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Kordic & Cerkez Trial - Yet Another Job Title For Kordic

Tribunal Update 184 Last Week in The Hague (July 10-15, 2000)
By IWPR

So far during the trial he has been referred to as "honourable colonel", "vice-president of the Croatian Community of Herceg Bosna", "vice-president of the HDZ [Croatian Democratic Union political party]", and "spokesman" for the Croats of central Bosnia.


Last week, the court was treated to a new title - "head of the forward command post of the office of the president of Herceg Bosna." The title appeared in documents presented by the prosecution.


Anto Puljic, former chief of the Travnik Croatian Defence Force, HVO, defence department, said he had come across the phrase "in a newspaper." Puljic said he thought it "convenient" and therefore used it in official letters. Kordic had signed many of those letters and documents.


Judge Richard May then asked the witness to explain exactly what the job title meant. Puljic said he could not, but had used the title to "reinforce the authority of orders" signed by Kordic.


Three other defence witnesses testified last week by video link from Zagreb. This kind of testimony has been used several times before at the Tribunal, for example during the trials of Dusko Tadic and General Tihomir Blaskic.


Why the witnesses chose to testify by video link, rather then appear in person, was not explained. Technical problems interrupted the transmission nearly 30 times.


The witnesses reiterated the now familiar defence arguments - Herceg Bosna was a "temporary entity" with "undefined territory", had no plans to secede from Bosnia-Herzegovina and there was no planned, systematic persecution of the Bosniak population.


The witnesses also spoke of the suffering of the Croat population of central Bosnia at the hands of local Bosnian Muslim extremists.


Ivica Kristo, former commander of a reserve HVO unit in Zenica, said Croats in the town were the victims of "arrests, killings, mistreatments" in January 1993. "Mujahideen units and Muslim extremists," Kristo said, carried out mass arrests and detentions of Croat soldiers and civilians in the Zenica area.


Kristo claimed the "mujahideen carried machetes about the town, arbitrarily arresting the citizens of Croat nationality." The defence is arguing the Bosniak-Croat conflict cannot be entirely attributed to the HVO's separatist policy.