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Kupreskic & Others Trial: The Prosecution's Presentation of Evidence Completed

Tribunal Update 97: Last Week in The Hague (12-18 October, 1998)
By IWPR ICTY

Of those few witnesses who appeared publicly, the testimony of Edib Zlotrg, a former criminologist with the Vitez police stood out for its interesting content and potential value. Until the beginning of the Croat-Muslim conflict, Zlotrg was a colleague as well as a personal and family friend of the accused Vlado Santic, who was then assistant commander with the Vitez police.

However, as early as May 1992 Zlotrg noticed that his friend and colleague Santic was taking part in hushing up an investigation into the killing of one Muslim. In December of the same year, Zlotrg was arrested by members of the military police of the HVO while investigating the murder of two soldiers of the B-H Army, who were also Muslims. He was, however, soon released following the intervention of his friend Santic. Answering the Prosecutor's questions, the witness drew a conclusion from the fact that military police had acted on his order and that Santic "probably had some power" ?that is, he held a senior position.

Zlotrg was arrested once again on 26 April 1993 and taken to the famous "bungalow" (the seat of Jokers, the HVO special military police unit, often mentioned in other trials for the crimes in the Lasva Valley). Some 10 metres away from the bungalow, as he was crouching together with other inmates with his hands behind his neck, Zlotrg testified to clearly hearing the voice of his former colleague and friend, Vlado Santic.

I know him exceptionally well and I could not make a mistake" - the witness stated.

Zlotrg was then taken to the Kaonik camp (also mentioned in other Lasva Valley trials), from where he was taken nearly every day to dig trenches. On one occasion, while digging, he heard one of the guards asking instructions from someone over a field radio. Again, he recognised the voice of Vlado Santic. When he was finally released as part of a prisoner exchange, Zlotrg talked in the military prison in Travnik with Ivan Josipovic, the brother of Santic's wife and the former judge from Vitez who happened to be in the captivity of the Bosnian Army.

Josipovic allegedly told him on that occasion how Vlado Santic led the attack on Ahmici at dawn on April 16 from the direction of the already-mentioned bungalow, and how he was present all the time of the attack in which some 200 civilians were killed. This statement by the witness was disputed by Santic's defence counsel, Zagreb lawyer Petar Pavkovic, who pointed out that Josipovic was in the Bosniak prison at the time, and that - if he truly said that - such statement was made under coercion, and, therefore, has no proving value.

The Kupreskic & Others trial was suspended until the beginning of the presentation of evidence by the Defence. On Tuesday 20 October, the Trial Chamber II (presiding Antonio Cassese and Judges Richard May and Florence Mumba) and the Parties for Prosecution and Defence will conduct an on-site visit to Ahmici. The purpose is to see at first-hand the places which are the subject of the indictment, and to obtain first-hand knowledge and estimation of the topography of the region including distances between houses, missile trajectories and travel routes, and to assess the extent of destruction visited upon the locality. This will be the first time ever that a Trial Chamber exercises its judicial function outside the Tribunal premises.