1 Thursday, 11th March, 1999
2 (Open session)
3 --- Upon commencing at 10.08 a.m.
4 JUDGE JORDA: Please be seated. Registrar,
5 would you have our witness brought in, please?
6 (The accused/witness entered court)
7 JUDGE JORDA: First of all, I'd like to say
8 good morning to the interpreters, and to the court
9 reporters, to the Prosecution and Defence counsel.
10 Good morning to our witness, the accused. We are now
11 ready to begin.
12 I know that in the public gallery there are
13 some students. This is the International Criminal
14 Tribunal, and you know that it tries to be exemplary
15 and pedagogical. You're hearing part of the Blaskic
16 trial, and you are hearing the accused who himself is
17 testifying under oath.
18 General Blaskic, how are you this morning?
19 Did you rest last night?
20 THE ACCUSED: Thank you for your interest,
21 Mr. President. Yes, I am well rested.
22 JUDGE JORDA: Very well. Having said that,
23 Mr. Nobilo, you may proceed with the chronology of that
24 crucial day when the conflict began around the 16th of
25 April and the following days.
1 All right. Mr. Nobilo, you may proceed. We
2 will take a break in about 45 minutes or an hour,
3 depending on the moment that you feel would be proper
4 to interrupt the questioning.
5 Mr. Nobilo, please proceed.
6 MR. NOBILO: Thank you, Mr. President. As
7 you probably remember, we discussed yesterday the
8 problem of the departure of civilians, that is, Muslims
9 from Vitez and Croats from Zenica.
10 WITNESS: TIHOMIR BLASKIC (Resumed)
11 Examined by Mr. Nobilo:
12 Q. We had come to the end of the working day,
13 and we hadn't finished with that issue, which is a very
14 important one, so I should like to ask Mr. Blaskic
15 briefly and concisely to present the problem that he
16 was confronted with after the outbreak of the conflict
17 between the Muslims and Croats in the Lasva River
18 Valley in April 1993.
19 A. Mr. President, Your Honours, I have presented
20 the problem of double standards adopted by various
21 humanitarian organisations, specifically the UNHCR,
22 which conveyed to me their view that any movement and
23 departure of the population constituted ethnic
24 cleansing, and that it was my duty to guarantee full
25 security of the population in the places in which they
1 reside, whereas the position of the International Red
2 Cross was that complete freedom of movement should be
3 allowed to the civilian population, and these two
4 positions caused difficulties for me, both in my
5 activities and in my contacts with representatives of
6 the UNHCR or the International Red Cross, as the case
7 may be.
8 In addition to this position taken by the
9 UNHCR, I spoke to officers of the UNHCR about another
10 criterion which was valid within the territory under
11 the control of the Republika Srpska army, for the
12 territory under the control of the Republika Srpska
13 army, the population there had, in the organisation of
14 the UNHCR and under escort of UNPROFOR, had brought in
15 Bosniak Muslims and Croats from the area of Krajina.
16 This is the area around Banja Luka, Kotor Varos,
17 Prijedor, Jajce, and other places of North-western
18 Bosnia, and they came to the Central Bosnian army, that
19 is, the area of Travnik, Zenica, and the entire Lasva
21 Q. There may be a problem with the translation.
22 The words "brought in" were used. What were you trying
23 to say? Where was the UNHCR bringing people to?
24 A. According to the information I had, the UNHCR
25 was participating in transferring Bosniak Muslims and
1 Croats from territories under the control of the
2 Republika Srpska army to the area of the Lasva River
3 Valley, or the areas under my control and under the
4 control of the 3rd Corps, which means Travnik, Novi
5 Travnik, Vitez, Zenica, Kakanj, and so on.
6 JUDGE JORDA: Had these populations already
7 come -- exactly what date are you speaking about when
8 you spoke to the UNHCR? You said that these are
9 populations that are coming now or that they had
10 already come at the time of the first attack on
12 A. Mr. President, this was happening before the
13 conflict in April --
14 JUDGE JORDA: So that was before?
15 A. -- before the 16th, but it was also
16 happening in the course of 1993. I can look up in my
17 notes, when Kotor Varos fell, to give you the exact
18 date, but it was happening before this.
19 JUDGE JORDA: No, no, no. That's all right.
20 I just wanted to know that when you spoke with the
21 UNHCR, you were saying that you were not applying your
22 own criteria, where, in fact, at that very point, the
23 Bosnian Muslim and Croation population had been coming
24 from Travnik, or did you simply say that, "I remember
25 these populations had already come before the 16th of
1 April?" I just wanted to know if that was what it
3 A. Mr. President, I said to the UNHCR,
4 "Gentlemen, you have double standards, one that apply
5 to the area under the control of the army of
6 Bosnia-Herzegovina and the HVO, and another set of
7 standards for the area under the control of the
8 Republika Srpska army." And I also told the
9 representatives of both organisations, the UNHCR and
10 the International Red Cross, that I appealed to them to
11 coordinate their views, and that I would do everything
12 in my power to observe their common position, whatever
13 that may be, either one or the other.
14 MR. NOBILO:
15 Q. Did they ever coordinate their views, at
16 least in the course of 1993?
17 A. I was never informed about any such outcome,
18 but we will see the chronology of events that followed,
19 but I did ask the representative of the UNHCR to tell
20 me what their mandate was, and I personally tried, as
21 far as I could, to abide by the position taken by the
23 Q. Tell the Court what your personal views
24 were? Which solution did you consider to be
1 A. Personally, I was in a dilemma to decide
2 between two solutions, neither of which I considered to
3 be good. Both were bad. Perhaps the best solution
4 would have been if we had been able to evacuate
5 temporarily the civilian population from the areas of
6 conflict, but personally, I supported the position of
7 the UNHCR, and sought to observe those positions with
8 respect to the civilian population. However, it is
9 important to note here the standards applied for the
10 release of prisoners, which also contributed to the
11 undermining of the criteria of the UNHCR.
12 Q. Which was the organisation in charge of the
13 release of prisoners, and what were the standards
15 A. The International Red Cross was, for us, the
16 organisation in charge of the release of prisoners on
17 the basis of their own standards, but what caused a
18 problem was that, according to the standards of the
19 International Red Cross, every prisoner had freedom of
20 choice when it came to selecting where he would go upon
21 his release. In the vast majority of cases, what would
22 happen was that Muslim members of the army of
23 Bosnia-Herzegovina would choose to go to Travnik and
24 Zenica, whereas Croats, members of the HVO, would
25 choose to leave Zenica and go to Busovaca and Vitez.
1 Q. According to the criteria of the
2 International Red Cross, was there a possibility for
3 the Muslims freely to choose to stay in Vitez?
4 A. Yes, they had that possibility, and there
5 were such cases, just as there were cases of Croats
6 deciding to stay in Zenica, or in Travnik, or in other
7 areas under the control of the army of
9 Q. Apart from the International Red Cross, who
10 else participated in the prisoners' release, on the
11 part of the Croats, in the choice of residence by
12 released prisoners?
13 A. This choice was made by the prisoners
14 themselves, and they would enter, in the form of the
15 International Red Cross, the place where they wanted to
16 go. There was a civilian exchange commission which,
17 together with the commission from Zenica, negotiated
18 and mediated the release of prisoners.
19 Q. What would happen if a Muslim released in
20 Vitez, a male, a soldier, goes to Zenica and joins the
21 army of Bosnia-Herzegovina? What happens then to his
23 A. The family -- let me give you an example in
24 Vitez. The family, shall we say, stayed on in Vitez,
25 and the soldier of the BH army is in Zenica, and then,
1 of course, he would try in every possible way to
2 reunite with his family, and to bring his family to
3 live with him. This would mean that the family from
4 Vitez would go to Zenica and continue residing there.
5 The same applied in the opposite case. If a
6 released Croat would arrive in Vitez, he would have the
7 same problem with his family, only he would have to try
8 to bring his family from Zenica to Vitez.
9 Q. How would he organise this move of his
10 family? How would he find a place to live?
11 A. This often caused disturbances of the overall
12 order. There were various cases. For instance, on the
13 22nd, the International Red Cross was driving a family
14 from Vitez, a woman and a child, to Zenica, because the
15 husband, a member of the BH army, had been released,
16 and he continued to live in Zenica. So requests were
17 made for mediation by the International Red Cross in
18 the event of disease in the family, and if they met the
19 criteria of the International Red Cross, then the
20 International Red Cross would mediate in individual
21 cases in the reunification of families in individual
23 Also it was a common occurrence for Bosniak
24 Muslims to be evicted by force from their apartments,
25 for those apartments to be simply occupied, and then
1 the family that has been evicted would be informed and
2 given a telephone number in Zenica, and then that
3 person would say, "Here you are, you have that
4 apartment in Zenica. You go and live there, and I'm
5 taking your apartment here in Vitez."
6 There were also certain groups that were
7 mediating in these operations, taking a considerable
8 commission for it, for their services. I know that for
9 a time there was a civilian agency formed at the level
10 of Vitez municipality, which mediated in the exchange
11 of data and information with somebody, I don't know
12 whether there was an agency or something, in Zenica, I
13 don't know which institution it was, which mediated in
14 the exchange of these apartments.
15 There were several different forms of this
16 exchange, but the worst was if a military conscript
17 would have weapons on him, and unfortunately there was
18 even use of force, he would simply say, "I have been
19 thrown out of Zenica, and now you go to Zenica and live
21 Q. Tell me, when you were informed about such
22 cases, did you take measures to protect the Muslims and
23 to return the evicted Muslims to their apartments?
24 A. Yes. I will be able to illustrate that from
25 my chronology later.
1 Q. In the Lasva Valley, during conflicts, did an
2 organised military unit ever come and force out the
3 Muslim population from a village, from a town, and
4 expel them from the Lasva River Valley?
5 A. I never ordered any such operation, nor do I
6 know that an HVO unit ever attacked civilians and
7 expelled them from a particular area.
8 Q. Let us proceed. On the 22nd of April,
9 together with members of the joint commission, you
10 discussed this same issue, that is, the problem of
11 civilians and their protection. Tell us more about
13 A. I had a meeting with the representatives of
14 the joint commission, Mr. Nakic and Pilicic, and I
15 asked them to take the initiative, and as of the 22nd
16 of April, that the joint commission should focus on the
17 prevention of violence, then that they should talk
18 critical points, that they should examine the situation
19 with immovable property, buildings, houses, and assess
20 the chances for return where return was possible,
21 considering the state of accommodation facilities and
22 the security situation in the areas inhabited by
24 Q. On the 22nd of April, 1993, you received a
25 letter from Colonel Stewart, the commander of the
1 British Battalion, who drew your attention, for the
2 first time, to the problem of Ahmici.
3 MR. NOBILO: Could we have Prosecution
4 Exhibit 456/56?
5 JUDGE JORDA: This is a Prosecution Exhibit?
6 MR. NOBILO: Yes. Prosecutor's Exhibit, and,
7 in fact, it is the letter by Bob Stewart to Colonel
8 Blaskic, dated the 22nd of April, 1993.
9 Q. It's brief and important, so allow me to read
10 it. So Colonel Robert Stewart, on the 22nd of April,
11 1993, is writing to you, Colonel Tihomir Blaskic, as
12 the commander of the Central Bosnia Operative Zone, and
13 he says -- the heading is "Investigation of Atrocity.
14 1. At 14.00 today," and he's referring to
15 the 22nd of April, 1993, "I visited the village of
17 2. In one house, I discovered the bodies of a
18 man and a boy at the front entrance. Both bodies were
19 burnt beyond recognition. In the cellar, I found the
20 bodies of what may have been a mother and at least five
21 children. Again, the bodies were burnt beyond
22 recognition, and it was clear from the angle of the
23 heads that at least two had died in agony.
24 3. Whoever has done this is guilty and must
25 be punished. No atrocity, wherever it occurs, is
2 4. I urgently request your help in order to
3 investigate the sacking of this village.
4 Colonel Robert Stewart, United Nations,
6 Did you receive this letter on the 22nd of
7 April, 1993?
8 A. Yes. I received this letter on the 22nd of
9 April, 1993 in the afternoon.
10 Q. Was this the first concrete and clear
11 reference to the crime in Ahmici, as far as you were
13 A. Yes. This was the first letter and the first
14 concrete linking of the village of Ahmici to the crime
15 in the village of Ahmici. Upon receiving that letter,
16 I called my associates, Mr. Slavko Marin and
17 Mr. Saric. I read the letter out to them aloud, and I
18 said that we would request a detailed investigation by
19 the joint commission, and I checked once again with the
20 head of operations and the assistant for information
21 whether we had received any other information about the
22 crime in the village of Ahmici, apart from this
23 letter. Both of them told me that we had no other
24 information, and I issued an order to the head of
25 operations that he should prepare for me all the
1 documents from the 15th of April up to the 22nd of
2 April, and place them in a separate file so that I
3 could put them at the disposal of the representative of
4 the joint commission, and for me to see once again, and
5 check whether we had any information about the crime in
6 the village of Ahmici.
7 Q. Did you, at the time, have any other fact at
8 your disposal, apart from the fact that eight people
9 had been killed, as indicated in this letter?
10 A. There was mention of this. In fact, an
11 associate told me, "They are referring here to eight
12 dead in Ahmici," and I said to him then, "If a single
13 civilian has been killed, it is a crime, and if 100
14 soldiers were killed in battle, in combat, then that is
15 not a crime."
16 Q. The next day, the 23rd of April, what
17 happened then, early in the morning?
18 A. I met with the chief of staff, who was also a
19 representative in the joint commission, and with him, I
20 read the letter that I had received from Mr. Bob
21 Stewart, Colonel Bob Stewart, after which together --
22 or, rather, I leafed through and examined the
24 Q. Why did you collect those documents? What
25 was your purpose?
1 A. I collected those documents into a separate
2 binder so that I could show it to Nakic and
3 representatives in the commission when they carry out
4 the investigation into the crime.
5 Q. You're referring to the commission formed
6 between the BH army and the HVO that we mentioned
8 A. No, not only representing the BH army and the
9 HVO, but also in the commission, as members were
10 representatives of the European Monitoring Mission.
11 Q. Tell the Court, which documents did you
12 collect? Which did you consider to be important for
13 the needs of that commission?
14 A. In that binder, I put all the orders dated
15 from the 15th of April, 1993 until the 22nd of April,
16 1993. All reports and all the other information, and
17 all this was put in a separate binder, and I examined
18 all those documents, together with the chief of staff,
19 and while examining them, I established that the order
20 dated 15th April, '93 at 10.00 was in my handwriting,
21 and I gave it to the typists to type out. Later on, I
22 signed that typed order.
23 Q. Why did you have this order, dated the 15th,
24 and which you read at the meeting of the 15th, in
25 handwriting? Why did you have it typed out?
1 A. I had it typed out so that everyone who needs
2 to could read that document, and anyway, we did type
3 out all our orders on a typewriter.
4 Q. When you gave this hand-written order on the
5 23rd to be typed out, what were the markings used by
6 the typist? How did she mark the order?
7 A. She typed the order, and probably routinely,
8 she put the date the 23rd of April, as well as the
9 registration number.
10 Q. Which number did she use, from which date?
11 A. I assume from the 23rd.
12 Q. Did she enter it into the logbook?
13 A. Yes. She put in the registration number of
14 the 23rd of April because the date on the order was the
15 23rd of April.
16 Q. Did you make any corrections on that order?
17 A. Yes. I corrected the date to the 15th of
18 April. I signed that order. I put it together with
19 the original in handwriting in a separate cover.
20 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Was it an ordinary
21 manual typewriter or was it a word processing kind of
23 A. Mr. Judge, this was a regular typewriter. It
24 wasn't a computer, and I don't know what brand the
25 typewriter was.
1 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: The brand is not
2 important, no.
3 MR. NOBILO: We have these orders, sir, and
4 we also have some documents under seal, but we'll go
5 back to that after the break, perhaps, but now we would
6 like to know, chronologically, what had been happening,
7 and then we're going to show what actually happened.
8 Q. Now I would like to know whether you reacted
9 to Stewart's letter --
10 JUDGE JORDA: I would like a clarification,
11 please. Many things have been said for the past
12 several days. I would like for General Blaskic to make
13 it very clear. This was the first time that you heard
14 anybody saying anything about Ahmici; is that correct?
15 That was the first time?
16 A. Yes, Mr. President. That was the first time
17 that I was faced with the concrete name of the village,
18 and with eight victims, and that was the first
19 information that I received from Colonel Stewart.
20 JUDGE JORDA: From Colonel Stewart, yes, I
21 understand that, General Blaskic. What I'm asking you
22 is to tell us specifically whether this was the first
23 time that you had heard something spoken about Ahmici
24 and what happened? That was the 22nd of April; is that
1 A. Mr. President, there are two questions there,
2 as far as I'm concerned. I first heard Ahmici being
3 mentioned in this letter, but as far as the suffering
4 of civilians is concerned, I first heard about that on
5 the 20th of April, 1993 at the meeting in Zenica, when
6 Demo Merdan, in a heated debate, got up and said, "And
7 you down there killed people, and there are civilians
8 among them, people who were killed and who were thrown
9 into the ditch by the road," and he said that about 500
10 people had been killed. He either said "hundreds of
11 people" or "500 people." Then I said, "Dzemo, if that
12 is what you are asserting, then I suggest that the
13 joint commission carry out an investigation and inform
14 us of the findings of this investigation."
15 After that, as I said yesterday, Mr. Ejub
16 Ganic spoke and said, "Let us, the commanders, now
17 agree on a cease-fire. Let us leave the victims aside
19 Q. Probably this is important, Ahmici, the
20 victims of Ahmici. Is Stewart's letter of the 22nd the
21 first information you received specifically about the
22 victims in Ahmici?
23 A. Yes. And with your permission, Your Honours,
24 when I received the letter and when I read the letter,
25 I called two associates of mine that I had there
1 available, that is to say, the chief of the operations
2 department, who is responsible for all information and
3 for all combat and non-combat orders, and the deputy
4 head of the information department, and I asked them
5 whether we had any information about the killings in
6 Ahmici. They said that we did not receive any
7 information about the killings of civilians in Ahmici.
8 This was the first time that I was confronted with a
9 specific village and with specific findings.
10 MR. NOBILO: Now, could the witness please be
11 given --
12 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: May I ask this
13 question: So after you received the letter, I think,
14 on the 22nd, you asked your officers for any
15 information about what might or might not have taken
16 place at Ahmici; am I right?
17 A. My reaction after the letter was, "Do we have
18 any kind of information in connection with the
19 allegations made in the letter?"
20 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: What I want to ask you
21 is this: You received some information two days
22 before, when you were at Zenica, from Dzemo. Between
23 the 20th and the 22nd, did you ask any of your officers
24 whether they had any information as to what might or
25 might not have transpired at Ahmici?
1 A. Your Honour, on the 20th of April, late in
2 the evening, perhaps after 23.00, when I returned to
3 headquarters, I told them about the content of the
4 meeting and especially with Dzemo Merdan's assertion,
5 and I put this same question to the members of the
6 command, and I got the same answer, that is to say, I
7 checked after 23.00 on the 20th of April.
8 MR. NOBILO: I would like 456/7 (sic), this
9 is a Prosecution Exhibit, and that is the witness's
10 reply to Bob Stewart. Fifty-seven. I'm talking about
12 First, we're going to read the letter, and
13 then we are going to discuss the circumstances under
14 which the letter was written. I'm going to ask my
15 colleague, Mr. Hayman, to read it, because I'm sure he
16 is going to do it better than I could.
17 MR. HAYMAN: There is a registration number,
18 "Vitez, April 23, 1993. UNPROFOR. Lieutenant Colonel
19 Robert Stewart, BritBat commander.
20 1. I am ready to send immediately the
21 investigation commission to the village of Ahmici, as
22 well as to all other places that need," and there's a
23 "T," I don't know what the next letter is after T,
24 perhaps it's -- I don't know what the next letter is
25 after "T", perhaps it's "To be investigated," but the
1 right-hand margin has been cut off, "Because of
2 gathering facts about all the innocent victims," word
3 missing, "this conflict.
4 I myself beg you to help us stop this
5 suffering and make the," word missing, "adequate
6 conditions for the commission to work properly.
7 As stated by both ABiH and HVO, everybody
8 seems to be right," word missing, I think, and
9 then, "smaller fights are still going on,
10 threatening to grow into the TO," perhaps
11 total, "catastrophe and disaster for all the people of
12 this region.
13 2. I suggest that a new meeting is urgently
14 summoned between the," and then there's the letter "A",
15 perhaps "ABiH", "head of staff and the HVO head of
16 staff, together with the commanders of HVO Operative
17 Zone, Middle Bosnia, and the commander of the 3rd
18 Corps, A," perhaps "ABiH", "since I think it might
19 prevent this from growing into even worse," "disa",
20 perhaps "disaster", "which would be totally out of
21 anybody's control.
22 3. I consider you to be an utterly
23 honourable and profession, SOL," perhaps "soldier",
24 "which gives me the cause to beg you as a man,"
25 perhaps "as a man begs", although, it appears to
1 "bege", "a man, please intervene," apparently
2 "intervene", "in our further negotiations, together
3 with Mr. Thebault.
4 Thankful in advance, with respect," and then
5 it appears to be signed for Colonel Tihomir Blaskic,
6 with the stamp of the Operative Zone.
7 MR. NOBILO: Thank you.
8 Q. Tell me, Colonel -- sorry, General, at that
9 time, you were a Colonel. We just read the letter that
10 you wrote at that time, and is my impression correct,
11 that this is a highly emotionally charged letter?
12 Could I ask you what kind of feelings you had at that
13 time? You're using very strong words. You're telling
14 Bob Stewart, "I'm asking you as a man. I beg you," et
15 cetera. Could you explain your feelings at the time
16 you wrote this letter?
17 A. I wrote two letters to Colonel Stewart. This
18 is the first letter I wrote. Unfortunately, I do not
19 have a copy of the other letter. Perhaps he has it. I
20 certainly was upset by the letter I got from him,
21 because it was the first time I faced a true atrocity
22 and suffering, and I wrote this letter in the
23 afternoon, I think it was on the 23rd, I had it
24 translated, and I expected assistance in carrying out
25 both the agreement and the investigation.
1 Q. You say here that you are prepared to send an
2 investigating commission to the village of Ahmici
4 A. Yes.
5 Q. And you are asking Bob Stewart to take part.
6 Why did you ask for the international commission to
7 take part? Why did you not opt for an internal
8 commission? What were the reasons that you were guided
10 A. Later on, I explained my point of view, both
11 to Colonel Stewart and to Mr. Thebault, that it is
12 precisely for the sake of the objectivity of the
13 findings and an easier way to find the truth concerning
14 this suffering, and also to have a more expert approach
15 to the investigation itself, I'm asking that other
16 institutions be involved as well, but primarily the
17 representatives of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina and
18 other institutions like the European Monitoring
19 Mission, the International Red Cross, so that the
20 results would be as objective as possible and the
21 investigation as comprehensive as possible.
22 Q. In point 2, why did you suggest that a new
23 meeting be organised, and why should Sefer Halilovic,
24 head of the general staff of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and
25 Petkovic, head of the main staff of the HVO, you're not
1 mentioning their names, but you're giving their posts,
2 and also you as the commander of the Operative Zone,
3 why were you trying for this to be investigated at the
4 highest level possible? What was the underlying idea?
5 A. This was a crime that certainly merited a
6 certain meeting of the top military officials in order
7 to organise and carry out an investigation, but it is
8 certain that that would guarantee a comprehensive
9 investigation and would give my own efforts far greater
11 Q. What is your opinion? What was your opinion
12 then and what is your opinion today? Had they listened
13 to you, had Bob Stewart taken part, had the main
14 commanders of the BH army, Halilovic; and Petkovic; and
15 Hadzihasanovic, the commander of the 3rd Corps; and
16 you, had the investigation at Ahmici been started from
17 that level, do you think that you would have
18 established far sooner what happened in Ahmici, and do
19 you think that you would have brought the perpetrators
20 to justice? What do you think now, after all?
21 A. I was convinced that we would come to the
22 truth, not in terms of what had happened and who did
23 this, but also in terms of who ordered civilians to be
25 Q. Did you feel then that you would not be
1 efficient enough? Were you concerned about efficiency,
2 knowing all the problems that you had in your
4 A. Yes. I felt that there would be problems
5 with a lack of efficiency, and I would like to say that
6 I was also surprised. If any of the participants in
7 the meeting of the 21st of April knew anything that had
8 happened in Ahmici, why did the two top representatives
9 of the two armies not go to see Ahmici together? Why
10 did they go by Ahmici and go to Kula and Busovaca?
11 Today, I think that it was far more necessary for them
12 to visit Ahmici, rather than one of the defence lines
13 at the front.
14 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: General, I take it that
15 at that, some time, you yourself visited Ahmici; is
16 that correct?
17 A. Until then, I had not been by Ahmici, but,
18 Your Honour, later, I shall speak about this. It was
19 impossible to enter Ahmici because the front line was
20 at Ahmici at the time, and as one of the points in the
21 agreement of the 21st of April, we signed an agreement
22 on the separation of the confronted forces of the army
23 and the HVO so that this space would be empty, that is
24 to say, that there would not be any combat units there,
25 which would make it easier to carry out an
1 investigation later.
2 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: When was the first time
3 that you yourself visited Ahmici?
4 A. I think it was on the 26th or 27th, a day or
5 two later.
6 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: How far is Ahmici from
7 the Hotel Vitez?
8 A. Ahmici was three kilometres away, but at that
9 time, it was as if it was 333 kilometres away. Your
10 Honour, we did not have a road that led to Ahmici at
11 the time. You had to go to Ahmici on foot. I did go,
12 but not precisely on that day because the problem of
13 distance is not the same in peacetime as it is in
14 wartime. It depends on who holds the road. It is true
15 that it is three kilometres away, but at that time, it
16 was practically inaccessible.
17 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: As a military man, were
18 you able to make any assessment of the types of
19 explosive power that must have been used at Ahmici?
20 A. Well, later, yes. Later, yes, when I saw --
21 well, perhaps before the 27th or on the 27th of April,
22 it was the first time that I saw this great
23 destruction, from my point of view too, great.
24 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Would that explosive
25 power, which was used at Ahmici, have been audible at
2 A. Well, if it were used only in Ahmici, then it
3 is probable that it would have been audible, but when
4 it is used at all positions, then you can hear the
5 noise, but it's difficult to orient yourself as to
6 where and from where.
7 MR. NOBILO:
8 Q. Tell me, from your hotel to Ahmici, was the
9 road under fire? Was Ahmici under fire of the army of
10 Bosnia-Herzegovina on the day of the 16th, 17th, 18th,
11 19th, all the way up to the 22nd of April?
12 A. Until the Washington Accords were signed, the
13 position of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina was 50
14 metres off the main road between Vitez and Busovaca, in
15 the village of Dzidica Kuce. From that position, a
16 member of the negotiating commission, the joint
17 commission, Zoran Mravak from Busovaca, was killed. He
18 was together with Nakic and Merdan in the negotiating
20 And 50 metres above the village of Ahmici was
21 also a firing position, the front line 50 metres away
22 from the last house in the village, because the slope
23 above the village was under control of the army of
24 Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the village is below,
1 JUDGE JORDA: Mr. Nobilo, I'd like a
2 clarification, because we're now at the very heart of
3 the basic issue of this trial. Ahmici was, therefore,
4 the front line. That was a front line. It was an
5 important strategic point; is that correct?
6 A. If we're talking only about the village, the
7 village was an empty village at that time, and the
8 front line went just by the village. The village is in
9 a valley, but the front line is right above the
11 JUDGE JORDA: But there were some people
12 there, people had been killed. It was not completely
13 deserted, I suppose. There were some people there.
14 A. Mr. President, I don't know what date we're
15 speaking about.
16 JUDGE JORDA: Well, my question is, when on
17 the 22nd of April you met to speak about help from
18 Colonel Stewart, you had a meeting with Slavko Marin,
19 who was the chief of your operations, you have stated.
20 Therefore, he was the one who was commanding all
21 operations in your name. Did he do nothing about
22 Ahmici; is that what you're saying?
23 A. He knew nothing about the atrocity that was
24 committed, about the burned houses and the eight
25 corpses of civilians who were killed, and that's what
1 the letter described.
2 JUDGE JORDA: But did you have units? You,
3 as the chief of staff, were HVO units engaged at that
4 specific point of the front line?
5 A. At part of the front line, I did have units,
6 and I was aware of what unit was engaged at that part
7 of the front line.
8 JUDGE JORDA: So Slavko Marin and you knew,
9 first, that there were units on that front line, and
10 that the units were in Ahmici and about which you say
11 was an important village, that is, that Ahmici was an
12 important village.
13 A. I knew where units were engaged, and this
14 included the village of Ahmici.
15 JUDGE JORDA: Therefore, when Colonel Stewart
16 wrote to you, you were very surprised, but you could
17 consider that, in fact, your units, at least some of
18 them, might have committed those crimes?
19 A. I was aware that some individuals from that
20 unit had probably committed those crimes, but some
21 individuals from that unit. I was also aware that I
22 did not receive a report from the commander of the
23 unit, either orally or in writing, about this.
24 JUDGE JORDA: Had you imagined or did you
25 imagine that Slavko Marin might have hidden something?
1 A. Mr. President, I hardly ever doubted my
2 immediate associates, but that is why I asked to see
3 everything that had arrived. Generally speaking, all
4 information that we had received between the 15th and
5 the 22nd of April, and to establish a special file, and
6 I openly asked for this file to be made accessible to
7 Nakic as my representative in the commission and all
8 members of the joint commission.
9 JUDGE RODRIGUES: General Blaskic, we already
10 know that you did not know beforehand that the crime
11 had been committed in Ahmici, but you knew that there
12 were HVO soldiers on that front line. Did you at least
13 know that there was fighting?
14 A. Yes. Yes, I knew there was fighting between
15 the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the units of the army
16 of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the HVO at that part of the
17 front. I knew about the combat.
18 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Therefore, when you
19 received the letter from Colonel Stewart, what thoughts
20 ran through your mind? You knew that there had been
21 fighting. Did you have some kind of idea of who had
22 committed those crimes? What was your first reaction
23 from that point of view?
24 A. My first reaction was that I was horrified by
25 what had happened. It was not only my first reaction.
1 Your Honour, that state of mind prevailed for a longer
2 period of time, and I'm sure that my associates saw it
3 too. Never before, and fortunately never afterwards,
4 had I been confronted with such an atrocity, and I was
5 aware of what unit was at that part of the front line.
6 I knew what unit it was, but that is not a small area.
7 Whether it was individuals from that unit who did it or
8 from the next unit, that, I did not know precisely, but
9 I did know which unit was at that part of the front
10 line, and that was the first information that I had
11 received, and I was aware of that.
12 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Thank you, General.
13 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: One little question,
14 General. On the 20th of April, Dzemo and you had a
15 discussion in Zenica, and in the course of that
16 discussion, Dzemo alleged, angrily, I believe, that
17 hundreds of civilians had been killed at Ahmici. I
18 think you said he might have said 500.
19 A. Your Honour, Dzemo -- at least I do not
20 remember that he precisely mentioned the village, but I
21 had already repeated this. He did say this angrily.
22 Dzemo is a calm man otherwise. I know him. He got up
23 and he took the floor just like that, and I don't know
24 whether he ever did that before. He said, "Look, you
25 have killed hundreds of people down there. There are
1 civilians there too. In the ditch by the road, there
2 are 500 people who were killed," and he sat down.
3 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Did you understand where
4 was the ditch of which he was speaking?
5 A. I assumed that this might have been in the
6 area of Ahmici, and it is precisely that this ditch
7 that he mentioned -- I made this association in my
8 mind, because he said, "Down there by the road." But
9 also the figure of 500 people, Your Honour, it seemed
10 exaggerated to me at that point in time. I was
12 I was not at the meeting only until 8.15. I
13 was there perhaps until 20.00 or 19.30, but after that,
14 we did not discuss that issue at all, and not a single
15 person present had brought up the matter again.
16 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: You had known Dzemo for
17 a long time; is that right?
18 A. Yes.
19 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Did you consider that
20 the allegations which he was making were serious
21 allegations if correct?
22 A. Yes, I did, and I offered that the joint
23 commission investigate these serious allegations,
24 precisely, and that is what I told the head of the main
25 staff who was sitting next to me, and I also said it
1 out loud to all the participants in the meeting.
2 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Did you think they were
3 worthy of unilaterally organised investigations on your
4 part to be made immediately?
5 A. Well, at that point in time, when Dzemo was
6 saying this, I assumed that something, indeed, had
7 happened, and that is why I told my associates and I
8 tried to have the conflict stopped. It is certain that
9 these people merited a unilateral investigation too,
10 but I stated my views in the letter as well. At that
11 time, the results of such an investigation would not
12 have been acceptable to both sides, as it would have
13 been had the investigation been carried out by both
14 sides, because the joint investigation -- the joint
15 commission carried out investigations in the January
16 conflict of 1993 too, and I had expected that this idea
17 of investigation by the joint commission would have
18 been accepted.
19 MR. NOBILO: Mr. President, perhaps this is a
20 good time to break. We can finish with this issue.
21 JUDGE JORDA: We will take a 20-minute
22 break. The Court stands suspended.
23 --- Recess taken at 11.15 a.m.
24 --- On resuming at 11.41 a.m.
25 JUDGE JORDA: We can now resume the hearing.
1 Please be seated.
2 We can resume now, Mr. Nobilo.
3 MR. NOBILO: Thank you.
4 Q. As we have touched upon the issue of the
5 meeting in Zenica and your return from Zenica in the
6 night, around 23.00, on the 20th of April, 1993, did
7 you have the chance on the 21st, and the conditions, to
8 carry out an investigation in Ahmici?
9 A. Your Honour, I didn't have such an
10 opportunity because the fighting had not ceased. The
11 cease-fire was not being observed, and that was the
12 first matter discussed at the meeting in Nova Bila on
13 the 21st of April, '93.
14 Q. You said that when Merdan said that there
15 were dead civilians along the side and that you had
16 killed 500 civilians, that you took it seriously and
17 you offered an investigation, could you explain to
18 Their Honours what additional information you received
19 and how you reacted to this problem in connection with
20 Merdan's allegations?
21 A. I did take those allegations seriously, but
22 later throughout that meeting, that is, the part of the
23 meeting at which I was present, I was surprised to see
24 that no one raised the matter again. No one discussed
25 my offer nor Merdan's allegations. The commander of
1 the 3rd Corps of the BH army, Mr. Enver Hadzihasanovic,
2 from Zenica was there, and all the others were present,
3 and I was surprised that this question never appeared
5 Q. This allegation made by Merdan, was it an
6 official agenda item or was it a remark made in
8 A. It was not an official topic of discussion at
9 the meeting. The official topic had been announced by
10 General Morillon, and it was the implementation of the
11 cease-fire agreement signed previously and, above all,
12 a cease-fire, a cessation of activities.
13 Q. What do you think, on the basis of your
14 experiences about negotiations between the HVO and the
15 BH army, and especially in the presence of General
16 Morillon, would it be possible to gloss over such an
17 allegation and not put it on the agenda? If such an
18 allegation was truthful and convincing, wouldn't it
19 have dominated the meeting? If that allegation had
20 been seriously taken by everyone, what course would the
21 meeting have taken?
22 A. It was hard for me to understand, and it
23 still is to this day. If the 3rd Corps had such
24 information of such scope, I'm surprised that this
25 matter was not the main topic of discussion. If it had
1 been, then probably the results would have been
3 Q. What was the information that you collected
4 from your staff, and what did you know about the events
5 in this sector of Ahmici? Were they similar to those
6 of Merdan or were they quite the opposite?
7 A. I did have such information. The information
8 was that combat operations were ongoing, but Merdan's
9 report and the reports that I had contradicted one
10 another, especially regarding the number of casualties
11 because 500 or hundreds of people killed, this number
12 cast a certain doubt as to its truthfulness.
13 Q. Tell the Court, in connection with the letter
14 you sent to Stewart on the 22nd --
15 A. On the 23rd.
16 Q. Yes. You received it on the 22nd. You sent
17 it on the 23rd. What was another reason why you
18 couldn't immediately order the customary police body to
19 investigate the crime in Ahmici? What caused
20 additional difficulties for you?
21 A. An additional source of difficulty was an
22 error in the structure and relationship between me and
23 the military police, also the fact that combat
24 operations had not ceased, it is impossible to enter
25 the area where fighting is ongoing, and certainly I
1 couldn't ask the military police to conduct an
2 investigation in that area if it was there already,
3 because then the results of the investigation would not
4 be trustworthy.
5 Q. Are you trying to say that the military
6 police, which was expected to conduct the
7 investigation, was potentially under suspicion?
8 MR. KEHOE: Excuse me.
9 MR. NOBILO: I withdraw that question.
10 MR. KEHOE: Thank you. What I'm objecting
11 to, Mr. Nobilo, is a preparatory language to a question
12 that --
13 JUDGE JORDA: Now you haven't even completed
14 your objection and the Defence has accepted that.
15 MR. KEHOE: I generally like those results,
16 Your Honour. Nevertheless, as a measure to prevent
17 such questions as we move into this area, questions
18 beginning with "are you trying to say" whatever,
19 generally I think we lose spontaneity with those kinds
20 of questions.
21 MR. NOBILO: I withdraw the question, but I
22 see it wasn't translated properly. So for two reasons,
23 I will put the question differently because the
24 translation was wrong.
25 Q. Who, in your opinion, or members of which
1 forces were potentially suspected of committing the
2 atrocity in Ahmici on the basis of what you knew on the
3 22nd and 23rd of April? Members of which unit were
4 potential suspects?
5 A. I assume it was members of the military
6 police because they were in that area.
7 Q. Remind Their Honours when members of the
8 military police reported to you on the 16th of April.
9 A. At 11.42.
10 Q. And from those and all subsequent reports,
11 what were the conclusions that you could make regarding
12 the civilian casualties? Could you make any
13 conclusions regarding civilian casualties?
14 JUDGE JORDA: I think I'm not sure of that
15 report. Do you have it? Could you give us the
16 number? I would like to take a look at that report.
17 MR. HAYMAN: D280, Mr. President, was the
18 written report. The report at 11.42 was a phone call
19 which the witness has already testified. The answer
20 wasn't recorded in the transcript. We need to go back
21 to that question. The witness said "No." There is no
22 answer in the question.
23 MR. NOBILO: Let me repeat the question.
24 Q. I asked whether from --
25 MR. KEHOE: If I may just interrupt.
1 Mr. President, just voicing a concern of the court
2 reporter. While the court reporter is facing this way,
3 she's asking us to slow down a little bit. I don't
4 mean to speak for you, Madam Court Reporter, but I know
5 that's what you were saying.
6 MR. NOBILO: Yes, we accept.
7 JUDGE JORDA: You're an excellent lawyer and
8 a good Defence counsel for the court reporters. I
9 think that's very good. While the registrar is looking
10 for Exhibit 280, please ask your question, and then we
11 can get the answer.
12 MR. NOBILO:
13 Q. Let me repeat the question, because your
14 answer does not appear in the transcript. From the
15 reports you received orally, starting from 11.42 on the
16 16th of April from the military police, including the
17 written report, Defence Exhibit D280, from those
18 reports of the military police fighting in Ahmici,
19 could you make any conclusions regarding civilian
21 A. No.
22 Q. And did you have any grounds to suspect that
23 there were any civilian casualties?
24 A. Until I received this information from Dzemo
25 Merdan and the letter from Colonel Stewart, no.
1 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: You had known Dzemo
2 Merdan for some time. For how long?
3 A. If I remember correctly, since August 1992.
4 I knew him from then until the Washington Agreement,
5 and I still know him, in fact.
6 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: You now found yourselves
7 on opposite sides of the fence, as it were.
8 A. Yes. We were on two different sides.
9 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Am I right in
10 understanding you to mean that it was uncharacteristic
11 for Dzemo to get up and make an angry statement?
12 A. That statement did provoke a reaction from
13 me, and it was unusual for a meeting of that kind, but
14 I also found it strange that, after that statement, the
15 meeting took a completely different course, and no one,
16 not even the 3rd Corps commander with whom I spent a
17 half hour separately, never raised the matter.
18 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: I'm asking you to focus
19 a little on the discussions in Zenica on the 20th. Was
20 it your impression that Dzemo himself believed or that
21 he did not believe the allegations which he was making?
22 A. As far as I can recollect now, the meeting
23 started by mutual recriminations as to who was to blame
24 for what. "You did this," and then representatives of
25 the army would say, "But you did that." In the course
1 of such a debate, Dzemo got up and made this
3 I had expected, at first, that the meeting
4 would then concentrate on a discussion of this
5 allegation, but I was surprised to see that no one
6 raised the matter again.
7 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: I think you said you got
8 some information from your own officers.
9 A. Upon my return from the meeting, I asked. I
10 asked -- actually, I conveyed to them Dzemo's
11 allegations, and I received quite opposite information
12 from them. They said that they didn't have any such
13 information and that they have no information that
14 would correspond in any sense to what Dzemo had said.
15 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Am I right that at one
16 stage you received some information but that it was to
17 the effect that the size of any killings at Ahmici was
18 less than it was represented to you by Dzemo?
19 A. Your Honours, as far as I can remember, Dzemo
20 said, "You down there," when you say "down there," and
21 you're in Zenica, you're referring to the area of
22 Vitez. He didn't specifically mention the village of
23 Ahmici. The first letter I received mentioning this
24 specific village was the one that I received in Colonel
1 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: One last question: From
2 the point of view of any obligation which you had to
3 investigate, did it matter to you whether 500 people
4 were killed or 100 were killed?
5 A. It was important for me to get information,
6 even if a single civilian was involved, and when I
7 learnt that eight civilians were killed, to me, it's
8 the same -- or, rather, it's not the same, but it's my
9 obligation to conduct an investigation.
10 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: I understand. Thank
12 JUDGE JORDA: Judge Rodrigues?
13 JUDGE RODRIGUES: General Blaskic, I would
14 like to know whether I understood the idea correctly.
15 I believe that the General was also preoccupied by
16 joint defence with the BH army; is that correct? You
17 were always concerned, you were always preoccupied,
18 about having defensive coordination against the Serbs,
19 that is, that there should be coordination between the
20 HVO and the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina; is that
22 A. Your Honour, if I understood correctly, I
23 didn't quite understand which period you were referring
24 to. We did have coordination, and we also had joint
25 operations. I don't know which period you're referring
1 to. Perhaps the translation is not quite correct.
2 JUDGE RODRIGUES: From the time that you
3 arrived in Bosnia to organise the defence at Kiseljak,
4 et cetera, you were always preoccupied about working
5 with the Bosnia-Herzegovina army; is that correct?
6 A. Yes. Not only did I act in that direction,
7 but I toured those positions. I spent a lot of time in
8 Maglaj, for instance, which is a Muslim town.
9 JUDGE RODRIGUES: I understood that at some
10 point you began to have -- to be somewhat weary about
11 the actions taken by the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina,
12 that it was sort of, in my thoughts, the second step.
13 A. Yes. That was the second period.
14 JUDGE RODRIGUES: All right. Now, here's my
15 question: Is it possible to tell us when you were
16 convinced that there really was a war between the HVO
17 and the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina? Can you tell us at
18 what point, at what moment, you arrived at that
19 conclusion, that you were convinced of that?
20 A. I'd be glad to do that, Your Honour. After
21 failure to implement the signed agreement from Zenica
22 and the signed agreement from Nova Bila, I regret that
23 I didn't show you yesterday on the relief what our idea
24 was on the basis of the agreement in Nova Bila. I'm
25 convinced that if we had implemented that agreement
1 from Nova Bila, the investigation would have been
2 completed and there would have been no trial, at least
3 not here.
4 If I may just add, in March 1993, by my
5 orders, the ammunition and what equipment we had was
6 sent to assist the defences of Visoko by the BH army,
7 and the wounded Marko Prskalo said to me, "They are
8 paying us back for your ammunition by shooting at us."
9 JUDGE RODRIGUES: My other question is the
10 following: I understand very clearly that you were
11 proposing that they set up joint commissions for
12 investigations during the first period, but at the very
13 moment when you were convinced that there was a war,
14 does it make sense to set up a joint commission to
15 carry out an investigation?
16 A. Your Honours, I'm a member of the joint
17 command and the commander of the 3rd Corps, and at the
18 level of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, my chief of
19 staff and the chief of staff of the BH army have the
20 joint command headquarters in Zenica and in Mostar, the
21 joint command of the armed forces of
22 Bosnia-Herzegovina. All incidents from January and
23 April were addressed by the joint commission consisting
24 of representatives of the BH army, the HVO, and the
25 European Monitoring Mission.
1 I personally believed that this joint
2 commission would continue their investigations.
3 Dusina, Lasva, Visnjica, these were places toured by
4 the joint commission. These are the sites of the
5 January conflict.
6 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Thank you.
7 JUDGE JORDA: What prevented you on the --
8 well, you received the letter from Colonel Stewart on
9 the 22nd of April. That's what the later is dated,
10 April 22nd.
11 A. The 22nd, Mr. President.
12 JUDGE JORDA: What prevented you, General
13 Blaskic, when you met with Slavko Marin, if I've
14 understood what you've just told us, you said that you
15 knew that the military police was the formation in the
16 sector. Secondly, the sector was operational. Third,
17 Slavko Marin was the chief of the operations.
18 Did you issue an order to the commander of
19 the brigades and units that were in the sector saying,
20 "I have learned that there were incidents in Ahmici,
21 and that within an hour I want to receive a report,"
22 because even if you were a part of the joint
23 commission, for the reasons that you've just explained
24 to each of my colleagues, you were not unaware of the
25 fact that the joint commission, at some point, would
1 ask you for a report?
2 Did you issue an order to the commander of
3 the units who were on the front, Slavko Marin, to say,
4 "I have just learned that apparently there have been
5 atrocities committed, and within an hour, within an
6 hour, two hours, I want a report on what happened"?
7 Did you do that?
8 A. I sent an order for an investigation on the
9 24th of April, an order for an investigation to the
10 assistant of security, the 24th of April, '93, at a
11 briefing that I had. An order for a report on the
12 civilian casualties was dated the 18th of April, '93,
13 requiring reports on all casualties, and I asked Slavko
14 Marin to insist on a report being delivered on the
15 basis of that order, and if we have a copy, we will see
16 that one of the points on that order is a request for
17 reports by all subordinates.
18 JUDGE JORDA: You did that on the 24th of
19 April; is that correct?
20 A. Yes.
21 JUDGE JORDA: The 24th.
22 A. On the 21st, I was at the meeting.
23 JUDGE JORDA: No. I'm speaking about after
24 your meeting with Slavko Marin. For several days,
25 you've been saying that you've been sending out orders
1 almost every minute. Why did you wait until the 24th?
2 A. I didn't wait. I was working on this letter
3 on the 23rd and on arranging the documents, collecting
4 the documents. Your Honour, on the 23rd, I checked
5 through all the documents from the 15th up to the 22nd,
6 all reports of my subordinates, and when I saw that in
7 those reports there was nothing, on the 24th I issued
8 an order to my assistant for security to carry out an
10 JUDGE JORDA: Thank you. Mr. Nobilo, please
12 MR. NOBILO:
13 Q. Tell us, after receiving this letter from
14 Stewart, why didn't you ask for a report from the
15 commander of the military police? What was the reason
16 for that?
17 A. I didn't receive from him any complete or
18 comprehensive report by the 23rd, and probably I would
19 have received a similar incomplete report on the 24th.
20 Q. Did you check his report of the 16th?
21 A. I could check it and compare it with the
22 information that I received, and I doubt that his
23 reports were correct. In fact, I knew that they were
25 Q. In a situation when a commander is lying to
1 you and supplying you with incorrect information, what
2 can you do?
3 A. That is why I gave instructions to the
4 assistant for security, who I thought had a position of
5 control over the military police, to carry out an
7 Q. Tell us, what are the competencies of the
8 Security and Information Service in relation to the
9 military police, which has already supplied you with a
10 false report? What are his competencies?
11 A. This is the only service that has any
12 superior position over the military police. It is
13 responsible for security for the whole area under the
14 control of the HVO.
15 Q. In the military organisation, can anyone else
16 in the Operational Zone of Central Bosnia carry out
17 investigations within military police ranks?
18 A. No. Only the military police and the
19 security service which is superior to the military
21 Q. Tell us please, at the time, and we're
22 referring to the period of the 20th, 22nd of April, you
23 already had an agreement set up by the joint
25 A. Yes. The commission was set up on the 21st
1 of April, 1993 in Nova Bila.
2 Q. So you had an agreement on the establishment
3 of a joint commission; is that correct?
4 A. Yes.
5 Q. So when you're addressing the joint
6 commission, it's not any new joint commission?
7 A. No. I'm asking that the existing joint
8 commission, that already existed and had been
9 established, should undertake the investigation.
10 Q. As a military man, when you realise that the
11 military police commander has sent you a false report,
12 would there be any sense in asking that same commander
13 to conduct an investigation?
14 A. When I realise that I have false reports, and
15 when I know that I do not have the authority to replace
16 that commander, and when I'm aware of all my
17 limitations and constraints, I see no sense in
18 continuing to cooperate with that commander and ask him
19 to report.
20 Q. What do you do then?
21 A. I gave instructions to the assistant for
22 security to undertake the investigation.
23 Q. Let us, for a moment, move on to a different
24 topic, but we will be coming back to it in the
1 We have tried to link up Colonel Stewart's
2 letter to you and your response to him. So we've
3 skipped over a very important order of yours dated the
4 22nd of April. It is Defence Exhibit D359. So could a
5 copy be supplied to the witness, please?
6 This is your order dated the 22nd of April,
7 1993, 13.00 hours, and it's entitled "Treatment of
8 Citizens' Personal Property." I'm reading the text
10 "In order to stop arson attacks on houses
11 and business premises, as well as the looting of
12 property, I hereby order:
13 1. On the territory of the area of
14 responsibility of the Central Bosnia Operative Zone
15 command controlled by the HVO," and now all of this in
16 capital letters, "I MOST STRICTLY FORBID the torching
17 of houses, and business premises, and the looting of
19 2. The commanders of brigade and independent
20 units must issue this order to their subordinates, and
21 make them responsible for stopping such misdeeds.
22 3. Those who act in violation of this order
23 are to be subject to the strictest measures in line
24 with the rules on military discipline in HVO units.
25 4. All members of HVO units are to be
1 informed of the content of this order, and the media is
2 to be used in this regard too.
3 5. This order shall take effect immediately,
4 and commanders of brigade and independent units in the
5 Central Bosnia Operative Zone are responsible to me for
6 its execution.
7 Commander Colonel Tihomir Blaskic. Stamped,
8 sealed, signed."
9 Tell me, General, in a well-established army,
10 is it necessary, or is it acceptable to all to have an
11 order issued that prohibits arson attacks on civilian
13 A. No. It is understood that that is not
15 Q. Please explain what motivated you to issue
16 this kind of an order and to order something which is
17 prohibited by law anyway.
18 A. This was certainly an attempt to stop these
19 things, and I wanted to improve security, but I also
20 wanted to take preventive action and to make it known
21 to some that this was not permitted and that every
22 effort should be made to stop this.
23 Q. On the 22nd of April and these days, whose
24 buildings were torched the most, those of what ethnic
1 A. Bosniak Muslim buildings were torched most
3 MR. NOBILO: Thank you. Mr. President, we
4 would now like to have a look at the document that is
5 under seal, so could we please move into private
6 session very briefly?
7 JUDGE JORDA: Yes. All right. This will be
8 a private session in order to discuss a document which
9 is still under seal. I'm saying this for the public
10 gallery. We're going to have a private session.
11 Mr. Registrar, would you indicate to us when
12 you're ready? Mr. Registrar?
13 THE REGISTRAR: It's good.
14 (Private session)
13 Pages 18952 to 18960 redacted in private session
1 (Open session)
2 JUDGE JORDA: All right. We will resume now
3 for about ten more minutes.
4 MR. NOBILO:
5 Q. I think that we could now move on to the 24th
6 of April, 1993. Can you describe how the morning
7 started and all the way up to the meeting with
8 Mr. Stewart?
9 A. That morning, on the 24th of April, I had
10 information that the road between Busovaca and Vitez
11 was under sniper fire, under sniper fire by the army of
12 Bosnia-Herzegovina, from Sljibcica, Barin Gaj, and
13 above the village of Ahmici, north of the road mostly,
14 and from Grbavica. Sometime around 13.00, Colonel
15 Stewart came to my office, and I had a meeting with him
16 until, perhaps, 14.00. At that time --
17 Q. The Defence believes that that meeting is
18 very important, we don't want to go into that right
19 now, but we would like to have a look at document D360,
20 your order issued on the 23rd of April, 1993 at 20.00,
21 and then in the afternoon, we are going to analyse your
22 meeting with Colonel Stewart.
23 So this is your order to all subordinate
24 units, dated the 23rd of April, 1993. This is Defence
25 Exhibit 360. The heading is "Behaviour of HVO members
1 and the level of military discipline." The text:
2 "Because of very strong condemnation from
3 the International Community, and the media campaign
4 that is being conducted against the HVO and the
5 Croatian people, which have extremely negative
6 consequences for the overall reputation of the HVO and
7 the achievements of the Croatian people globally, and
8 in order to prevent further destructive activities and
9 fully implement the order of the chief of the HVO main
10 headquarters, I hereby order;
11 1. Execute order number 01-4-470/93 of the
12 21st of April, 1993 in full. Responsible: Directly
13 subordinate commanders. Deadline: Immediately.
14 2. Ensure the full and unhindered passage of
15 UN and ECMM vehicles, greeting them with the proper
16 HVO military salute. Responsible: Immediate
17 subordinate commanders. Deadline: Immediately.
18 3. Once again, I urge you to behave in the
19 most military fashion and respect military discipline;
20 legal measures should be taken against those violating
21 this order.
22 4. I forbid most strictly all HVO units to
23 carry out offensive actions, and isolated provocations
24 by the BH army are not to be responded to.
25 5. Open fire only in case of a direct attack
1 by Muslim forces, but only after an order is issued by
2 the superior commanders about which the brigade
3 commanders must inform me immediately.
4 6. This order shall take effect immediately,
5 and the commanders of all Central Bosnia Operative Zone
6 units are responsible to me for its execution.
7 Commander Colonel Tihomir Blaskic."
8 If we analyse this order and if we look at
9 the preamble where you are, on the one hand, invoking
10 the international public and the condemnation of the
11 HVO and, on the other hand, the command of the main
12 staff, what is the reason why, at the beginning of this
13 order, you invoked these two elements? For what
14 purpose did you invoke the international public and the
15 head of the main staff, the chief of the main staff?
16 A. For the purpose of greater commanding power
17 and greater strength in the implementation of my order.
18 Q. What did you think, that in this way, the
19 order gained more weight?
20 A. Yes, at any rate, because here I am issuing
21 an order in respect of an order. I thought that the
22 commanders would be more decisive in carrying out this
23 order and that it would be fully carried out.
24 Q. Is it a normal thing, from a military point
25 of view, what you are saying under point number 1,
1 "Execute my order of the 21st of April, 1993 in
2 full"? Does this exist in the military?
3 A. Unfortunately, I was compelled to do this
4 too, that is to say, to order to have orders carried
5 out and in full, at that. Of course, the normal thing
6 is that an order should be carried out in full and
7 that, on the basis of this order, information should be
8 returned as well in normal armies. But I said that on
9 the 17th of April, I had to order once again the
10 organisation of defences according to villages and
11 sectors, that my chain of command was not functioning,
12 and this was one of the attempts made in order to
13 establish a chain of command.
14 MR. NOBILO: We're going to stop at this
15 point, and we shall continue analysing this document
16 after the lunch break, if you agree, Mr. President.
17 JUDGE JORDA: I'm just waiting for the
18 interpretation. All right. The interpretation has
20 We will take our lunch break, and we will
21 resume today at a quarter to three.
22 Court stands suspended.
23 --- Luncheon recess taken at 12.45 p.m.
1 --- On resuming at 2.50 p.m.
2 JUDGE JORDA: We can resume the hearing now.
3 Please be seated.
4 Mr. Nobilo, you may proceed, please.
5 MR. NOBILO: Thank you, Mr. President.
6 Q. We had stopped before the lunch break with
7 Defence Exhibit 360, issued by the witness as a
8 commander on the 23rd of April, '93, and we explained
9 point 2, when you said that you had to issue an order
10 to implement the order which was not regular in
11 military relationships.
12 I draw your attention to point 2. What was
13 the problem that you had with European observers, and
14 why did you have to include point 2 in which you
15 order: "Ensure the full and unhindered passage of UN
16 and ECMM vehicles, greeting them with the proper HVO
17 military salute"?
18 What was the motive behind this point?
19 A. By including this point, I wanted to convey
20 my position and my orders to my subordinates, that the
21 best possible conditions needed to be ensured for all
22 officers of the European Monitoring Mission, for the
23 implementation of their mandate, because I had always
24 believed that this was of great assistance to all
25 parties in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
1 There were incidents when, passing through
2 certain villages and inhabited areas, vehicles were
3 stopped or searched, and frequently, I was forced to
4 repeat myself in such orders, and under those
5 circumstances, to create the best possible conditions
6 for the work of both the European monitors, and the
7 United Nations, the UNHCR, the Red Cross, and other
8 humanitarian organisations.
9 Q. Point 3 of the order in which you say, "I
10 caution you once more of the need for military
11 behaviour and respect of military discipline, and I
12 oblige you to take legal measures against anyone who
13 fails to carry out these orders," isn't such a point
14 unnecessary, because whenever anybody violates rules,
15 such measures were necessary? Is it necessary to
16 repeat several times this kind of instruction?
17 A. The problem was that military conscripts,
18 armed farmers, who looked like a soldier in as far as
19 they wear a uniform or parts of uniforms, and had
20 weapons in their hands, but in terms of behaviour, it
21 was very difficult to envisage their reactions,
22 especially in the event of combat operations, because,
23 after all, this was an armed people lacking the degree
24 of obedience that is expected by a soldier.
25 Q. On the 24th, early in the morning, you issued
1 three orders.
2 MR. NOBILO: Could Defence Exhibit D361 be
3 shown to the witness, please? This is an order dated
4 the 24th of April. This is your order dated the 24th
5 of April, 1993, at 9.20 hours.
6 THE INTERPRETER: I apologise.
7 MR. NOBILO:
8 Q. It is your order of the 24th of April --
9 JUDGE JORDA: Does everybody hear?
10 MR. NOBILO:
11 Q. -- at 9.20 hours, addressed to all units
12 under the heading: "Elimination of arbitrary acts by
13 commanders and individuals. Order: After an
14 assessment carried out in the field, it is apparent
15 that the lower level commanders and their units are
16 acting outside the chain of command. They are not
17 executing orders from superiors, and are independently
18 making decisions contrary to the received orders. They
19 plan and execute their own combat activities, exert
20 pressure on civilians, and disrupt the forces of
21 UNPROFOR, the International Red Cross, and the European
22 Monitors in their work, which has negative consequences
23 for the HVO, and those soldiers who execute the
24 received tasks consistently".
25 Before proceeding with the reading of this
1 order, could you tell us, after an assessment carried
2 out in the field, how did you make that assessment, and
3 does this description, in fact, correspond to the
4 situation on the ground throughout the enclave in the
5 Lasva River Valley where the HVO was?
6 A. These were reports that we received from our
7 subordinates from the field. Then there were also
8 complaints by the monitors and the International Red
9 Cross, because usually in the course of meetings that
10 we held, the officers would indicate the problems they
11 had. Through this order, and probably those that
12 followed, I tried to remove all those problems and
13 difficulties. These were mostly written reports or
14 oral information conveyed to us by the officers.
15 Q. Do you consider this description to
16 realistically reflect the situation as it was in the
17 Lasva Valley in April '93?
18 A. Yes.
19 Q. Let me continue reading the order: "In order
20 to eliminate these negative tendencies and to execute
21 fully the order of the commander," the number is
22 indicated, "I hereby order: Warn all the levels of
23 command of the enormous negative impact of such
24 behaviour by individuals and groups, especially in the
25 international arena.
1 2. All the organised troops are to be fully
2 placed under control, and the commanders are personally
3 responsible for the behaviour of their subordinates.
4 3. Individuals or groups who are completely
5 out of control are to be arrested immediately and
6 warrants are to be delivered to the commander of the
7 military police unit.
8 4. You are in charge or, rather, responsible
9 for preventing the most extreme individuals and groups
10 who are out of control and who are not protecting
11 civilians, who are demolishing and setting fire to
12 civilian facilities, whose activities are nothing other
13 than terrorism, resorting to all available means and
14 the use of force.
15 5. Against all those who are disrupting the
16 mission of UNPROFOR, UNHCR, ECMM, and the International
17 Red Cross, urgently take the most stringent measures,
18 as this is a battle for the reputation and dignity of
19 the HVO and the Croatian people of the Croatian
20 Community of Herceg-Bosna. All these organisations
21 have complete freedom of movement, and you are
22 duty-bound to assist them in their activities.
23 6. The directly subordinate commanders are
24 responsible to me for the execution and practical
25 application of this order, and I make responsible all
1 reasonable levels of command and control.
2 The commander, Colonel Tihomir Blaskic."
3 General, could you comment on the situation
4 such as it was, what you tried to achieve, and what
5 were the reasons behind such a rather sharp-worded
6 order in relation to the HVO?
7 A. It is clear from this order that there were
8 organised groups, units, which were not fully under the
9 command control. Also there were individuals who were
10 extremists, and also extremist groups that torched and
11 destroyed civilian facilities, and I clearly stated
12 here that this was terrorism, and that absolutely all
13 available means should be used to prevent and eliminate
14 such tendencies.
15 Also it can be seen here that, through this
16 order, I wanted to extend support to international
17 humanitarian organisations in the execution of their
18 mission, and there were other forms of activities
19 whereby I sought to inform the population about the
20 mandate of UNPROFOR, the International Red Cross, the
21 UNHCR, and other institutions that were operating in
22 the area under my command.
23 In this last point, I tried to make
24 responsible all levels of control and command or,
25 rather, to make it clear that this order applied also
1 to squad commanders, or commanders of villages, or
2 commanders of sectors, of battalions and brigades, and
3 each and every commander in the chain of command. But
4 this order is still only an attempt to put some order
5 in the situation, but the real situation was such that
6 that was very difficult to achieve.
7 Q. General, on the 24th of April, we heard that
8 you were distressed by Ahmici, but was that the only
9 problem in the Lasva Valley in terms of the security of
11 A. Unfortunately, it was not. There were many
12 other issues at that time and in that area, but
13 certainly it was one of the priorities.
14 Q. If we were to be so bold and to put in some
15 sort of order here in the courtroom, what would you
16 give the highest priority to, to prevent another
17 Ahmici, or to carry out an investigation immediately
18 into Ahmici?
19 A. I pointed out that a repetition of Ahmici
20 would be equal to self-destruction and disaster, and
21 that's what I clearly stated to my associates at our
22 meetings, and our top priority was to prevent a
23 repetition of Ahmici.
24 Q. When you say that Ahmici should not be
25 repeated, you mean figuratively speaking, that the
1 crime should not be committed?
2 A. Yes. That is what I mean, the crime of
3 killing of civilians, and homes in Ahmici.
4 Q. And was there a real danger that this could
5 occur somewhere else? Did you feel that such a danger
7 A. We signed documents on a cessation of
8 hostilities twice, and agreements on a separation of
9 forces, but such a cessation of hostilities did not
10 occur. The forces of the HVO and the BH army were not
11 separated, and the situation was still extremely
12 difficult and complicated, and such a possibility
14 Q. Let us go on to the next document. It was
15 issued on the same date, the 24th of April, '93, but at
16 10.00. You ordered all subordinate units -- in
17 document D362.
18 So this document is D362, which is actually
19 your order of the 24th of April, '93 at 10.00. The
20 heading is "Treatment of the wounded. Order: Under
21 the order of the head of the Defence Department, and
22 chief of general staff of the HVO, 02-1/1-54/93 of 23rd
23 April, 1993, and in order to ensure its full
25 1. Unhindered access and rendering
1 assistance to all wounded persons, be they civilians,
2 soldiers, or enemy soldiers, is to be ensured.
3 2. Civilians and prisoners are to be treated
4 in accordance with international conventions and
5 regulations, and the names of those taken prisoner or
6 being detained are to be immediately provided to the
7 Central Bosnia Operational Zone.
8 3. Immediately subordinate commanders are
9 responsible to me in connection with the implementation
10 of this order."
11 Can you tell us a little about the reasons
12 for this order?
13 A. Though we didn't have access to the hospital,
14 we had communications, and I know that in the hospital
15 in Nova Bila, there were soldiers and civilians
16 undergoing treatment, that is, soldiers of the BH
17 army. I always sought to develop among commanders an
18 attitude which would extend assistance to any wounded
20 As for point 2, I think yesterday we
21 discussed documents when people were privately taken
22 prisoner or detained, and other illegal behaviour
23 towards civilians, and that is why, through point 2, I
24 requested, in the first place, that they should act in
25 accordance with international conventions and
1 regulations, I'm referring to HVO soldiers, and that
2 the names of those taken prisoner or being detained
3 should be given to us immediately.
4 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: General, in paragraph 3,
5 you refer to commanders directly under your orders.
6 A. Yes. It says here that all directly
7 subordinate commanders are responsible to me. It means
8 all commanders subordinated to me. It means brigade
9 commanders and those that were attached to me by the
10 order of the 17th of April at 22.00.
11 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: That would include the
12 military police battalion, the 4th Battalion?
13 A. Yes. It was resubordinated.
14 MR. NOBILO: Thank you.
15 Q. General, when you say that international
16 conventions had to be observed in relation to prisoners
17 and detainees, what was your understanding? Do
18 international conventions allow any one of them to dig
19 trenches on the front lines?
20 A. Certainly that is not permitted by
21 international conventions, and here, I have clearly
22 stated that they should act in accordance with
23 international conventions and regulations.
24 Q. When you are asking the HVO to behave in
25 accordance with international regulations and
1 conventions, does that mean that when there is no need,
2 in terms of combat, that civilians cannot be held in
4 A. Yes, that is what it means.
5 Q. Next exhibit, please, D363. Exhibit D363 is
6 your order issued on the 24th of April, '93 at 11.00,
7 and it has to do with housing resources and property in
8 flats. It is addressed to a number of units that are
9 listed here, and you say in your order: "Because of a
10 large number of flats temporarily vacated and which are
11 being forced into by armed persons, soldiers of the
12 Croatian Defence Council and other persons, and in
13 order to improve the quality of public law and order in
14 the town of Vitez," and by hand, probably your
15 handwriting, and you will be able to read it, what does
16 it say?
17 A. It says "And in other towns."
18 Q. This is hand-written, "As well as to prevent
19 such negative developments, I order:
20 1. Prevent by all means and, if necessary,
21 by the use of force the unlawful taking of flats and
22 stealing property from the flats which belong to
23 civilians who are temporarily absent for various
25 2. For the execution of this task, the
1 commander of the 4th Battalion of the HVO military
2 police and the commanders of police stations of the
3 Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna in those towns in
4 which conflicts have occurred are responsible to me for
5 carrying out this order.
6 3. This order enters into force instantly.
7 Members of the HVO carrying uniforms will be subject to
8 measures implemented by the Croatian Defence Council
9 military police, while civilians will be subject to the
10 civil police of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna,
11 those two working in coordination.
12 Signed, Colonel Tihomir Blaskic."
13 Tell us, General, how did this problem occur,
14 that is, temporarily abandoned apartments?
15 A. Certainly, conflicts were one of the reasons
16 why apartments were temporarily abandoned, and also the
17 tendency that I have mentioned, that is, the
18 reunification of families, or if armed groups would, in
19 the interest of some exiled families, try to find flats
20 for them. In any event, there was such usurpation of
21 apartments. In some cases, it was the Bosniak Muslims'
22 apartments, and in towns under the control of the BH
23 army, the same kind of usurpation of apartments was
24 done by Croats.
25 In order to prevent such negative
1 occurrences, I issued this order, trying to eliminate
2 this tendency which was gaining in intensity, and I
3 tried to make responsible for the execution of this
4 task both the military police and the civilian police,
5 even though I knew that I may be overstepping my
6 mandate, because what happened was that while a soldier
7 was confiscating an apartment, he may do that in
8 uniform, and then he would take off the uniform and say
9 to the military police, "I am a civilian. I'm not on
10 duty. What rights do you have in relation to me as a
11 military conscript?"
12 So it was very difficult to establish whether
13 such a breaking in of flats was done by civilian or
14 military men.
15 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Excuse me for interrupting
16 you, Mr. Nobilo.
17 General Blaskic, I have two questions: In
18 respect of the entities that you are referring to here
19 in 363, these entities to which you address the orders,
20 are they the same, to which you had addressed the
21 previous order, which is 362? When you say in 362, "To
22 all subordinates," we can say that all the subordinates
23 to whom you had addressed the previous orders are the
24 ones that you are indicating in this document; is that
1 A. In the previous order, it said, "To all
2 subordinates," and I did not think it said to the chief
3 of police in Travnik, though. The police force of
4 Travnik is a civilian police force, and it was never
5 subordinate to me, and that's what it says here in this
7 I think that in the previous document it did
8 not say, "To the police station in Vitez," because it
9 only said, "To all subordinates." The others have been
11 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Therefore, if I've
12 understood correctly, we could say that all the
13 entities indicated in the previous order are the same,
14 except for the chief of police of Travnik; is that
16 A. Your Honour, except for the chief of police
17 of Travnik and the police station of Vitez, the
18 civilian police.
19 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Thank you very much. My
20 second question is the following -- well, let me ask
21 the question a different way.
22 For you, is there a difference between the
23 words "instantly" and "immediately"? Are these
24 different things in your mind or are they the same
25 thing, when you say "instantly" and when you say
2 A. I think I got an incomplete translation, Your
4 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Let me repeat the
5 question. I'm sure it's my fault. What I want to know
6 is whether for you the word "imediatement," in French,
7 "immediately," and the word "instantanement," in
8 French, "instantly," have the same meaning, or whether
9 you believe that there is a difference between the two
11 A. Your Honour, I have been told the following:
12 Whether "odmah" and "instantly" mean the same thing.
13 That's the kind of translation I got, and I'm trying to
14 interpret it for myself.
15 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Let me ask the question in
16 English. Perhaps it would be clearer now. The
17 difference between "instantly" and "immediately."
18 A. If both words mean immediately, then there's
19 no difference, but if it also says "urgently," then
20 there is a difference, by all means, yes, between
21 "immediately" and "urgently."
22 JUDGE RODRIGUES: I'm asking the question
23 because in the previous order, I believe the word
24 "immediately" was the word that was used, whereas in
25 this order, you used the word "instantly." Therefore,
1 General Blaskic, you are using both terms, and what I'd
2 like to know is whether they mean the same thing or do
3 they mean something else?
4 A. Your Honour, for me, "instantly" and
5 "immediately" means the same thing for me, that is to
6 say, "instantly" and "immediately," if I got the right
8 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Therefore, if I've
9 understood you correctly and to finish with this
10 question, the word "instantanement," "instantly," and
11 "imediatement," "immediately," are words that you
12 used in both orders and mean the same thing.
13 MR. NOBILO: Your Honour, perhaps I could
14 help. In the original Croatian text of both one order
15 and the other, the same word was used, "odmah," but two
16 terms were used in the translation, so now we've
17 clarified it.
18 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Yes, but I believe that I'm
19 right when I say that in document 362, the document has
20 been translated into English as "immediately," whereas
21 the other document has the word "instantly." Is that
23 MR. NOBILO: You're right, Your Honour, but
24 the source -- the Croatian word, is the very same word,
1 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Thank you very much for
2 having explained this to me.
3 MR. NOBILO: We can show on the ELMO these
4 two words, no problem.
5 JUDGE JORDA: That becomes even more
6 complicated, because in the French version, in the
7 French version of 362, it doesn't say "instantanement"
8 or "immediatement." The word used says that they are
9 directly responsible, and I cannot find in the French
10 text the word "immediatement" or "instantanement,"
11 meaning "immediately" or "instantly," so that differs
12 in the French version.
13 MR. NOBILO: We can put it on the ELMO, and
14 with the yellow --
15 JUDGE JORDA: Perhaps that was 361 that I'm
16 referring to.
17 MR. NOBILO: In the Croatian text, we
18 highlighted the two words that are the same, in
19 yellow. The left-hand side is 362 and the right-hand
20 side is 363.
21 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: What you're saying,
22 Mr. Nobilo, is that the variations only occur in the
23 English translation and possibly in the French text as
24 well, but the position is the same in the original?
25 MR. NOBILO: That's right, yes. Precisely.
2 JUDGE JORDA: Judge Rodrigues, are you
3 satisfied with the answer? All right. I can,
4 therefore, say that in the Serbo-Croatian version,
5 which is the language, of course, which is
6 authoritative for the accused, for you it meant the
7 same thing in Serbo-Croatian?
8 A. Mr. President, in the documents, the very
9 same words were used.
10 JUDGE JORDA: We will look at a French
11 dictionary. In French, I believe there is a very
12 slight difference between "instantanement" and
13 "immediatement," but it's a very slight distinction in
14 French and, I believe, in English as well.
15 Thank you, Judge Rodrigues. That proves
16 that, aside from Serbo-Croatian, you do very, very
17 well, both in French and in English.
18 Mr. Nobilo, please proceed.
19 MR. NOBILO: Thank you. Now I would like to
20 go back to D363, the order from 11.00.
21 Q. I have a question of principle. You are
22 asking both the civilian and the military police to
23 prevent violence and to act according to the law. Was
24 that your job or were the civilian and military police
25 duty-bound to automatically work according to the law,
1 without having orders issued by you?
2 A. It is certain that the civilian and the
3 military police were duty-bound to work even without
4 this order, but the situation was such that I felt that
5 it was my obligation, and I felt it was necessary, to
6 react and to try to at least alleviate this, what was
7 happening, that is to say, that people were being
8 thrown out of apartments and this kind of attitude
9 towards housing.
10 Q. In a well-regulated army, and when you were
11 in the JNA, it was a well-regulated army, did anyone
12 ever issue orders to enforce the law?
13 A. No, I never saw that kind of an order, nor
14 did I ever sign one while I'm in the former Yugoslav
15 People's Army.
16 Q. Thank you. Now, we are going to leave aside
17 these three orders that you issued, and between 13.00
18 and 14.00 on that very same day, you have a, how shall
19 we call this, sharp meeting with Colonel Stewart of the
20 British Battalion. Could you please tell the Court
21 about the dialog that you two had?
22 A. This was one of the many meetings we had, but
23 this was the first time that I saw Colonel Stewart
24 quite shocked, upset, and emotional, and I think that
25 we were both in a kind of shock.
1 The meeting started at 13.00, and Colonel
2 Stewart put Ahmici on the agenda as the main item, and
3 he said, "Ahmici was in your zone of responsibility of
4 the HVO, and responsibility has not been taken yet, and
5 a commission has not been set up either. This is a
6 political catastrophe for the HVO, and the HVO wishes
7 to destroy the Muslims. The zone was attacked around
8 5.30 by the HVO." I imagine that he meant the area of
9 Ahmici. "Many victims were taken out, and some were
10 burned down, and among them are children who were
11 burned. As for UNPROFOR, this is a major thing with
12 unforeseeable consequences, and for the HVO, this is a
13 political catastrophe."
14 "I believe," that's what Colonel Stewart
15 said, "that Mr. Mate Boban would have to come to Vitez
16 today and address the public in Vitez, and say in front
17 of journalists that the perpetrators would be found and
18 that they would be brought to trial. Responsibility
19 for what has happened must be taken by the HVO."
20 Colonel Stewart also said that -- he was
21 asking that Mr. Mate Boban personally guarantee that
22 the people who committed this will be held accountable
23 and that might alleviate the situation. It is also a
24 good thing to bear in mind the implications of that
25 which could happen.
1 After that part, I told Colonel Stewart the
2 following: "I already expressed my position to you in
3 my letter of the 23rd of April, 1993, and I did not
4 issue orders to any unit to commit the crime in
5 Ahmici," and I'm referring to HVO units. I told him
6 that "Ahmici is in the responsibility of the HVO as
7 well," and I said that at that moment, that area was
8 still under fire and under fire supervision of the army
9 of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that it was impossible to
10 enter that area without the protection of armoured
11 vehicles in order to carry out an on-site
13 And also I told Colonel Stewart that it was
14 necessary to separate the forces, I was referring to
15 the forces of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the
16 HVO, in order to carry out a comprehensive,
17 high-quality investigation.
18 I also said that on the 16th or, rather, the
19 15th/16th of April, the HVO was attacked in the Lasva
20 River Valley. I literally said, "We were attacked."
21 After that, Colonel Stewart told me that
22 which my commanders do, those who are under my command,
23 I'm responsible for that, but that is not to say that
24 I'm personally guilty. I said to Colonel Stewart that
25 if my soldiers had done that, soldiers under my
1 command, I would have been responsible too, but I did
2 not issue such an order, and after that first part of
3 the meeting, I noted down in my diary, in my war diary,
4 that the discussion continued on the shelling of
5 Zenica, but, Your Honours, I'm not sure whether on that
6 same day, or on the next day, but I'm certain of the
7 content of the discussion that I had with
8 Colonel Stewart on the question of the shelling of
10 Q. Well, do tell us about this content,
11 regardless of whether it was on the 24th or the 25th.
12 A. Colonel Stewart told me Zenica was shelled on
13 the 19th of April, 1993, and I told him the HVO did not
14 do it. I did not issue orders to shell Zenica, and I
15 know that my artillery commander did not issue that
16 order either. As regards accusations concerning the
17 shelling of Zenica, I heard about that on radio
19 After that, Colonel Stewart continued the
20 discussion, and at one point he said to me, "Well,
21 Zenica was shelled with a howitzer of 155-millimetre
22 calibre." I heard the interpreter, his name as Edo,
23 who said the calibre, and I asked him to repeat the
24 calibre to me, and Colonel Stewart repeated it. He
25 said that it was 155 millimetres. I told
1 Colonel Stewart, "If I understood you correctly,
2 Colonel, you're talking about a projectile of
3 155 millimetres," and he said, "Yes."
4 After that, I said to Colonel Stewart, "Well,
5 I suggest that my artillery commander and the commander
6 of the artillery unit be on the joint commission that
7 will go to Zenica, to the very site, and together with
8 the commission of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, carry
9 out a joint investigation on the shelling of Zenica."
10 Colonel Stewart asked me, "Who would
11 guarantee their security," referring to the two
12 officers that I had proposed from the HVO to go to
13 Zenica, and I said to Colonel Stewart, "Well, it's only
14 you, because I don't see who else could guarantee
15 security to HVO in Zenica."
16 Colonel Stewart told me that this was not
17 possible, that he could not guarantee the security of
18 these officers. After that, he added the following,
19 Colonel Stewart did, the following: "They say," he was
20 referring to the representatives of the army of
21 Bosnia-Herzegovina, "that the shelling was carried out
22 from the direction of Busovaca towards Zenica," and
23 that he knows that the shelling was carried out from
24 the direction of Vitez, that is to say, that Colonel
25 Stewart knows that it was done so.
1 I also told him that it is possible to reach
2 agreement and to see the firing positions of the
3 artillery, and then to be assured that that was not
4 correct, that the firing came from the direction of
6 Q. On the day of the 19th of April, 1993, in the
7 Lasva River Valley, did you have a 155-millimetre
9 A. No, but we did have it at the time of the
10 joint defence of Travnik. When I say "joint," I mean
11 by the HVO and the BH army, until the 8th of January,
12 1993, when, by orders of the chief of staff, of the
13 main staff, I returned this 155-millimetre howitzer and
14 a multiple rocket launcher.
15 Q. Did you say that to Stewart, that you didn't
16 have a 155-millimetre howitzer?
17 A. I do not remember saying to him at the time
18 that we didn't have a 155-millimetre howitzer.
19 Q. Did you check later on with your artillery
21 A. Yes. As soon as the meeting ended, I called
22 up the artillery commander and checked with him whether
23 this howitzer had been sent, though I had a report to
24 that effect, but I checked once again whether the
25 155-millimetre howitzer had been returned to the main
1 headquarters, and the artillery commander told me,
2 "Yes. Pursuant to your order, it was returned already
3 on the 8th of January, 1993."
4 Q. When did you hear the HVO being accused, for
5 the first time, of having a howitzer that was not
6 155-millimetre but 122-millimetre howitzer?
7 A. When the trial started and when I came to
8 this Tribunal here.
9 JUDGE JORDA: Mr. Nobilo, the witness has
10 been testifying for about an hour. We will take a
11 15-minute break, and we will resume at 4.00.
12 --- Recess taken at 3.45 p.m.
13 --- On resuming at 4.07 p.m.
14 JUDGE JORDA: We will now resume the
15 hearing. Please be seated.
16 Mr. Nobilo, proceed, please.
17 MR. NOBILO: Thank you.
18 Q. The last question was: When did you hear,
19 for the first time, that Zenica was shelled with a
20 122-millimetre howitzer, and you said here in court.
21 I'm asking you now whether you asked your artillery
22 commander whether his men had used any artillery weapon
23 to shell Zenica?
24 A. Yes. On the 19th of April, for the first
25 time, because I was informed, I think it was by the
1 assistant for information and propaganda, that two
2 reports had gone out. One was that Zenica had been
3 shelled by the army of Republika Srpska, and then
4 another report which repeated that the shelling was
5 done by the HVO. I checked with the artillery
6 commander then on the 19th of April, and I also checked
7 when I asked him, "What about the 155-millimetre
9 Q. The term "report has gone out" has been
10 used. So you were informed that the assistant for
11 information and propaganda heard what?
12 A. The assistant for information and propaganda
13 informed me that a report had been published on the
14 radio about the shelling of Zenica. After he informed
15 me of this, the assistant stressed that the first
16 report on Radio Zenica was that the shelling was done
17 by the Serb army. Then came another report that it was
18 done by the HVO.
19 I called the artillery commander to check
20 whether any fire was opened in the direction of Zenica
21 or, rather, against Zenica, and he said, "No."
22 After Colonel Stewart informed me that it was
23 155-millimetre howitzer that had been used, talking to
24 the artillery commander, I checked whether a
25 155-millimetre howitzer had been returned, and when he
1 said it had, I asked him again whether shelling was
2 done using any other kind of artillery weapon towards
3 Zenica, and his answer was, "No."
4 Q. Let us leave aside Zenica for the time being,
5 and let us go back to the beginning of the conversation
6 with Stewart.
7 You told the Court that you again drew
8 Colonel Stewart's attention to the letter you had sent
9 to him the day before, that is, on the 23rd of April,
11 A. Yes.
12 Q. Tell the Court, what was it that was so
13 important in that letter for you to insist on its
14 implementation? What was the substance of your request
15 addressed to Stewart?
16 A. There were two matters, in fact, but for me,
17 the first was the most important, and that was support
18 and increasing my command powers to carry out the
19 investigation, because I said that I had asked for a
20 special meeting to be organised, at which the question
21 of the investigation would be a separate item which
22 would be discussed by representatives of both the HVO
23 and the BH army. For much smaller problems, I was
24 forced to repeat myself several times and repeat my
25 orders upon orders, so that because of the overall
1 impotence, rather than power, of my orders, I felt I
2 needed support, which would facilitate my
4 Q. Were you aware at the time that, in view of
5 your position and the quantity of command powers that
6 you had, and in view of the circumstance that there was
7 suspicion that the military police had done it, did you
8 have a feeling that it would be slow and difficult to
9 establish the truth?
10 A. Yes, I did have such a feeling, and
11 especially, I wanted to get the support of my
12 superiors, as well as of international institutions,
13 because thereby my orders would probably be more
14 efficiently implemented with regard to the
16 Q. When this happened, did anyone help you? Did
17 you get what you asked for from the International
18 Community or from any other quarter?
19 A. Though I repeated this, not only in my
20 letter, you will see later on from the chronology,
21 unfortunately, I did not receive any assistance. No
22 one helped me.
23 Q. What was the second important reason or,
24 rather, your expectation in relation to UNPROFOR and
1 A. The other matter was the security situation.
2 That day, at the meeting, I told Colonel Stewart that
3 it was impossible to access the area without armoured
4 vehicles. He was a military man like me, in fact, with
5 far greater experience than myself, and I know that he
6 knew that the HVO did not have any armoured vehicles in
7 that area, and that the only possibility was for him to
8 give us his armoured vehicle for me or my chief of
9 staff, Nakic, to access that area for the purpose of
11 Q. Did Stewart, on the 23rd, that is, 24 hours
12 after you learnt from him about Ahmici, did he make
13 available to you an armoured vehicle? Were you ready
14 to go to Ahmici and to start the investigation
16 A. Yes. If I had been given protection, I would
17 have gone without a second thought.
18 Q. After this conversation with Stewart ended --
19 just a moment, please. After this conversation with
20 Stewart, you undertook a unilateral action without the
21 International Community, without anybody's assistance.
22 Tell the Court what you did, what you requested, and
23 from whom.
24 A. I organised a meeting of the command in the
25 afternoon, at 15.00, and I informed all my associates
1 of the content of the talk with Colonel Stewart, and I
2 said that we must undertake investigating Ahmici
3 ourselves. I gave an oral order to the assistant for
4 security, at that meeting, requiring him, regardless of
5 whether international institutions helped us or not,
6 that he should initiate the investigation.
7 I also emphasised at that meeting that I
8 condemn the crime, and that, for all of us, and I meant
9 all HVO members, was tragic, and that a repetition of a
10 crime of that kind would be equal to self-destruction.
11 I required, in particular, that every effort should be
12 made to avoid such an evil being repeated.
13 Q. Tell the Court, when you saw that no one was
14 giving you any assistance, why did you designate the
15 Security and Information Service as the service to
16 carry out the investigation? Why?
17 A. It was the only organisation that had ...
18 (Trial Chamber deliberates) .
19 JUDGE JORDA: Would you go back a little bit
20 when you proceed, Mr. Nobilo, a little bit back?
21 MR. NOBILO:
22 Q. My question was why, 48 hours after you
23 learned about Ahmici from Stewart, you appointed the
24 Security and Information Service to carry out the
25 investigation into the crime in Ahmici?
1 A. I didn't have, at my disposal, any
2 institution to carry out the investigation over the
3 military police, except for the Security and
4 Information Service. I thought that the results would
5 be far better than if I had given an order to the
6 military police to carry out the investigation into its
7 own activities.
8 Q. Could you tell the Court, why are you issuing
9 an order for the investigation of Ahmici 48 hours after
10 learning about it, that is, on the 24th, and not within
11 a period of 24 hours after learning about the crime in
12 Ahmici? Why did you wait for another day?
13 A. I wrote a letter, and I expected a response
14 and assistance, assistance in protection, and I also
15 expected assistance in the activities of the joint
17 Q. When you say "assistance in protection," what
18 kind of protection do you mean?
19 A. Assistance in the form of protection of
20 armoured vehicles, and those vehicles would be provided
21 by the UNPROFOR for us to be able to access the area,
22 that is one thing. Secondly, assistance in increasing
23 my command powers through the involvement of the joint
24 commission and international institutions.
25 Q. You gave this order 48 hours after learning
1 about Ahmici. Were you aware at the time that this was
2 a poorer solution than if your plan of international
3 assistance and the leadership of the HVO had been
4 carried out?
5 A. I was aware that it was a poorer solution,
6 but it was the only solution I had. I had no other at
7 the time. Unfortunately, I didn't see any other way
9 JUDGE JORDA: Excuse me, General. You had
10 forces on the Ahmici front, did you not? They were
11 your own forces there on the front line in Ahmici.
12 Didn't you have forces there? You described them this
14 A. On the line at Ahmici, there was a military
15 police unit, and I had armed peasants.
16 JUDGE JORDA: But when you had your meeting
17 with the members of the command 48 hours later, was
18 there still nobody in your headquarters, or one of your
19 unit commanders who had told you what had happened in
21 A. A complete information about what happened in
22 Ahmici, I still do not have. I don't have a -- I did
23 not receive a complete written report about what
24 happened in Ahmici.
25 MR. NOBILO:
1 Q. You said that you do not have a complete
2 information to this day.
3 A. Yes. I never received a complete information
4 as to what happened in Ahmici on that day, the 16th of
5 April, '93, and related to the crime.
6 Q. Until the 24th when you issued your order,
7 what roughly did you learn about what had happened in
8 Ahmici? Could you summarise that for us?
9 A. I had the letter from Colonel Stewart, I had
10 the reaction of Dzemo Merdan, and I had some knowledge
11 from the conversation with Colonel Stewart regarding
12 civilian casualties. Beyond that, I had no other
14 JUDGE JORDA: You didn't think about calling
15 Ahmici, which was three kilometres away? You didn't
16 think about convening the commander of the brigade who
17 was the closest to Ahmici, just to convene and say to
18 Stewart, "I'm doing something"?
19 One somewhat has the impression that you
20 continued saying, "I need tanks. I need armoured
21 vehicles to go there. I can't do anything otherwise."
22 Since you organised brigade meetings with the
23 commanders, you were sensitive to that problem. You
24 became aware of that. Stewart spoke about it with
25 you. It was only three kilometres away between you and
1 Ahmici, and you don't have the closest commander come
2 to ask what's going on or what happened, even if you're
3 not -- as if you're somewhat distrustful about what he
4 was going to say.
5 I have to say that I don't understand. You
6 don't say to the commander, "Come. Come and see me.
7 What happened?" Even if you knew he was going to lie
8 to you. You didn't do that.
9 A. Well, the commander who was supposed to
10 report to me, he did send me information throughout on
11 the 16th, 17th, 18th, and the other days, but three
12 kilometres, Mr. President, during the war and in view
13 of the combat operations, is not the same distance as
14 it is in peacetime.
15 JUDGE JORDA: Please continue.
16 Judge Rodrigues?
17 JUDGE RODRIGUES: General Blaskic, you said
18 that you couldn't go to Ahmici because you would have
19 needed a tank or an armoured vehicle, but the person
20 responsible for your forces, could that person have
21 come to you?
22 A. You mean that he should come from Ahmici.
23 But he gave me information. The people responsible for
24 those forces did give me information. I did receive
25 the information, but the information didn't correspond
1 to what happened.
2 JUDGE RODRIGUES: So he gave you the
3 information -- did he give you the information
5 A. He gave me information about the situation on
6 the front, personally, by telephone, and he also sent
7 written reports. One of those reports we have examined
9 JUDGE RODRIGUES: But was he able to come to
10 you and give to you the information in person? I mean,
11 the military situation allowed the person responsible
12 for your forces to come to give you the information
13 personally. That's my question. "Yes" or "No," he
14 could or could not?
15 A. Yes. He came, and he conveyed to me the
16 information on the 16th of April, 1993, but the problem
17 is what he told me, what information he gave.
18 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Therefore, we already know
19 that commanders or people in charge frequently would
20 not give you all the information.
21 I have another question for you. You said,
22 at some point, that the person in charge of Busovaca
23 informed you that he had not opened fire, and that you
24 trusted that information, or did you not trust that
1 A. I don't recall what you are referring to,
2 that he didn't opened fire.
3 JUDGE RODRIGUES: I'm talking about the
4 shelling of Zenica, the shelling of Zenica. You said
5 that further to the discussions and meetings, you asked
6 the person responsible for Zenica whether he had --
7 whether or not he had opened fire, and there was that
8 question about the howitzer of 155 millimetres, and you
9 said that the person in charge said, "No, we did not
10 opened fire." Is that correct?
11 A. Yes.
12 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Did you trust that
13 information or did you not trust?
14 A. When he told me that he hadn't opened fire
15 from a 155-millimetre howitzer, I certainly had reason
16 to believe him, because I knew that we didn't have any
17 such howitzer. I asked him, "Was the howitzer
18 returned?" I checked once again. He said, "Yes," and
19 he told me on the basis of which order. Later on, he
20 told me that he hasn't opened fire, and I trusted that
21 information. Anyway, I had no other choice. Neither
22 could he come to see me, nor could I go to see him.
23 JUDGE RODRIGUES: I want to take advantage of
24 this time to ask you another question, General
25 Blaskic. When you spoke with Colonel Robert Stewart,
1 and he mentioned the possibility of the HVO having
2 fired on Zenica, at that moment, did you already know
3 or were you sure that you had or did not have the
4 155-millimetre howitzer?
5 A. In my talk with him, I asked Colonel Stewart
6 whether he knew which calibre was used. When he said
7 he did, I knew that this weapon should have been
8 returned, upon my orders, to the main headquarters, and
9 I knew that I had issued such an order, but I wanted to
10 check once again, and that is why I called up the
12 JUDGE RODRIGUES: Therefore, at that moment
13 you were convinced that you did not have the howitzer,
14 that is, that calibre howitzer?
15 A. I believed so, but I also checked.
16 JUDGE RODRIGUES: All right. The important
17 thing is what your state of mind was at that moment.
18 When you spoke with Colonel Robert Stewart, you were
19 almost sure, or that it was reasonable to assume that
20 you already had the howitzer, because you'd already
21 given the order for it to be returned.
22 A. I did express a reservation, because I had
23 issued many orders that were not implemented.
24 JUDGE RODRIGUES: All right. I understand
25 now. Thank you very much.
1 MR. NOBILO:
2 Q. Tell us, Colonel, a brigade commander, a HVO
3 Brigade commander that was in Vitez, could he carry out
4 an investigation into the military police, a unit under
5 your direct command?
6 A. Let me answer the first part of your
7 question. He could not carry out an investigation, and
8 I didn't have a list of the brigade command. This was
9 a brigade in the process of formation, rather than a
10 brigade that had already been formed.
11 Q. Let us now clear up the positions next to
12 Ahmici. Could you please get up and show us where the
13 defence line was in relation to Ahmici, and from where
14 were members of the BH army firing and preventing your
15 access to the area of Ahmici? Which were the positions
16 of the army, in other words?
17 A. First, I'm going to show the main road,
18 Vitez-Busovaca on the main road, then the village of
19 Ahmici is here.
20 On the main road, on the way out of Vitez
21 towards Busovaca, the position that we called Dzidica
22 Kuce, 50 or 100 metres off the main road, was where the
23 position of the BH army was, and they had full control
24 of the road from there, and behind that is Sljibcica
25 and Sivrino Selo, also under the army of
2 Then further on, to the east of Dzidica Kuce,
3 about 500 metres, then Barin Gaj, full control over the
4 village. Then the next position, I should just have a
5 look at the map, because the name of this place is not
6 here. Also to the north of Ahmici, as Barin Gaj goes
7 on, and then Banovici. I need the map to show that.
8 Q. Tell me, people who were at the front line,
9 were they standing on the ground and did they move
10 around freely, or were they entrenched in the ground?
11 A. The remaining houses were used and shelters.
12 It was not possible to move at all. I know, because
13 Colonel Stewart came to see me on the 3rd of May, 1993,
14 and he informed me that when, under his maximum
15 protection, the representatives of the organisation for
16 human rights for the UN came into Ahmici, that one
17 soldier was heavily wounded, I have that in the
18 chronology, although all measures of protection were
19 taken. So it was not possible to move around because
20 the position and the road were constantly under the
21 control of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
22 Q. Tell us, General, could one hit the village
23 of Ahmici only from the top of the mountain, from Barin
24 Gaj, or could one also hit it from the flank positions
25 of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina?
1 A. The village of Ahmici could be hit both from
2 Barin Gaj and from this position above Kratine, but it
3 could also be fired at very efficiently from Vranjska
4 and Kruscica by mortar too.
5 Q. What about guns, rifles from Sljibcica, and
6 along the flanks all along?
7 A. Yes. Also from the position of Barin Gaj by
8 sniper, and from this point here (indicating) that I
9 showed a few minutes ago, Dzidica Kuce. That is where
10 Zoran Mravak, the negotiator, was hit as he was moving
11 along the main road towards Nova Bila, to a meeting of
12 the joint commission. Also the chief of police of
13 Travnik, Mr. Mirko Samija, was killed later.
14 Q. You have answered to the Court that you
15 trusted your artillery commander. Tell me, was the
16 artillery commander your immediate subordinate? Was he
17 an officer whom you had appointed and whom you could
18 have replaced?
19 A. Yes.
20 Q. The commander of the military police who
21 submitted false reports to you, was he your officer
22 whom you could replace, appoint, punish, take
23 disciplinary action against?
24 A. No.
25 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: By the time you spoke
1 with your artillery commander about whether the
2 155-millimetre howitzer had been used in relation to
3 Zenica, was the position this, that the media was
4 carrying the story about what had happened in Zenica?
5 A. Your Honour, if I heard the translation
6 properly, whether the media had carried the news as to
7 what happened in Zenica, my assistant informed me, I
8 think my IPD assistant informed me about this. I
9 personally did not listen to the radio at all at that
10 time. I rarely listen to the radio anyway. I didn't
11 have time for that.
12 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: At that time, you did
13 not know one way or another whether the media had been
14 carrying the story of what had happened in Zenica at
15 the time when you spoke with your artillery commander?
16 A. On the 19th, already in the course of the
17 afternoon of the 19th, my IPD assistant told me that
18 the Zenica media were reporting on the shelling of
20 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: If your artillery
21 commander had not returned the 155-millimetre howitzer
22 and had used it to shell Zenica, would you have
23 expected him to say to you that he had used it?
24 A. The normal thing would have been for him to
25 tell me, but it's hard for me to answer this question.
1 I would have been in a position to check his story out
2 very simply.
3 JUDGE SHAHABUDDEEN: Thank you, General.
4 MR. NOBILO:
5 Q. General, tell me, at that time, were the
6 positions of your artillery pieces well-known, and was
7 it simple to check whether there was a 155-millimetre
8 howitzer in the Lasva River Valley or not?
9 A. Yes. It was simply to check at that time,
10 just as it would have been simple to check if the
11 artillery commander deceived me. I could have checked
12 that out, if he had opened fire and not notified me
13 about this.
14 JUDGE JORDA: General Blaskic, I would like a
15 clarification, please.
16 When you spoke with Colonel Stewart, I noted
17 down that you said that, "If it's my soldiers who did
18 that in Ahmici, I would be responsible," and in
19 addition, you said that the military police, you said
20 that they sent you false reports. Since you couldn't
21 get anything from the UNPROFOR forces -- you didn't
22 have tanks. You didn't have armoured vehicles which
23 would allow you to carry out the investigation. Judge
24 Rodrigues asked whether at least you could have had the
25 commander come to you, and you said that that was not
1 possible. "I'm trying to find another solution."
2 In the end, you say to General Petkovic,
3 "General, I had a conversation with General Stewart,
4 who was very stern about the HVO. I, myself, am
5 convinced that the HVO committed atrocities in Ahmici.
6 Help me. Help me to find a solution. Send in or get
7 rid of the military police commander in Mostar,"
8 because probably he was under his command. Did you do
9 something like that?
10 A. I shall first answer your question,
11 Mr. President. Yes.
12 Secondly, I told Colonel Stewart that had my
13 soldiers done something bad on my orders, I would have
14 been responsible too. I always use the word "my
15 soldiers" for the soldiers who were directly
16 subordinated to me in my structure. I gave oral
17 reports and written reports, and in order to give even
18 more weight to this report, I said that I was sending a
19 report literally about every word that Colonel Stewart
21 JUDGE JORDA: The military police had been
22 under your orders since the 16th of April, at 11.42.
23 That was under your orders since the 16th of April, at
24 11.42. It was yours to command. You say that, "If
25 they are my soldiers," and that includes the military
1 police and the special brigades.
2 My question has to do with General Petkovic,
3 who didn't have armoured vehicles. The commander
4 couldn't travel the three kilometres to come to say to
5 you directly what had happened. You were aware that
6 that day was tragic for the HVO. Stewart told you that
7 it was a political catastrophe for the HVO. You were
8 conscious of the fact, because you issued orders 263
9 and 261. You were concerned with property, and
10 buildings, and robberies, burglaries. That's what you
11 said this morning. What else did you have to do? You
12 just had to look at your command structure and say,
13 "Are you doing something with General Petkovic?"
14 A. Yes. Not only with General Petkovic, but
15 with every individual who was above me in the
16 hierarchy, including the supreme commander of the HVO,
17 according to the act on the armed forces.
18 JUDGE JORDA: You would transmit reports.
19 You did something. I don't know. Did you make phone
20 calls? Did you write things? Did you go to Mostar?
21 Did you send faxes? Since you can give an exact
22 account of all your days, and you've told us you did
23 many things in the day.
24 This was a major event. Colonel Stewart said
25 to you two days before that, "There's been a
1 catastrophe," and he said, "It's your soldiers." And
2 your answer was, "If these are my soldiers, then I
3 would be responsible."
4 What did you do in respect of General
5 Petkovic? Did you do something concrete?
6 A. I sent a report on everything that -- I sent
7 a written report to General Petkovic. I think that
8 that report is in evidence.
9 MR. NOBILO: We are going to reach all of
10 that, yes.
11 JUDGE JORDA: Perhaps I'm going too fast
12 here. We will take a break. We will take a 15-minute
14 --- Recess taken at 4.45 p.m.
15 --- On resuming at 5.11 p.m.
16 JUDGE JORDA: We will now resume the
18 I think that the Defence wants to stop a
19 little bit earlier. Instead of stopping at a 5:45, you
20 would rather for the sequence to be shorter; is that
21 correct, Mr. Hayman?
22 MR. HAYMAN: We would. General Blaskic got
23 here at 8.30 this morning, so it's a long day for him.
24 JUDGE JORDA: Any comments? All right. We
25 won't go until 5:45, but say we'll stop at about 5.30
1 or about 5:35; is that all right?
2 Okay. We can continue now.
3 MR. NOBILO: Thank you.
4 Q. General, just before the break, I think you
5 still owe the President of the Trial Chamber an answer
6 to the question, whether you informed your superiors
7 and whether you asked for the dismissal of the
8 commander of the military police, though we had planned
9 to come to that in the chronology, but could you
10 explain briefly to the Court, straightway, what
11 actually happened?
12 A. Yes, I did ask for the replacement of the
13 commander, and we will see in the chronology that a
14 replacement did occur, upon my insistence and with the
15 support of the chief of staff of the HVO main staff.
16 Q. Would it be right to say that about 60 days
17 later, this replacement did take place?
18 A. Yes. We will see that in the course of the
19 testimony later on.
20 Q. We are now talking about the 24th of April.
21 You had a meeting at 16.00 with a gentleman from the
22 International Red Cross. Do you remember the topic of
23 the meeting?
24 A. Yes. Just before the meeting, I was informed
25 that the Croatian villages in the Travnik municipality,
1 Grahovcici and Brajkovici, had been blocked. I also
2 was informed that exiled Croats from Zenica were
3 arriving in Novi Seher. At about 16:00, I had a
4 meeting with Mr. de la Mota from the International Red
5 Cross, who himself inquired into the role of the
6 media. He spoke about the media under the control of
7 the Croatian side and the media under the Bosniak
8 Muslim side, in the sense that they were contributing
9 to the tension between the HVO and the BH army.
10 Then Mr. de la Mota spoke about the
11 resettlement of certain categories of people. He was
12 referring to the elderly, expectant mothers, children,
13 the sick. I informed him once again that I had the
14 position of the UNHCR, according to whom such
15 resettlement was not permitted, but if that was the
16 decision of the International Red Cross and his own,
17 then I would fully support him in implementing those
19 We also spoke about the freedom of movement,
20 and I said to Mr. de la Mota, that unfortunately
21 because of the current situation, this freedom of
22 movement was equal to the freedom of resettlement,
23 because virtually all Croats wanted to move into
24 territories under HVO control, and all Muslims,
25 Bosniaks, wanted, for various reasons, to move into
1 areas under the control of the army of
2 Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that to protect the immovable
3 property of persons who were, for various reasons,
4 abandoning the area, constituted a major difficulty for
6 He then went on to ask what my position was,
7 and I told him that my position was that no
8 resettlement should be done, but as far as
9 possibilities allowed, we should try to ensure that
10 everyone should live where he was born or, rather,
11 where he resided at the time.
12 I then asked him to try and mediate and
13 intervene with representatives of the BH army because
14 of sniper fire coming from the Grbavica feature,
15 attacking civilian targets. I told him that we already
16 had an agreement of the 20th of April, '93, according
17 to which that area had to be demilitarised, but that
18 sniper positions were still active there and were
19 killing people on a daily basis.
20 We also discussed the relations with the Red
21 Cross, and Mr. de la Mota told me that in the course of
22 the day, and that was the 24th of April, he wanted to
23 visit Kruscica which was under the control of the BH
24 army, and I supported him in doing so, and said that I
25 would assist in making sure that everything went well
1 with that visit.
2 Mr. de la Mota said he noticed that there was
3 goodwill in favour to the truce, referring to the
4 signed cease-fire agreements, and I responded by
5 saying, "Maybe you note this goodwill among the HVO.
6 Unfortunately, I do not see it among the BH army with
7 respect to the implementation of the signed
9 Mr. de la Mota said that in the course of the
10 day, at about 2:05 in the afternoon, Zenica had been
11 shelled. He said this at the meeting. I informed him
12 once again that this was probably being done by the
13 Serbs from their positions, thereby intensifying
14 tensions between the HVO and the BH army. Sometimes
15 the shelling was of areas under HVO control and
16 sometimes of territory under BH army control.
17 On that day, I also noted that all firing
18 positions of the HVO were to have been toured by a UN
19 patrol, and in the afternoon, I received information
20 about unacceptable behaviour by a member of the 91st
21 Anti-Sabotage Detachment of the BH army, and I was
22 informed that members of the joint command, Mr. Dzemo
23 Merdan and Franjo Nakic, had gone to tour positions in
24 the area of Kiseljak, which surprised me too, because I
25 had expected that joint commission to first visit the
1 area of Ahmici.
2 Q. Was there any discussion with de la Mota
3 about Ahmici?
4 A. Yes. I spoke with him about Ahmici as well,
5 and I conveyed to him the fact that I had two
6 problems. First, the problem of security; and second,
7 the problem of carrying out an investigation, and that
8 I had ordered an investigation. That was all that we
9 said about that at the meeting at 16.00.
10 Q. We didn't mention that here, but tell the
11 Court, all these conversations, what was the situation
12 under which they were being conducted? Was it
13 peacetime or was it still wartime, when we gave the
14 chronology minute by minute on the 16th and 17th of
16 A. Unfortunately, even though we will see later
17 that the joint command was operating, but fighting was
18 still ongoing. We had still not separated, even by a
19 metre, the confronted forces, and combat operations
20 were still under way, so that we had an extremely
21 strange situation. There was a joint command that was
22 operating in Travnik, we had signed a cease-fire
23 agreement, yet fighting was still continuing. True, of
24 lesser intensity, but it was still continuing. This
25 would be evident from the chronology.
1 Q. Tell us, General, the order of the 18th and
2 the agreement on a cease-fire required the withdrawal
3 or separation of forces. Had the BH army observed that
4 agreement and withdrawn by 500 metres, I think that was
5 what was required of them, would that have meant
6 providing you with a free area in which it would be
7 possible to conduct the investigation in Ahmici?
8 A. Allow me to show this on the relief, and then
9 we would see what would have happened.
10 Mr. President, Your Honours, according to the
11 agreement of the 21st of April, the area between
12 Prnjavor, Vrhovine, towards Jelinak, Putis, and towards
13 the main road was supposed to be the area in the
14 direction in which the UN forces would patrol. All
15 forces of the army of Bosnia-Herzegovina were supposed
16 to withdraw from this position towards Zenica, and all
17 HVO forces were supposed to withdraw underneath the
18 main road between Busovaca and Vitez. That is the area
19 that I'm speaking of that would be demilitarised and
20 where only UNPROFOR would patrol, that is to say, if we
21 were viewing it from Vitez along the main road to
22 Zenica, and then from Zenica towards Vjetrenica, in
23 this area (indicating), there would not be any forces.
24 In this area (indicating), the investigation could have
25 been carried out quite properly then.
1 The idea was that all forces from this area
2 (indicating) should be transferred to the area towards
3 Vlasic, and that is what the joint command had worked
4 upon, and we were supposed to be engaged in the
5 deblockade of the town of Travnik, which will be shown
6 later in the chronology.
7 Q. Simply, had the army observed this agreement,
8 would you have had a free area to investigate Ahmici?
9 A. Yes. Then I would not have needed assistance
10 in order to gain access to these areas, but I certainly
11 would have needed support in terms of command power in
12 order to carry out the most efficient and most high
13 quality investigation as possible.
14 Q. Thank you. I would like to ask for a new
15 document, D364, to be given to you. That is one you
16 also created on the 24th of April, 1993.
17 So you are writing this order at 14.20, and
18 you're telling all commanders of HVO units of the
19 Operative Zone of Central Bosnia, brigades, and
20 independent units. The heading is "Treatment of
21 civilians and prisoners. Request:
22 On the basis of the request from the chief of
23 the HVO main headquarters, number 02-2/1-01-673/93 of
24 the 22nd of April, 1993, and with regard to the
25 application of the basic principles of international
1 humanitarian law by all units and members of the HVO, I
2 hereby demand:
3 1. Respect for and protection of the
4 civilian population affected by the fighting;
5 civilians, by definition, play no active part in these
6 conflicts and therefore cannot be the target of
8 2. Treat captured combatants and civilians
9 humanely and provide adequate protection for them.
10 3. Report to the International Red Cross the
11 identity of all prisoners and detainees, and allow
12 representatives of the ICRC to visit them, according to
13 ICRC standards.
14 4. Collect, take care of (treat surgically)
15 and protect all the wounded at all times and places,
16 regardless of their affiliation.
17 5. I demand free access and guarantee
18 transit for aid convoys, so that victims of the
19 conflict may be treated without delay.
20 Commander Colonel Tihomir Blaskic."
21 Can you tell us, this is already the fourth
22 order on the 24th that is related to the protection of
23 either civilians, or the wounded, or prisoners of war.
24 Why did you issue so many orders? What did you wish to
25 achieve with this quantity of orders, and what did you
1 wish to caution your subordinates against?
2 A. I already said that one of the fundamental
3 tasks was the investigation, but for me, the other and
4 even more important task was to prevent Ahmici from
5 happening all over again, and I did everything so that
6 this evil would not be repeated. The observance of
7 fundamental principles is talked about here, and the
8 treatment of civilians and prisoners of war.
9 Q. Fundamental principles of what?
10 A. Fundamental principles of international
11 humanitarian law, and I asked all the members of the
12 HVO to do this.
13 Q. Thank you. I think that the order is
14 self-explanatory, so we're not going to explain it now
15 because it's quite clear.
16 Perhaps we could move on to the 25th of April
17 or do you think that perhaps we should break at that
18 point? We've already finished with the 24th of April,
19 and we could move on to the 25th.
20 JUDGE JORDA: Well, the decision is yours.
21 Mr. Nobilo, it is your decision. We agree -- I thought
22 that the Defence request, given the fact that your
23 client is tired, was to stop, but I wanted to be very
24 clear that we're not the one who made that decision.
25 We began at a quarter to three, and ordinarily, we
1 would stop at a quarter to six, but further to the
2 agreement that we had with this testimony of your
3 client, I know it's long, it's difficult for him, we
4 all agreed to your request that we stop early. But we
5 want it to be very clear that it's your request, that
6 it's not the fact that the Judges are tired. Judges
7 are never tired, you know.
8 MR. NOBILO: The Defence isn't tired either.
9 It's the client who is tired. So in the interest of
10 the client, I suggest that we adjourn at this point.
11 JUDGE JORDA: Let me turn to my colleagues.
12 All right. We will suspend our hearing now, and we
13 will start tomorrow at what time, Mr. Registrar? I
14 believe it's 9.30. Is it 9.00? Yes. It's 9.00. I
15 thought we had moved things forward a bit. All right.
16 It's 9.00. That's the gift that Judge Rodrigues gave
17 to us when he came to us. He said that we would start
18 at 9.00 on Friday, and we thank him for that.
19 Court stands adjourned.
20 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at
21 5.32 p.m., to be reconvened on Friday,
22 the 12th day of March, 1999, at
23 9.00 a.m.