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'Perfect Soldier' Confession

Tribunal Update 87: Last Week in The Hague

He took part in those crimes, as he stated before the court, because he wanted to be a "perfect soldier" and because as a 19 year-old, he then believed that a perfect soldier was one who unquestioningly carried out the orders of superiors. In 1992 when the alleged crimes took place, his superiors were the commander of the camp, Zdravko Mucic, and his deputy, Hazim Delic, the second and the third co-accused in the Celebici trial.

Given that Mucic very often was not in the camp, Delic took the lead, maintains Landzo. "Not even we the guards were pleased to see him, let alone the detainees," said the witness, describing Delic as somebody who was always armed with two pistols, an automatic rifle and a knife. Lounged in the dock and chewing gum, Hazim Delic followed Landzo's testimony seemingly disinterested. He turned every now and then towards the witness stand with a cynical grin on his face.

The unannounced testimony of Esad Landzo took the judges and the prosecutors by surprise and shocked the defences of the other three co-accused, Zejnil Delalic, Zdravko Mucic and that of Hazim Delic in particular. Landzo's defence lawyer, Cynthia McMurray, from the United States, had every reason not to disclose her client's intention.

Security measures for protecting five members of Landzo's family had to be put in place first so that they did not become victims of somebody's revenge. For the same reasons Landzo has himself has been in "preventative isolation" since the beginning of the testimony. In other words, he has in effect been isolated from other detainees of the Detention Unit, Mucic and Delic in particular.

Apart from being rather late -coming just before the conclusion of the sixteen month-long trial and after the prosecution and the defence presented their evidence- the "perfect soldier" confession was fairly selective as well. Landzo confessed to only two of the five murders the indictment charges him with. Moreover, he only confessed to taking part in some of the incidents of beating and torturing of the Celebici detainees he is accused of. Landzo mostly "does not remember" the rest of the crimes he is accused of. Nor does he remember their victims. He does however clearly remember all the crimes he was ordered to commit by Mucic or, much more often, by Delic.

Landzo maintains that Mucic or Delic would give the guards slips of paper with names of detainees. This would be followed by a verbal order. Those put in charge of "vanishing" detainees, i.e. murdering them, were not allowed to use firearms. When beating the detainees, the guards were instructed by the commander and his deputy to beat in such a way to leave as few weals as possible. Due to an injury to the fingers of his right-hand, Landzo told the court how he "generally kicked with my feet," and rarely used other objects such as rubber truncheon or wooden bats.

He also confessed to having burned a few detainees on their arms or legs. He would either carve crosses into their palms with a white-hot knife, or pour petrol on them and set it alight. Landzo went on to explain how -once again carrying out orders- he forced two brothers to perform oral sex on each other. He then tied slow-burning fuses to their genitals and lit them. Landzo claims that Delic eventually took over and showed him how to light the wick. According to Landzo, Delic said: "You'll see now how to interrogate a Chetnik!" Landzo stated that he did not know Zejnil Delalic who was the local military commander at the time when the alleged crimes took place.

The defence of Zejnil Delalic therefore had no questions for this witness. But Mucic and Delic's defence counsels tried everything in their cross-examinations to discredit Landzo and his testimony. Hazim Delic's defence counsel Tom Moran, an American, blazed the trail and tried portraying Landzo as an "anti-social type" who lied to achieve his aims and on this particular occasion aimed to have his sentence lowered. The judges intervened several times because of Moran's questioning. At one point the witness said to Moran that he came to tell the truth, "but if it does not suit your client... it does not mean that I am lying."

Deciding to make a confession, even if only a partial one, Landzo went against the advice he allegedly received from a judge with the Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina upon his departure from Sarajevo for The Hague in May 1996. "Be smart when you get there! Bear in mind that one who confesses is pardoned a half, while one who does not confess... is pardoned everything."

Landzo, however, does not admit that he confessed in order to be "pardoned a half." When Delic's defence counsel asked him what his goal was in deciding to take a witness role, Landzo said: "I came here to tell the truth and to feel once again like a human being... And if you are aiming at my release from prison, this is not what I am after. I want to be punished for what I am guilty. I am not afraid of it. But I don't want to be punished for what I am not guilty of."

In trying to prove that Landzo did not decide to appear as a truthful witness, but merely to lay the blame at the feet of their clients, Tom Moran and Zeljko Olujic (Mucic's counsel) pointed at numerous contradictions in his earlier statements to investigators in The Hague and Bosnia. Landzo admitted that in some of those statements he did not tell the "whole truth." He, however, blamed his former Sarajevan lawyers who reportedly advised him to confess nothing and to lay the responsibility for the crimes in Celebici camp at the door of Croats

Moran and Olujic also challenged Landzo's assertion that as a "perfect soldier" he only killed and beat people on the orders of his superiors. They told the court of several violent acts he allegedly committed before he was appointed as a guard at Celebici. Mention was also made of incidents he reportedly committed after he left the camp and joined the military police.

The prosecution team, last week led by Teresa McHenry, an American, did not seem impressed by the late and selective confession Landzo. After she briefly enquired about the crimes he confessed and about some that he did not, McHenry commented upon some contradictions in the accused's statements from various periods. Given that he "spared" the first co-accused Zejnil Delalic in his testimony, McHenry reminded Landzo that in his statement to the Tribunal's investigators in 1996 he said that Mucic was Delalic's "right hand man".

On this occasion Landzo "could not recall" that he said anything like that, although he concedes that he "may have heard that from somebody". Landzo also claims that he does not remember the interviews he gave to some Bosnian papers after the Celebici indictment was published in March 1996. In those interviews he defended Delalic, maintaining he (Delalic) would send to the frontline all those guards who mistreated the detainees. Furthermore, Landzo said that Delalic's written order on who was allowed to enter Celebici was hung up in the camp. "I never said that," Landzo now claims.

After Landzo's direct examination and in order to give some time to the defence of the other co-accused to prepare for the cross-examination of the unexpected witness, US psychiatrist Edward Brown Gripon, expert in forensic psychiatry, spent more than 40 hours examining Landzo upon the other co-accused defences' demand. His conclusion was that the accused suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder and that he is an individual with schizoid and antisocial personality disorder.

During the cross-examination, both Delic's defence counsel and prosecutor James G. Cowles asked Dr Gripon the same question: what would happen if Landzo, with such personality characteristics, was ever put in a position of authority over somebody again. Dr Gripon replied to Moran that it would have "unpleasant consequences," while in his reply to the prosecutor he reinforced the previous judgement, saying, "it would be one's greatest nightmare". Then judge Saad Saood Jan asked the expert witness: "They tend to be sadistic?" to which Dr Gripon replied: "Yes, very much so!"

The explanation of his acts in the Celebici camp that Landzo offered to Dr Gripon also points at the sadistic trait of his character, according to prosecutor McHenry. Namely, Landzo told Dr Gripon that he mistreated the prisoners for two reasons: first, because he was ordered to do so ("perfect soldier") and, second, because he was bored and frustrated... so he never had any difficulty doing that, and he even enjoyed it . Is it not the case, asked the prosecutor at the end of her cross-examination, that the latter was the main reason why commander Mucic and his deputy Delic ordered Landzo of all people to torture the detainees, knowing fully well that he would joyfully do it.

Landzo, however, replied that he made that statement to Dr Gripon in one of his first interviews, when he was still in a very difficult psychological condition, and that in that statement he said many other things that "were not true." He stuck to his "perfect soldier" defence, maintaining that his superiors gave him such orders because they knew he would carry them out and not because they thought he would enjoy doing them.

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