1 Thursday, 8th April, 1999
2 (Closed session)
13 Pages 19915 to 20041 redacted – in closed session
17 --- Recess taken at 4.30 p.m.
19 JUDGE JORDA: The hearing is resumed.
20 Pleasing seated.
21 Mr. Nobilo, the floor is yours for 30
22 minutes, more or less.
23 MR. NOBILO: Thank you, Mr. President.
24 WITNESS: TIHOMIR BLASKIC
25 Examined by Mr. Nobilo:
1 Q. If I remember well, last time, that is to
2 say, yesterday, at the end of our working day, we
3 stopped at the 8th of January. You were in
4 Herzegovina, on your way back from Austria; were you
5 not? So could you please proceed from that point?
6 A. Mr. President, Your Honours, on the 8th of
7 January I returned because I was called by the Minister
8 of Defence of the HVO, and I was attending a meeting
9 with the chief of the main staff of the HVO. In the
10 chief's office I saw the commander of Operational Group
11 number 2, Mr. Ivica Rajic. I asked him what he was
12 doing in the office of the chief of the main staff,
13 believing that I should have been informed of his
14 visits to the chief of the man staff of the HVO.
15 Afterwards, he replied to me that he was
16 called in, and I came to the conclusion that this was a
17 form, a visit that took place frequently. Then I
18 continued my conversation with the chief of the main
19 staff. It was primarily related to the situation in
20 the Lasva pocket and the offensive of the army of
21 Bosnia-Herzegovina which was under way from the 8th of
22 January onwards.
23 During the follow days, in the evening, I
24 tried to go back by helicopter, that is to say, back to
25 the Lasva pocket, but we did not manage to fly over on
1 that night because the weather was bad. At one point,
2 we had to go back when we had already gone halfway
3 because NATO aircraft had forced the helicopter back.
4 Q. Tell me, General, were you present when Ivica
5 Rajic talked to the chief of main staff? Did anybody
6 invite you and did anybody think that you were supposed
7 to be present?
8 A. I was waiting in front of the chief's
9 office. I was there with his secretary, and I was not
10 present during Ivica Rajic's conversation with the
11 chief of the main staff. When I entered, I was
12 surprised to see Ivica Rajic inside, that he had been
13 received by the chief of the main staff and that I was
14 waiting in front. That is why I asked him what he was
15 doing there, and how come he was there with the chief
16 of the main staff and that I had no idea about it
18 Q. What did that fact tell you, that is, that
19 you were not asked to attend a meeting between the head
20 of the Operative Group 2 from Kiseljak and the chief of
21 the main staff when you were waiting in front of the
22 door, when you were isolated? But, I mean, when you
23 were waiting there in front of the door, what did you
24 conclude on that basis?
25 A. I already knew that a new forward command
1 post of the HVO had been established in Kiseljak, but
2 the fact that I was waiting told me that at the least,
3 the chief of main staff treated me equally to my
4 formerly subordinate officer, Mr. Ivica Rajic.
5 Q. Tell me, on the 9th of January, did you have
6 any working agreements or discussion with the chief of
7 the main staff?
8 A. No, I did not. I spent all my time trying to
9 seize an opportunity to fly back. We were following
10 the weather forecasts and the weather situation, and we
11 were trying to get back to the Lasva pocket by
12 helicopter. This went up all the way to the 13th of
13 January when we finally managed to fly back and when I
14 managed to return to the Lasva pocket.
15 Q. In that period, while you were staying in
16 Herzegovina at the main staff, was any mention made of
17 Darko Kraljevic and about getting him out of the Lasva
18 Valley or about the reorganisation of the Vitezovi?
19 A. I spoke of that, that the chief of the main
20 staff had told me that he had received approval from
21 the Minister of Defence on the basis of the request
22 that I had made and that I could start reorganising the
23 A-type special purpose units, that was the Vitezovi
24 unit, and also with the Light Assault Battalion, and
25 that I could embark upon the establishment of a guards
1 unit. The head of the main staff also said that he
2 would make sure that Mr. Darko Kraljevic was withdrawn
3 from that area and that he was transferred back to
5 Q. Did he tell you how he would make him come to
6 Herzegovina, how he would make him come back?
7 A. Well, yes. I'm sure that there are documents
8 to prove this. Mr. Kraljevic, Commander Kraljevic,
9 according to those orders, on the basis of the approval
10 of the Minister of Defence, he was supposed to be sent
11 for medical treatment and medical examinations, and
12 then to be trained as a helicopter pilot afterwards.
13 Q. Why was it important to have that lure? Why
14 did Darko Kraljevic have to be lured back in order to
15 train as a helicopter pilot and why was it necessary to
16 get him out of the Lasva River Valley that way? Why
17 was it not possible simply to give him orders to
18 disband the Vitezovi?
19 A. I already said that Darko, first and
20 foremost, was a local man from the municipality of
21 Vitez, and he still had a very strong unit of Vitezovi,
22 and he was deputy head of the security centre, and he
23 was very powerful. In my opinion, his power exceeded
24 that which was given to him in the actual set-up of the
25 HVO within the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna. So
1 I'm sure that this idea of establishing a guards
2 brigade would have been impeded and perhaps blocked
3 altogether had he remained in that area.
4 Q. Before we move on to your return and the
5 actions you organised upon your return, could you
6 please have a look at D391, Defence Exhibit 391?
7 Very well. I shall try to read this order,
8 although the Croatian original is already illegible.
9 This is D391. The document is your order written on
10 the 8th of January, 1994 and sent to a large number of
11 units. We're not going to read the units that are
12 being addressed. You are also invoking a previous
13 order of the main staff and your order of the 1st of
14 December, 1993, in which you gave instructions as to
15 how to treat prisoners of war and you command the
16 following in this order:
17 "1. All persons who visibly bear a sign of
18 belonging to enemy formation and firearms, prisoners,
19 must be treated within the framework of the Geneva
20 Convention and the international laws of war with
21 respect to military prisoners of war.
22 2. Prisoners are to be taken to the district
23 prison Busovaca and they are immediately supposed to
24 inform ZP Vitez about this at telephone number 714
1 3. Investigations of the prisoners are
2 performed only by the security organ of the military
3 district of Vitez.
4 4. Further proceedings are handled by the
5 district military Prosecutor in Vitez.
6 5. This command takes effect immediately.
7 Commanders of brigades and independent units, the chief
8 for security services, the aide for SIS, and the warden
9 of the district prison in Busovaca are personally
10 responsible to me for carrying it out," and it is
11 signed, "Tihomir Blaskic."
12 This order is issued on the 8th of January,
13 1994. You were still in Herzegovina; right?
14 A. Yes, that's right.
15 Q. And could you tell us under what
16 circumstances this order came into being?
17 A. This order was issued on the basis of orders
18 issued by the main staff of the HVO, and it concerns
19 treatment of prisoners of war and defining who was in
20 charge of prisoners of war in the military district of
21 Vitez. The district military court also had
22 jurisdiction here. I imagine that this order was
23 signed by my deputy, because I was still in Herzegovina
24 at the time.
25 Q. You returned on the 13th of January, 1994 to
1 the Vitez-Busovaca pocket in the Lasva River Valley.
2 Could you tell us what your further activities were?
3 A. I arrived in the evening, and I was
4 immediately informed in greater detail about events in
5 the Lasva River Valley, which at that time was cut in
6 two; namely, the forces of the army of
7 Bosnia-Herzegovina in the region of Buhine Kuce had
8 under their control the main road, and they also took
9 the positions south of the main road, so that is the
10 period when we were brought into a situation where we
11 had two pockets in the region of Buhine Kuce.
12 Q. Could you please use the pointer to show
13 Buhine Kuce and show where the enclave was cut in two?
14 Could you do that?
15 A. Yes, I could. Mr. President, if necessary,
16 perhaps I could point it out at the map first and then
17 only at the relief.
18 JUDGE JORDA: Yes. Could you indicate this
19 first of all on the map because we have a better view
20 on the map than on the model, and then you can proceed
21 with the model.
22 A. I am pointing to Vitez (indicating) and the
23 main road running from Vitez towards Busovaca. The
24 road has been cut across at this position (indicating),
25 cut off here, and it is called Buhine Kuce, this point
1 here. The position is east from the town of Santici on
2 the map, so that is the row of houses on this section
3 of the road, and the forces of the BH army were along
4 these houses south of the road, so that that was the
5 situation when this very narrow area became even
6 narrower, 200 to 250 metres between the forces of the
7 BH army in the south and the BH army units in the
8 north, in comparison to the pocket itself.
9 On the model, Vitez is here (indicating).
10 This is the main road from Vitez to Busovaca. Buhine
11 Kuce, that is the position, so that the front line
12 included Buhine Kuce, and that was where it was cut
13 off. The only position that remained was Crveno Brdce
14 held by the HVO forces which made it impossible for the
15 forces from Kruscica of the BH army and the forces in
16 Buhine Kuce physically to join up and divide the pocket
17 into two parts.
18 Q. Thank you. In addition to this --
19 MR. KEHOE: Excuse me, Counsel.
20 MR. NOBILO: Sorry.
21 MR. KEHOE: Thank you.
22 MR. NOBILO:
23 Q. In addition to this unfavourable military
24 situation, what measures did you undertake in order to
25 change the organisation and to allow command of all the
1 units in the Lasva Valley?
2 A. Well, with respect to that, as I received
3 permission from the chief of the main staff, already on
4 the 14th of January, 1993 (sic), I formed a team, a
5 select team of my associates, and I gave them some
6 draft theses for the elaboration of a programme for the
7 formation --
8 JUDGE JORDA: 1994?
9 MR. NOBILO: Yes, that's quite right. It was
10 January 1994. There was probably a mistake there, so
11 could that be put right in the transcript? Please
12 continue, General.
13 JUDGE JORDA: Please proceed, Mr. Nobilo.
14 A. Thank you, Mr. President. With regard to
15 organisation, I set up a team, as I say, composed of my
16 associates, and I dictated to them the theses for
17 command with regard to the formation of a guards
18 brigade. I also gave a programme for the accelerated
19 formation and organisation of that unit which would be
20 under the direct command of the command of the Central
21 Bosnia Operative Zone. Already from the 15th of
22 January, 1994 onwards, that team worked in an
23 accelerated fashion to organise this guards unit in the
24 Lasva pocket.
25 Q. The team that created the guards unit, what
1 did it do with regard to the light assault battalion,
2 the former Jokers and the Vitezovi?
3 A. Well, we had to tread carefully there and
4 move gradually, so that we had a selective approach, in
5 fact and, first of all, check to see which of those
6 members wanted and which of them fulfilled criteria to
7 join the guards unit.
8 After having done that, we sent those members
9 from the Vitezovi unit and the light assault battalion
10 to their defence departments, and these defence
11 departments would give them their wartime assignments.
12 The members of those units would compete for being
13 received into the guards units, that means to say, they
14 could not be taken in as members if they did not fulfil
15 the criteria necessary to become a member of the guards
17 Q. Tell us please, General, did that mean that,
18 with the 15th of January, 1994, in formal terms and
19 legal terms, the light assault brigade and the Vitezovi
20 ceased to exist?
21 A. Yes, they ceased to exist, and we undertook
22 the creation of the guards unit.
23 Q. Can we say that as of the 15th of January,
24 1994 onwards, for the first time, there was in
25 existence a united form of command and that for the
1 first time all the units were subordinate to you?
2 A. Yes.
3 Q. Please continue.
4 A. My next preoccupation was the military
5 situation in the Lasva pocket, and from the 14th
6 already, I was very worried about that situation
7 because I was fully conscious of the fact that at the
8 positions attained, that the BH army could not remain
9 and that it either had to withdraw, to draw back, or to
10 continue on towards Kruscica because the terrain was
11 such, the configuration of the terrain was such that it
12 was impossible for it to remain there any longer,
13 survive there. On the other hand, we were left without
14 the possibility of using the byroads, auxiliary roads,
15 and so you could move towards Busovaca, but there was a
16 high personal risk involved in doing so.
17 I myself, together with my associates, worked
18 to prepare a military operation to deblock this
19 position and to return the BH army forces to their
20 previous positions.
21 From the 14th onwards, in the days that
22 followed, we spent our time preparing this operation.
23 We planned it and reconnoitred, and also we refuted
24 attacks at other sectors of the front when they were
25 launched from the BH army.
1 On the 17th of January, I had a command
2 reconnoitring for this particular operation in Buhine
3 Kuce in the military sense, and it was the same as the
4 operation for Grbavica, that is to say, we set up
5 special groups or teams. We pinpointed our direct
6 associates to carry out reconnoitring for each
7 direction. We defined the limits because we had built
8 up areas and houses, and we had part of a battalion - I
9 think it was the Dutch-Belgium transport UNPROFOR
10 battalion in Santici - and it was a very difficult
11 situation when it came to the planning of a military
12 operation. It was highly complex.
13 After all the preparations which went on for
14 three days, on the 19th, we started out, that is, we
15 started the operation to deblock Buhine Kuce, and we
16 also carried out a demonstrative part of this operation
17 towards the Brdo feature which is in the Zablje sector
18 so as to create more favourable conditions and prevent
19 the rapid manoeuvres of the BH army and them bringing
20 in reinforcements to Buhine Kuce.
21 From the 19th, this operation to deblock
22 Buhine Kuce lasted for almost six days. We took it
23 step by step. We were very cautious and fairly slow,
24 and we succeeded after several days in deblocking the
25 forces and deblocking the area.
1 On the 19th of January, I had a meeting with
2 Colonel Williams as well, this was at 13.30, and we
3 discussed the situation and the casualties in Buhine
4 Kuce. According to my information, there were 39
5 casualties of whom I knew that nine were certainly
6 soldiers and the others were probably civilian
7 casualties, perhaps refugees and perhaps a few other
8 soldiers as well.
9 Q. The casualties, what ethnic group did they
10 belong to?
11 A. They were mostly Croats, all Croats mostly.
12 Colonel Williams at the meeting asked me what the
13 problems were and why food was not coming in again to
14 the Lasva pocket. I took advantage of the occasion to
15 thank him for the assistance in evacuating the wounded
16 from the hospital-cum-church, and I talked to him about
17 the other regions that had suffered and said that it
18 was not only Buhine Kuce that had suffered casualties
19 but that the situation was similar in Krizancevo Selo,
20 with Bikosi, Maljine, the village of Miletici,
21 Rastovci, Novi Travnik, and I told him that I was
22 worried because the truth of what had happened in these
23 places had not been stated because there were very few
24 of those who were brave enough to talk about the truth,
25 which made the people angry and the soldiers in the
1 Lasva pocket.
2 Q. When you speak of the suffering of the
3 Croats --
4 A. I'm speaking about them in the Lasva pocket.
5 MR. NOBILO: Well, it seems that our time is
6 up for today. Perhaps we can continue tomorrow,
7 Mr. President, and I'm sure we'll be able to finish
8 tomorrow, Mr. President.
9 JUDGE JORDA: That was my following
10 question. I would like to finish the
11 examination-in-chief tomorrow, if it's possible, of
12 course. Are you sure that that will be possible
14 MR. NOBILO: We hope so.
15 JUDGE JORDA: Very well. We could work
16 tomorrow, Monday morning and Wednesday morning, if it's
17 possible for you, so you can think about this. If
18 there are no difficulties, we won't do that every week,
19 but whenever possible, we will try to work on Mondays
20 and Wednesdays.
21 We have studied our calendars and programmes
22 again. We modify it almost every day, and given the
23 work of other Judges in other cases, given the fact
24 that some court witnesses will come and testify for a
25 day, that's the principle we have set but you never
1 know, Mr. Olivier Fourmy will inform you about the
2 results of our discussions. We are not sure we will be
3 able to end by the end of July. However, we will give
4 you some information about this.
5 Tomorrow morning, Mr. Registrar, you will
6 give us the number of days that were dedicated to the
7 examination-in-chief of General Blaskic so that the
8 Prosecution is able to know and determine how many days
9 it will dedicate to the cross-examination. The Judges
10 will have questions to ask also, less, I'm sure, than
11 if we had followed the method used for the other
13 This is the information I wanted to give
14 you. Tomorrow morning you will give me your answer as
15 far as the hearing of Monday morning is concerned. Of
16 course, if we work on Monday, we will work from 10.00
17 to 1.00, and then from 2.30 to 5.30, and that will be
18 the same for Wednesday. But if you want to keep the
19 schedule as usual, then we will start on Monday at
21 Was I clear?
22 MR. HAYMAN: Mr. Nobilo understood you,
23 Mr. President, to say we would work tomorrow afternoon,
24 but I didn't hear that. Which one of us is right?
25 Please help us.
1 JUDGE JORDA: You are right, Mr. Hayman, but
2 I don't know what you understood, so let me repeat.
3 I'll try to be clear with the help of the interpreters
4 who must be very tired too.
5 Tomorrow morning is a normal Friday morning.
6 We'll start at 9.00 and we will adjourn at 1.30. Is
7 that understood?
8 My proposal was the following: Given the
9 pessimistic view we have on our final calendar,
10 whenever possible for the Judges and for you, we could
11 sit on Monday morning next week and on Wednesday
12 morning of next week as well following the normal
13 schedule of a normal working day. Think about it and
14 give me your answer right now or tomorrow morning -
15 it's up to you - so that the registry can be ready to
16 organise the transfer of the accused. You can give
17 your answer tomorrow morning. I don't want to push
18 you, but we have studied again the temporary calendar
19 of our work, and we are quite pessimistic. Therefore,
20 whenever we can find some new time, we will try to do
22 Was that clear, Mr. Nobilo? Yes?
23 MR. HAYMAN: Thank you.
24 JUDGE JORDA: Very well. Tomorrow we will
25 resume at 9.00. Thank you to the interpreters and to
2 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at
3 5.40 p.m., to be reconvened on Friday,
4 the 9th day of April, 1999, at 9.00 a.m.