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Kordic Trial: Do Politicians Give Orders To Soldiers?

Tribunal Update 145: Last Week in The Hague (September 27 - October 2, 1999)

Baggesen said that the accused was "the most influential Croat political leader in Central Bosnia", and that he had authority over HVO military commanders in that area, (See Tribunal Update No. 144). Continuing the cross-examination this week, Kordic's defence counsels have attempted to dispute his view. They claim that the Bosnian Croat HVO force's military commanders in Central Bosnia were under the command of HVO headquarters in Mostar, and not local politicians.

The defence counsels argued that it was normal for reports on military matters to be submitted to the politicians. Baggesen agreed, but said that that this was "normal" primarily because "soldiers receive orders from politicians." Kordic's defence counsel Stephen Sayers would not give in however, asking the witness to confirm that orders to the military "are issued by the government, and not by individuals".

Everything depends on the organisation, Baggesen replied. He cited as an example, how Mate Boban, president of the so-called Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosna, would ask Kordic to pass on some of his orders to the commander of the Operative Zone, General (then Colonel) Tihomir Blaskic. Sayers said this was mere speculation, but Baggesen replied that this was the conclusion of an ECMM analysis.

The defence of co-accused Mario Cerkez, the commander of the Vitez Brigade HVO, also attempted to dispute Baggesen's testimony. He pointed out that foreign monitors arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina for just a few months, without prior knowledge, and that during their brief stay they could not acquire a clear picture of the situation in the field. Baggesen maintained that the ECMM had "a perfectly clear picture" of the situation.

Cerkez's defence counsel Bozidar Kovacevic suggested that foreign monitors would mix up the name of the Vitez Brigade of the HVO, named after the town of Vitez where the operative headquarters of the HVO in Central Bosnia was located. This was, he said, confused with the word 'Vitezovi' - a word that means 'Knights' but is also an association with Vitez.

When the defence insisted he say whether he knew the difference between the various units of the HVO, Baggesen admitted that the ECMM "was not a military organisation". But he added that military analyses were done by UNPROFOR and that they were regularly submitted to the ECMM monitors."

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