigade structures, could have been commanded by someone from outside Blaskic's HQ.