Tribunal Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Page 14736

1 Tuesday, 27 August 2002

2 [Open session]

3 [The accused entered court]

4 --- Upon commencing at 2.31 p.m.

5 JUDGE LIU: Call the case, please, Madam Registrar.

6 THE REGISTRAR: Good afternoon, Your Honours. Case number

7 IT-98-34-T, the Prosecutor versus Mladen Naletilic and Vinko Martinovic.

8 Thank you.

9 JUDGE LIU: Thank you very much.

10 Because of the technical problems, we lost a whole morning, so

11 this afternoon we'll sit until 5.00. Each sitting will be 75 minutes,

12 during which we'll have 30 minutes' break.

13 Witness, can you hear me?

14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes.

15 JUDGE LIU: Would you please make the solemn declaration in

16 accordance with the paper the usher is showing to you.

17 WITNESS: WITNESS NV

18 [Witness testifies via videolink]

19 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I solemnly declare that I will speak

20 the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

21 JUDGE LIU: Thank you very much. You may sit down, please.

22 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Thank you.

23 JUDGE LIU: Yes, Mr. Krsnik.

24 MR. KRSNIK: [Interpretation] Good afternoon, Your Honours, and

25 thank you.

Page 14737

1 Examined by Mr. Krsnik:

2 Q. [Interpretation] Good afternoon, Witness.

3 A. Good afternoon.

4 Q. Witness, first of all, our Madam Registrar is going to show you a

5 piece of paper with your name on it. Please don't read the name, but if

6 that is indeed your name, just say yes.

7 A. Yes.

8 Q. Thank you very much, Witness. Because of the technical

9 capabilities and to help our interpreters, after I put a question to you,

10 please start answering not too slowly, not too fast, especially not too

11 fast. This will facilitate our work, and what you say is going to be

12 interpreted. But now I would kindly ask Your Honours to go to private

13 session, which means, Witness, for you, when we say "private session," we

14 want to hide your identity. You have protected measures granted by this

15 Court. And I would also kindly ask you to make sure not to reveal your

16 identity.

17 MR. KRSNIK: [Interpretation] Your Honours, can we go into private

18 session, please.

19 JUDGE LIU: Yes. We'll go to the private session, please.

20 [Private session]

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9 [Open session]

10 MR. KRSNIK: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honours.

11 A. At the beginning of 1992, we Croats, together with Muslims,

12 Bosniaks, we tried to organise a joint defence from the attacks of the

13 Republika Srpska Army and the JNA. Muslims, Bosniaks refused such

14 cooperation, and they did it in several ways, verbally and practically.

15 President Izetbegovic claimed that that was not his war, although

16 the war was waged in his state. Still he claimed that it wasn't his war,

17 which irritated the members of the Croatian people. At that time, we were

18 forced to try and defend ourselves at the level Dubrava plain by

19 ourselves, and we continued offering cooperation to Muslims, Bosniaks. At

20 the time, our neighbours, Muslims, Bosniaks, would fill the trenches that

21 we were digging to help us defend ourselves from the aggressor. We tried

22 to arm both Croats and Muslims, Bosniaks, and they armed themselves

23 independently from us, and in that way they built a further mistrust.

24 At the beginning of 1992, when the Republika Srpska army occupied

25 and launched an attack on the Dubrava plain, our forces still were not

Page 14745

1 trained, were not armed, were not connected in any way in order to be able

2 to defend such a huge area. The biggest resistance was put up in the

3 Domanovici village sector, where several members of the Croatian Defence

4 Council were killed, and at the same time the people were being

5 evacuated.

6 Muslim leaders in Stolac municipality at the time issued

7 statements to the effect that that was not their war and that they would

8 find another political solution. They didn't allow Muslims to be

9 evacuated, and they welcomed the occupier army of the Republika Srpska in

10 the JNA with flowers in their hand. You can read about that in the

11 Montenegrin press in April of 1992. You will read in those articles how

12 the JNA Army was welcomed. That was the army from Montenegro. And you

13 will read how Muslims welcomed them in Stolac.

14 This was followed by the period of occupation of the Dubrava

15 Plain, during which time the aggressor burned houses of the Croats who had

16 fled. During that period, in that area, if I can remember well, only

17 about 50 Croats remained, and over 5.000 had fled.

18 The 50 who had remained are still missing, and according to some

19 information that I have, none -- no member of the Muslim Bosniak people

20 was harmed during that period.

21 Towards the end of April, if I'm not mistaken, when our forces,

22 the forces of the Croatian Defence Council, were capable of engaging in

23 some attack activities, we launched an operation to liberate the Dubrava

24 Plain, together with some 100 or so members of our brigade who were

25 Muslims, who were Bosniaks, who stayed in Medjugorje and who were trained

Page 14746

1 together with us, who were equipped together with us, so several thousand

2 members of the HVO and some hundred or so Muslim Bosniak members of that

3 brigade. We started replenishing the brigade by calling conscripts.

4 At this point in time, I would like to point out that no Muslim

5 Bosniak conscript, at the moment when the Dubrava Plain was liberated, was

6 harmed in any way. What I am saying is that we did not institute any

7 proceedings against anybody, although I think this should have been done,

8 for the reason of collaboration with the enemy. And just in addition, the

9 Muslim leadership in Stolac, throughout the occupation, collaborated with

10 the occupation government, and during that time, they disarmed and handed

11 back in 50 rifles that they had taken from people who had them. In the

12 documentation that -- not that you have but the documentation that you

13 will search, you will also probably find the documentation on the

14 collaboration of the Bosniak Muslim leadership, i.e. you will find the

15 minutes of the meetings with the leadership of Stolac and the government

16 of Republika Srpska.

17 Q. Witness, can you please tell us -- we've heard in this courtroom

18 the testimony saying that Stolac was abandoned by Croats and that's why it

19 fell into the hands of the Serbs. So what happened in Stolac? When was

20 it liberated and by whom?

21 A. Counsel, I believe that I have partly answered your question, but

22 I shall repeat. Stolac is in the southeastern part of the Dubrava Plain

23 and when the Croats attempted to defend the Dubrava Plain and Stolac, they

24 didn't succeed and that was for one main reason. They were not equipped,

25 they were not trained. You cannot establish a unit in a short period of

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Page 14748

1 time. And the second reason was that Muslims Bosniaks did not cooperate,

2 and I've already mentioned that.

3 Q. Okay. Tell me whether Stolac was liberated later on, and if it

4 was, when did that happen?

5 A. I already said that the HVO forces launched an attack across the

6 Neretva River from the direction of Capljina towards Stolac. They crossed

7 the River Neretva together with some hundred or so Muslims Bosniaks,

8 soldiers, who were organised in a separate unit, and who did not think

9 that the Dubrava Plain should not be defended, who remained with us all

10 that time. So all of us together in April, if I'm not mistaken, liberated

11 the Dubrava Plateau, the Dubrava Plain, and during the liberation of the

12 Dubrava Plateau, we also liberated, or maybe somewhat later, this

13 operation was called Cagalj. So when the Dubrava Plateau was liberated,

14 we also liberated the town of Stolac, so by those forces that I've just

15 mentioned, so these are the forces that liberated it.

16 Q. Why did you start your explanation at that -- with that particular

17 time? How did things develop further on? Because what I'm interested in

18 is 1993 and how things unfolded in the summer of 1993. So can we try to

19 somehow see what the situation was at that time?

20 A. Well, I picked out that date as a starting point because I thought

21 it was very important to mention the positions, that is who held what

22 views at that time. And it is a fact that the Croat Defence Council

23 [French translation coming through] Stolac and among those several

24 thousand, there was also a company of Muslims Bosniaks. [French

25 translation coming through] We replenished.

Page 14749

1 JUDGE LIU: We have a channel problem. [French translation coming

2 through]

3 MR. KRSNIK: [Interpretation] Is it better now? Is it better now?

4 JUDGE LIU: Yes, yes.

5 MR. KRSNIK: [Interpretation]

6 Q. Witness, sorry, we have some technical problems here. So will you

7 please move on what you were explaining to us when I interrupted you?

8 A. Well, the fact is therefore that we liberated, or that is the HVO

9 liberated, that area. After that, we replenished the unit with conscripts

10 of Muslim Bosniak ethnicity. The chief reason for it was that we did not

11 want to raise the question of responsibility since we needed to live

12 together in the same area, and although we, the Croats, liberated it, and

13 they stayed side by side with the Army of Republika Srpska, we

14 nevertheless incorporated them in our forces so that we could continue to

15 peaceably defend this same area from that same aggressor.

16 Q. Tell me something about your brigade. How professional was it?

17 Were they volunteers? Were they home guards or professional troops? Can

18 you tell us something about the composition of the Knez Domagoj Brigade in

19 those terms?

20 A. Mr. Lawyer, at that particular time, the brigade was made of

21 volunteers, the majority of whom were of pretty much your age. As for the

22 command staff, I believe I remember only two men who were professional

23 officers. [redacted], and the other one a Muslim Bosniak, and

24 [redacted].

25 Q. Just please, please, don't, don't, because you might disclose your

Page 14750

1 identity. If necessary, we shall go into private session, but we've

2 understood, I believe. We have understood that there were two of you and

3 who you were. Can you just tell us what is a professional or a home guard

4 brigade? Will you explain, because you're a professional soldier and

5 there were not many of them here, so perhaps it will help the Honourable

6 Court and I'm sure that the Honourable Judges will also have questions.

7 How was the defence organised in 1992, that is 1993? What were the

8 principles governing the defence, and especially in your municipality, in

9 the municipality of Capljina?

10 A. The Knez Domagoj Brigade was made of volunteers, home guards, that

11 is men of some age and volunteers, from three municipalities, or perhaps

12 in a way from the fourth one; that is from the municipalities of Capljina,

13 Neum, Stolac and a small part from the municipality of Ravno. So the

14 brigade was on the front line that I've already indicated. It was that we

15 organised the defence in three shifts as a rule, which means that as a

16 rule - but of course it could be different - one-third would be on the

17 front line for ten or 15 days, and two-thirds would be on a leave at home.

18 Q. I see. And was that the general rule for the HVO in

19 municipalities or what shall I describe it? Is it how it was organised

20 throughout the municipalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that is in

21 Herzegovina?

22 A. Your Honours, by and large, that is how it was done, but not

23 always. One municipality would provide either a battalion or a brigade,

24 depending on the size.

25 Q. Sorry, we've lost you again. Can you hear us, Witness?

Page 14751

1 A. Yes, I can hear you.

2 Q. We lost the end of your answer, so could you please repeat it?

3 A. In the majority of cases, municipalities, that is every

4 municipality, provided one brigade, a municipality of, if I may call it

5 that, normal size. The town of Mostar provided two, but I stand to be

6 corrected, and smaller municipalities provided one battalion each. But

7 from the very beginning, in the majority of these municipalities, there

8 were some small units for special purposes. Later on they grew, merged

9 and so on and so forth.

10 Q. Let me now move on and ask you if anything in particular happened

11 in July, that is towards the end of June or in early July, on the front

12 line that you manned, and if that was so, say what. So when you came to

13 the brigade, you mentioned the beginning of the conflict. When was that?

14 Why? And what for?

15 A. Your Honours, in July, 1993, my brigade manned the above-indicated

16 front line and it was made of Croats and Muslims Bosniaks. The fighting

17 gradually moved from central Bosnia coming closer to my defence line. I

18 knew that on my left flank there had already been some fighting in Bijelo

19 Polje and Mostar, a bloody conflict, truly, in which Muslims, Bosniaks,

20 had attacked the Croats, the HVO. An interesting question is which

21 Muslims Bosniaks. Well, those selfsame that joined -- who joined the --

22 my brigade. I mean just as I admitted them, so did my neighbour on the

23 front line around Mostar also admitted them into his units.

24 Between these lines of responsibility was the Bregava Brigade,

25 which was made only and exclusively -- that is, it was an exclusively

Page 14752

1 ethnically pure Muslim unit, which was on my left flank. That brigade

2 tried, without my knowledge, without any concerns, or without asking me,

3 moved behind my back into the liberated area.

4 When I learnt about it, I wrote a letter to the commander of the

5 brigade --

6 Q. Excuse me. I have to interrupt you.

7 MR. KRSNIK: [Interpretation] Your Honours, could we go into a

8 private session? Because it is obviously impossible to avoid -- the

9 witness kept talking in the first person, and it's absolutely clear, so

10 could we please go into private session.

11 JUDGE LIU: Yes. We'll go to the private session, please.

12 [Private session]

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20 [Open session]

21 JUDGE LIU: We will go back to the open session, please, and we'll

22 break here and we'll resume at 10 minutes past 4.00.

23 --- Recess taken at 3.44 p.m.

24 --- On resuming at 4.12 p.m.

25 JUDGE LIU: Well, we only have 40 minutes to go this afternoon,

Page 14768

1 and, Mr. Prosecutor, we are not expecting you to finish your

2 cross-examination this afternoon. You may continue tomorrow morning at

3 9.30.

4 MR. PORIOUVAEV: Thank you very much, Your Honour. Shall I

5 begin?

6 JUDGE LIU: Yes, of course.

7 Cross-examined by Mr. Poriouvaev:

8 Q. Witness, my name is Poriouvaev. I'm an attorney, trial attorney,

9 and I will ask you some questions which stem from your

10 examination-in-chief and which may go also to your credibility as a

11 witness in this trial.

12 Is it your testimony, Witness, that at some point in July 1992 you

13 joined the HVO? Could you explain to the Trial Chamber: How did it come

14 about that you became a member of the HVO? Was there any specific order

15 or something else?

16 A. Mr. Prosecutor, I did not hear your entire question. Can you

17 please repeat it?

18 Q. Yes. I'm sorry. It's not my problem, I suggest.

19 Witness, is it correct that somewhere in July 1992 you joined the

20 HVO?

21 A. Yes.

22 Q. And how did it come about that you joined the HVO and left the HV?

23 A. When the situation calmed down in the Republic of Croatia, upon

24 the invitation of the leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I assumed a

25 duty in the HVO and I was assigned to the Knez Domagoj Brigade.

Page 14769

1 MR. PORIOUVAEV: Your Honour, I think at this point we should go

2 into private session for some moments.

3 JUDGE LIU: Yes. We'll go to the private session, please.

4 [Private session]

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3 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at

4 4.55 p.m., to be reconvened on Wednesday,

5 the 28th day of August, 2002, at 9.30 a.m.

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