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Kupreskic & Others Trial: Marked by Ahmici Widows

Tribunal Update 96: Last Week in The Hague (5-10 October 1998)

They told of how they were woken up at dawn by powerful explosions and detonations, and then soldiers broke into their houses and forced them outside, set the houses on fire, killed the men on the spot or took them away never to be seen again. The women were made to flee, forced by threats, insults, and sometimes arms. As they fled and sometimes as they tried to hide behind burnt out houses or in the near-by swamp, they saw their Bosniak neighbours killed by their Croat neighbours. Prior to that fatal day, one of last week's witnesses claimed, "we were good neighbours... we had a good life. But they betrayed us!" Fortunately, she added, "some survived and can come here to tell what happened." What happened to her was that former neighbours killed her 14 year-old son, her husband, her father and two other male members of her family in front of her eyes. She described, through tears, begging them, "Not my son, my Amir", but it did not help.

An UNPROFOR officer and a Dutch expert also gave their evidence last week. The expert analysed the sample collected from the burnt remains of one Ahmici house. Five years after the crime, he found no trace of incendiary devices in the sample submitted to him, but did not exclude the possibility that they may have been used and that their traces had vanished with time. The prosecution and the Ahmici witnesses claim that the HVO soldiers carried bottles and pails of liquid which they threw over furniture before setting houses on fire.

The presentation of the case against the six accused Bosnian Croats should finish this week, after which Trial Chamber II (Presiding Judge Antonio Cassese, Judge Richard May and Judge Florence Mumba), as well as the defence and the prosecution, will spend a day (probably 20 October) at the site of the crime, in the village of Ahmici, in Central Bosnia.