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Dario Kordic and nine other indictees who have surrended voluntarily will enter a plea on Wednesday 8 October 1997.

Press Release
(Exclusively for the use of the media. Not an official document)

The Hague, 6 October 1997

Dario Kordic and nine other indictees who have surrended voluntarily
will enter a plea on Wednesday 8 October 1997.

Prosecutor not involved in negotiations on surrender and trial proceedings  Prosecutor to seek joint trials
Prosecutor to call upon FRY and Republika Srpska to secure more surrenders

On Monday 6 October 1997, ten former members of the political and military bodies of the then Croatian community of Herceg-Bosna surrendered themselves into custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

They were indicted on 10 November 1995, arising out of an investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTY into the “persecution on political, racial and religious grounds of the Bosnian Muslim population” of the La{va Valley Region (Central Bosnia) in 1993.

The next legal step will be the initial appearance of each accused before a Trial Chamber during which each of the accused will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on each of the counts of the indictment in which he is named.

The ten accused, charged in two separate indictments (“Kordić and others” and “Kupre{kić and others”)  will appear in two groups: further details will be communicated in due time.

Meanwhile the Office of the Prosecutor wishes to emphasize the following:

“The Prosecutor is delighted at the news that ten indicted accused have surrendered themselves voluntarily to the jurisdiction of this Tribunal. 

Whilst the Prosecutor’s Office has not been involved in any negotiations or discussions which led to the surrender today, we are nevertheless grateful to all those who have been involved in the events which have resulted in this significant development.

The Prosecutor has noted various comments and statements in the media over recent days which may suggest that the Prosecutor’s Office would be in a position to proceed to trial in respect of all of the accused within a period of three to five months. 

It is necessary to make the Prosecutor’s position very clear on this point.  The Prosecutor has indeed indicated to the lawyers for the six accused who are included in what has been described the Kupreskić indictment, that the Prosecutor would be in a position to proceed to trial within three to five months.  In making this statement the Prosecutor has emphasised that it is a matter for the Judges of this Tribunal to set the dates for trial and that the Court’s calendar of other matters awaiting trial must be taken into account. 

The Prosecutor has also explained this position to the lawyers for each of the other accused who have surrendered today, that is Dario Kordić, Mario Čerkez, Ivan [antić and Pero Skopljak, and no indications have been given by the Prosecutor as to whether the Prosecutor’s Office will be ready to proceed to trial within the same period of time.

The Prosecutor would like to point out that although ten accused have surrendered themselves to the Tribunal, this does not mean that there will be ten trials. These accused are jointly charged in two indictments.  Clearly, it is the Prosecutor’s intention to seek where possible to have joint trials and in this regard it will be noted that six of these accused have been included in one indictment and the other four in one other indictment.  These four accused are also co-accused in the indictment of Zlatko Aleksovski, who is presently in custody and is awaiting trial. 

In light of the developments with the voluntary surrenders, the Prosecutor is considering all matters and all possibilities in bringing these matters to trial at the earliest possible opportunity. 

In this regard the Prosecutor also notes the assurances given by the Government of the United States of America that it has guaranteed its full support and has pledged to make every effort to strengthen the Tribunal’s resources to facilitate speedy trials.  It is obvious that many additional resources will be required by the whole of the Tribunal if it is to be in a position to bring these cases to trial at the earliest opportunity.

To the extent that the Croatian authorities have played a role in securing the voluntary surrender of these ten accused, the Prosecutor calls upon the Bosnian Serb and FRY authorities to play a similar role in assuring the surrender to the Tribunal, of indicted accused on their territory.  In particular the Prosecutor calls upon the FRY authorities to surrender the three JNA officers who are currently residing on FRY territory and who stand jointly charged with Dokmanović, who is currently in custody in The Hague.  Similarly the Prosecutor calls upon the Bosnian Serb authorities to surrender indicted accused, including Radovan Karadzić and Ratko Mladić”.

Background to the “Kordić and others” indictment

The accused who have surrendered voluntarily are:

1. Dario KORDIĆ (born on 14 December 1960), the former Vice-President of the Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna (HZ-HB) who as a such had the overall leadership on the attacks on the Bosnian Muslim civilians in the La{va River area;   

2.  Mario ĆERKEZ (born on 27 March 1959), the former commander of the Vitez Brigade of the Croatian Defence Council (HVO), the armed forces of the HZ-HB;

3.  Ivan ŠANTIĆ (born in 1942), the mayor of Vitez at the time of the attacks;

4.  Pero SKOPLJAK (born on 4 June 1943), was the Chief of Police of Vitez before
becoming an official in the Office of Dario Kordić.

According to the indictment, the crimes the accused are charged with were carried out on “such a large scale and widespread basis, and implemented in such a systematic fashion” that they have “effectively destroyed or removed almost the entire Muslim civilian population in the La{va Valley”.

The crimes alleged in the indictment:

The crimes referred to in the indictment include, but are not limited to:

- the bombardments and attacks of numerous undefended towns, villages and dwellings, which caused the death of more than 100 Bosnian civilians in the La{vaValley area and in the city of Zenica, and which wounded many others,

- the internment of Bosnian Muslims who were subjected to cruel interrogations, physical or psychological abuse, or used for forced labour (digging of trenches) or as human shields, 

- the attacks, bombardments and destruction of Bosnian Muslim businesses, buildings, personal properties and livestock, in order to kill, terrorise or demoralise the Bosnian Muslim population. Hundreds of civilians were killed or wounded in numerous locations such as Ahmići and Vitez.

Each of the accused is alleged to be individually responsible  for the planning, instigation, ordering or otherwise aiding and abetting in the planning, preparation or execution of the crimes referred to in the indictment.

Each of the accused is alleged to be also criminally responsible for the acts of their subordinates: namely the accused knew, or had reason to know, that subordinates to them were about to commit crimes, or had done so, and failed to take the necessary measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators.

The charges:

"By their acts or omissions” the accused are charged with:

- Dario KORDIĆ: crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, violations of the laws or customs of war.

-Mario ĆERKEZ : grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, violations of the laws or customs of war.

-Ivan ŠANTIĆ and Pero SKOPLJAK: a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, a violation of the laws or customs of war.


Background to the “Kupreskić and others” indictment:

The accused who have turned themselves in are:

5.         Zoran KUPREŠKIĆ (born 23 September 1958) was a HVO soldier in Ahmići;
6.         Mirjan KUPREŠKIĆ(born 21 October 1963) was as a HVO soldier in Ahmići, brother of Zoran;
7.         Vladimir ŠANTIĆ (born 1 April 1958) was a HVO soldier in Vitez;
8.         Drago JOSIPOVIĆ (born 14 February 1955) was a HVO soldier in [antići;
9.         Marinko KATAVA (born 18 November 1952) was a HVO soldier in Vitez;
10.       Dragan PAPIĆ (born 15 July 1967) was a HVO soldier in Ahmići.    

The crimes alleged in the indictment

The Indictment charges the accused with their direct participation in the systematic attacks in the spring of 1993 on Ahmići, Vitez and eight other mainly Muslim villages in the La{va Valley and the murder of civilians.

According to the indictment, early that morning, HVO forces including the accused launched a series of attacks on towns and villages throughout the La{va River Valley.

HVO forces first shelled these villages with heavy weapons, including mortars, rockets and anti-aircraft guns. Groups of HVO soldiers then went from house to house killing and wounding Muslim civilians, burning down their homes and barns, and destroying their livestock. After the attacks, the HVO detained many civilians, whom they later forced to dig trenches on the front lines.

The most ferocious attacks were directed against the Muslim-dominated village of Ahmiči.

“The HVO first shelled Ahmiči from a distance, then groups of soldiers went from house to house, attacking civilians and their property using tracer rounds and explosives (…) Every Muslim house in the village was burned, and many unarmed Muslim civilians were deliberately and systematically shot.
“A minimum of 103 Muslim civilians were killed in and around Ahmiči. Of [theseĆ (...) 33 were women and children. All 176 Muslim houses in Ahmiči along with [twoĆ  mosque[sĆ were destroyed. Before the attack on 16 April, Muslims were 356 out of a total population of 466. After the attack, no Muslims were left in the village.”

The charges

The indictment charges the accused with a total of 18 counts of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention and violations of the laws and customs of war, relating to willful killing, contrary to Article 2(a) of the Statute; murder, contrary to Article 3; the unlawful and wanton destruction of property, contrary to Article 2 (d); causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, contrary to Article 2 (c); a deliberate attack on the civilian population and wanton destruction of a village, contrary to Article 3; cruel treatment, contrary to Article 3; participating in the unlawful confinement of civilians, contrary to Article 2 (g); and outrages upon the personal dignity of another, contrary to Article 3.

International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

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