Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kupreskic & Others Trial: Prosecution Witnesses' Credibility

Tribunal Update 133: Last Week in The Hague (5-11 July, 1999)
By IWPR

This was a central theme in the evidence presented by the defence counsel acting for Vladimir Santic, who is accused of being a part of a group of HVO soldiers that on Apr. 16, 1993 attacked the house of Muzafer Puscul, killed him, expelled his family and set the house on fire.


The defence is disputing the credibility of the prosecution witnesses - the Muslim survivors from Ahmici, claiming that they had earlier falsely accused two Croats whose names had been originally attached to the Kupreskic & Others indictment.


One of the two falsely accused was Stipo Alilovic, who died at the beginning of 1995, before the indictment was formally issued, whilst two Dutch witnesses have testified that he was in Amsterdam - some 2,000 kilometres away from Ahmici - on the day of the crime.


The other falsely accused, Marinko Katava, appeared last week before the Court as a witness in Vladimir Santic's defence. He handed himself over to the Tribunal in October 1997 only to be released in December, after the Prosecutor withdrew the indictment against him, Alilovic and one Ivan Santic.


The indictment was withdrawn after it was established that on Apr. 16, 1993 Katava was not in Ahmici. Since the prosecution witnesses who claimed that they had seen him in Ahmici agreed to testify if their identities were protected, Katava addressed the accusations in closed session.


Unlike the other accused, Santic did not deny that he had been a member of the HVO, and said he was a commander of a company of military police in Vitez. In the trial of Blaskic, the accused himself had assumed in his testimony that the military police officers had been responsible for the crime in Ahmici, and the massacre of over 100 Muslim civilians was carried out in the early morning hours of Apr. 16.


Santic's lawyer Petar Pavkovic, from Zagreb, called two alibi witnesses last week to testify that the accused was in the Hotel Vitez at critical moments during the time Ahmici was attacked. They said that he was in the hotel on guard duty around the time of the massacre.


One witness stated that Santic arrived at the hotel around 05.00 am and that he heard his voice at 06.00 and saw him around 11.00. The other alibi witness, the former director of the Hotel, claims he saw Santic between 06.15 am and 06.30, and that it was not possible to leave the hotel during this time due to shelling.


During the cross-examination of these witnesses, the prosecutor implied that Santic could have - in between the times when he was either seen or heard - driven to Ahmici, five kilometres from the centre of Vitez. Since one of the alibi witnesses had earlier been confused about the time and date of other events taking place in the Vitez area, the prosecutor indicated that he could not have complete confidence in the reliability of the witness' memory.


The Kupreskic & Others Trial will continue this week, and is expected to end in September this year, some 13 months after it started.