1. The purpose of this section is to set out the background to the 1993 conflict . It deals briefly with the history. There then follow short biographies of the two accused. The section ends with the events of 1991 and early 1992, covering the formation of the HDZ-BiH, HZ H-B and the HVO, the key Bosnian Croat organisations in the ensuing conflict.



    1. Post-war Yugoslavia

  2. After the Second World War, Josip Broz, also known as “Tito”, who, along with his Partisan forces had achieved victory against the invading German army and its Croatian allies, rose to power in Yugoslavia. In place of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia, which had first united the southern Slavs, Tito established the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (“SFRY”) comprising the Republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, in addition to the two autonomous Republics within Serbia, Kosovo and Vojvodina. The boundaries of the constituent Republics in this socialist federation tended to correspond closely to a sense of shared national identity.626

  3. Though initially allied with the Soviet Union, Tito split with Stalin and the Comintern in 1948. Thereafter, he moved the system away from the Soviet-style of centralised government towards a system based upon the theory of workers’ self-management . This policy led to the decentralisation of economic control and a parallel process of decentralising political control to the constituent republics.627 Under this decentralised system, the largely autonomous republics were free to evolve distinct identities, which, more often than not, were constructed along lines of national identity. Dr. Robert Donia, who testified for the Prosecution as an expert witness in this case, observes that the greater personal freedoms that accompanied decentralisation led to expressions of nationalism in Serbia and Croatia. However , these sentiments were swiftly suppressed by Tito in the name of preserving a single -party State.628 Thus, while the communists sought to supplant ethnic identity with a broader, unifying, Yugoslav identity, the structure of predominantly ethnically-based republics operating with a fair degree of autonomy within a federal system only served to reinforce national identities within Yugoslavia as a whole. As Dr. Allcock, another expert witness for the Prosecution, observed in his report:629

    [T]he consequences of the policies of the League of Communists during the post-1945 period were to entrench their importance in public life and to heighten people’s awareness of [differences of ethnic or national identity]. What is more important , by virtue of the fact that these differences were attached systematically and explicitly to political structures (the building of quasi-states in the constituent republics and provinces of the federation) the ground was laid for the way in which the struggles over the disintegration of Yugoslavia took the form of attempts to found new states.630

  4. Dr. Allcock argues that economic factors also had a significant role to play in reinforcing “republican” and consequently, “national” identities. Within the federation, each republic’s economy operated independently. The rates of growth varied considerably among the republics, with Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia performing consistently well, and Bosnia performing relatively poorly.631 Funds were initially redistributed through the central government from the richer republics to the poorer ones, which soon came to be regarded as a financial burden .632 In addition, this emphasis on redistributing wealth among the republics meant that inequalities within the republics were often ignored.633 Impoverished living standards among certain minority groups may have contributed to a heightening of nationalist sentiments over this period.634

  5. The 1974 Constitution of the SFRY gave the republics an even greater role within the federation and established the Presidency as the key political institution at the federal level; a collective body which represented each of the six republics and the two autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina). When Tito died in 1980 , the constitution provided for the president of that body to be appointed on a rotating basis from among the representatives of the republics.635

  6. In his expert testimony, Dr. Allcock attributes the rise in national identity as a powerful factor in politics, after the break up of the SFRY, in part, to the correspondence between the boundaries of the SFRY republics and a common sense of national identity. To the extent that one’s identification as a citizen of a republic was synonymous with one’s national identity, the latter emerged as a critical element in political conflict.636

    2. Milosevic’s Rise to Power and the 1990 Elections in the Republics

  7. In December 1987, Slobodan Milosevic took over as President of the League of Communists in Serbia. Through a shrewd manipulation of nationalist sentiment, Milo sevic succeeded in ousting the leaders of the two autonomous provinces, Kosovo and Vojvodina, and replaced them with loyal supporters.637 Consequently, as of 1990, with the help of Montenegrin support, he effectively controlled four out of the eight seats in the Federal Presidency, and was thus capable of paralysing that critical centralised institution.638 As the federal political machinery began to collapse, nationwide elections in the SFRY scheduled for 1990 were cancelled and, instead, elections were held in each of the republics.639

  8. In Croatia, the HDZ won the elections of 22 April and 6 May 1990 and a new constitution was adopted.640 President Tudjman, as the leader of the HDZ, sought to promote a Croatian identity by appealing to Croatia as a distinct and historically continuous entity.641

  9. Bosnia, in addition to hosting the most ethnically diverse population, was unique among the republics in that it had no majority ethnic population.642 The 1991 census indicates that approximately 43.7 per cent of the population in Bosnia were Muslims, 31.3 per cent Serbs and 17.3 per cent Croats.643 The decline of the League of Communists as a unifying force in Bosnian politics led to the emergence of new political parties, many of which based their policies upon a nationalist agenda. The results from the 1990 elections in the Bosnian republic reveal that most individuals chose to vote along lines of national identity. Out of a total of 240 seats in the Bosnian Parliament, the Serbian party (the “SDS”) won 72 seats, the Muslim party (the “SDA”) won 86 seats and the Croatian party (the “HDZ”) won 44 seats.644 Alija Izetbegovic, leader of the SDA, was appointed President of the Bosnian Presidency , while Radovan Karadzic was the leader of the SDS and Stjepan Kljuic was head of the HDZ.

    3. The Dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation

  10. With the Federal Presidency virtually deadlocked, and the spectre of Serbian domination looming, the federation itself began to unravel. The European Commission sought to establish a framework for the likely break-up of Yugoslavia and agreed , in principle, to recognition of the secessionist republics.645 In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia took the first steps towards independence, their populations confirming popular support for secession in national referendums.646 In mid-1991, both of these former federal republics declared their independence. Serbia attempted to intervene militarily to prevent Slovenia’s secession, but met with fierce resistance from the Slovenes, and in view of Slovenia’s negligible Serb population, they quickly withdrew. Croatia, however, with a Serbian population numbering approximately 600,000, was to suffer a different fate.647

  11. Throughout the summer of 1991, the incidence of provocations between Croat and Serb forces increased and, in August of that year, full-scale conflict broke out on the territory of Croatia. The Croatian forces, comprising remnants of the army of the Croatian republic under the federal system, proved no match for the JNA. On 2 January 1992, Croatia and Serbia signed a cease-fire agreement which provided, among other things, for the deployment of a lightly-armed United Nations peace-keeping force, designated UNPROFOR, to monitor the parties’ compliance.648

    4. Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  12. The international community took an active role in trying to resolve the competing national interests in Bosnia by peaceful means. In February 1992, Alija Izetbegovic (the “Bosnian Muslim” representative), Radovan Karadzic (the “Bosnian Serb” representative ) and Mate Boban (the “Bosnian Croat” representative) met and agreed to a plan (the “Lisbon Agreement”) for the division of Bosnian territory into semi-autonomous ethnically-based enclaves under a weak central government. Alija Izetbegovic subsequently renounced the agreement.649 The Vance-Owen Peace Plan, first published in early 1993, was based upon a similar premise , in that it proposed a division of Bosnia into three ethnic cantons, with power being shared equally in the capital, Sarajevo.650 Mate Boban, the leader of the HDZ-BiH, immediately agreed to the terms of the plan , as it promised huge gains in territory for the Bosnian Croats. While Alija Izetbegovic, under pressure from the international community, did finally agree to the plan , the Serbs continued to boycott the agreement.651

  13. At the request of the European Commission, on 29 February-1 March 1992, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a referendum on independence. Despite the Serb boycott, the motion for independence was carried with overwhelming support from both Croats and Muslims.652 Once the results of the referendum were known, and Bosnia had declared itself independent , the Bosnian Serbs began to attack Bosnia and Herzegovina in earnest, sweeping westwards from the Serbian border.653 The government responded by forming an army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“ABiH”) in the summer of 1992, which replaced the former territorial defence (“ TO”).654

  14. Throughout the conflict, the international community continued to urge the warring factions in Bosnia to negotiate, and to that end presented numerous compromise agreements, none of which succeeded in bringing a halt to the fighting.655 It was not until the signing of the Dayton Agreements in 1995 that the conflict in Bosnia ended.

    B. The Accused

    1. Dario Kordic

  15. Dario Kordic is aged 40 and was born on 14 December 1960. He comes from a religious family.656 He graduated in 1983 from the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo. His background is as a journalist and from 1985 he was employed at the Vatrostalna company in Busovaca. Before the war he displayed no prejudice towards Muslims.657

  16. Kordic began his political career in Busovaca by becoming Secretary of the local branch of the HDZ (in September 1990) and then President from February 1991 . He was part of the faction which sided with the HDZ of Croatia and President Tudjman.658 Meanwhile, after the 1990 elections, he was appointed by the HDZ to be Secretary for National Defence in the Busovaca municipality.659

  17. Kordic’s career continued with his appointment, on 30 July 1991, as Co-ordinator of the Travnik Regional Community of the HDZ-BiH, responsible for calling and chairing its meetings.660 In August 1991 the Busovaca HDZ provided for the functioning of the municipal organisation in wartime by the setting up of a Command, of which the President would be the Commander.661

    2. Mario Cerkez

  18. Mario Cerkez is aged 41 and was born on 27 March 1959. He comes from Vitez and before the war was employed in the Slobodan Princip Seljo factory (“SPS factory ”) near the town. Many witnesses spoke well of his character and freedom from bias or prejudice against Muslims. This included prosecution witnesses662 and a number of defence witnesses.663 A prosecution witness, Colonel Stewart, gave this endorsement of the accused’s character : an apparently decent and honourable man.664

  19. A report from the Viteska Brigade describes Mario Cerkez as one of the founders of the HVO in Vitez, “beginning with the accumulation of arms, through their distribution to the organisation of HVO units”: he was first Assistant Commander of the Vitez Staff, then Assistant Commander of the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade and, finally, Commander of the Viteska Brigade.665

    C. The Formation of the HZ H-B

  20. In 1991, according to the Prosecution, a separate Croat community was founded in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the intention that it should secede from that Republic . The story can be told primarily from the documents, beginning with the formation of the HDZ-BiH as a branch of the Croatian HDZ in August 1990. Mr. Stjepan Kljuic was duly elected President, Mate Boban as Vice-President and Ignac Kostroman as Secretary.666 There were regular meetings, alternatively in Zagreb and Sarajevo, between the Croat and the HDZ-BiH leaderships.667 However, by the autumn of 1991, with war clouds gathering in Croatia after the declaration of Croatian independence, there was a difference of view in the HDZ-BiH party as to the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Stjepan Kljuic and one faction wanted it to survive as a political whole; but another faction, including Dario Kordic and Mate Boban , were in favour of the division of the country.668 These were matters discussed at a June 1991 meeting (and other meetings) with President Tudjman.669 Events then unfolded as follows:

    (a) At a meeting of the Main Board of HDZ-BiH in August 1991 there was mention of the possible linking of municipalities with majority Croat population and of a “ special plan” should there be an attack on the Croatian people.670

    (b) On 26 August 1991, the HDZ-BiH imposed a state of emergency within the HDZ-BiH because of Serb aggression and stated that the HDZ municipal boards should be linked to each other in a unified system of defence.671

    (c) On 18 September 1991, the HDZ-BiH established a Crisis Staff, numbering Stjepan Kljuic, Mate Boban and Dario Kordic among its members: Crisis Staffs were to be formed immediately for three regional communities, including Travnik.672

    (d) On 12 November 1991, the Joint Meeting of the Crisis Staffs of Herzegovina and Travnik Regional Communities, chaired by Mate Boban and Dario Kordic, was held. The two communities decided that the Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina should institute a policy to bring about “our age-old dream, a common Croatian State” and should call for a proclamation of a Croatian banovina in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the “initial phase leading towards the final solution of the Croatian question and the creation of a sovereign Croatia within its ethnic and historical … borders ”.673

    (e) This policy was put into effect at a meeting in Grude on 18 November 1991 when the new Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna (HZ H-B) was set up. The Community consisted of 30 municipalities (including those in Central Bosnia) and was described as a “political, economic and territorial integrity”. Mostar was the seat of the Community . Its “supreme authority” was the Presidency, comprising the Presidents of the HDZ municipal boards.674 (Mr. Kljuic was not present at the meeting in Grude but Mr. Kordic was.)

    (f) The leadership of the HZ H-B was described as Mate Boban, President; Bozo Rajic and Dario Kordic, Vice-Presidents; and Ignac Kostroman, Secretary.675

    (g) On 27 December 1991 there was a meeting in Zagreb, chaired by President Tudjman, of the leadership of the Croatian HDZ and of the HDZ-BiH. The purpose was, first , to discuss the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the differences of opinion on this topic in the HDZ-BiH party; secondly, to formulate an overall Croatian political strategy. Stjepan Kljuic set out his position in favour of the Croats remaining within Bosnia and Herzegovina but Mate Boban said that, should Bosnia and Herzegovina disintegrate, the HZ H-B would be proclaimed as independent Croatian territory “which will accede to the State of Croatia but only at such time as the Croatian leadership … should decide”. Dario Kordic said that the Croatian spirit in the HZ H-B had grown stronger in the 40 days since the declaration of the HZ H-B, the Croatian people of the Travnik region were ready to accede to the Croatian State “at all costs … any other option would be considered treason, save the clear demarcation of Croatian soil in the territory of Herceg Bosna”.676

    (h) Mr. Kljuic resigned as President of the HDZ-BiH in February 1992 and Mate Boban became President in the following month. (The Prosecution points to this as the ousting of moderates from the leadership of the Croat political party and the assertion of hardline control.)

    (i) On 16 January 1992 a rally was held in the municipal hall in Busovaca to celebrate Croatian independence, a video recording of which was shown to the Trial Chamber .677 Dario Kordic is to be seen speaking to a cheering, flag-waving crowd. He said that the rally was proof that the Croatian people in Busovaca are part of the united Croatian nation and that the HZ H-B, including Busovaca, is “Croatian land and that is how it will be”. Ignac Kostroman also spoke and said: “we will be an integral part of our dear State of Croatia by hook or by crook”. The speeches were met with yells of “Dario, Dario ”.678

    D. The Formation of the HVO

  21. The year 1992 saw the take-over by the HVO of municipalities in the HZ H-B and the beginning of the conflict between Muslims and Croats. It began with the scramble for weapons between the Bosnian Croats and Muslims (in which Dario Kordic was destined to play the part which brought him to a position of leadership).

  22. The events in the early part of that year were as follows: on 29 January 1992 the first meeting of the Presidency of the HZ H-B was held in Grude. Dario Kordic was named as part of the Working Presidency with Mate Boban, Ignac Kostroman and two others.679 As noted, a referendum on Bosnia and Herzegovina independence was held and the vote was for independence . On 6 March 1992 independence was declared by Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    1. Arms Deliveries and the Role of the Accused

  23. It was at about this time that Dario Kordic first came to prominence in connection with the problems over the division of weapons. A defence witness from Novi Travnik said that he first heard of Kordic in connection with the problems about the deliveries of weapons from the Bratsvo arms factory when Kordic became involved and gained popularity among the Croat people.680 Another defence witness said that in September 1991 a convoy from Travnik was stopped at Kaonik: Dario Kordic stepped in front of the vehicles and told them to stop: such courageous acts added to his reputation.681 A third witness commented on Kordic’s courage in confronting armed soldiers of JNA convoys and taking out arms when he was unarmed himself.682

  24. According to witnesses, Dario Kordic was also prominent in early 1992 in the stopping of a JNA convoy at the Kaonik crossroads in January 1992 shortly after the cease-fire was signed between Croatia and Serbia. The convoy was stopped for several days. Dario Kordic was present in civilian clothes with a pistol in his belt, telling the police what to do.683

  25. The trouble started in February 1992 when a dispute broke out over the delivery of arms to the JNA from the Bratsvo factory in Novi Travnik which manufactured rocket launchers, Howitzers and canons (and employed 75 per cent of the workforce of the town). The Bosnian Croats opposed such deliveries and, as a result, the workers were not paid. Eventually the Bosnian Croats prevented trucks containing military equipment from leaving the area by erecting a roadblock. Workers from the factory responded by themselves erecting a roadblock on 26 February in the village of Donje Puticevo in order to draw attention to their grievances. Dario Kordic appeared at the roadblock saying that he was on his way to Novi Travnik to try to resolve the dispute. However, the workers would not let him pass. Armed and masked men then appeared wearing black uniforms and Croat Defence Forces (“HOS”) insignia. Explosives were tied to the bus being used as a roadblock and the HOS leader, Darko Kraljevic, threatened to blow up the bus unless the workers dispersed, which they did.684

  26. In early March 1992 Dario Kordic was interviewed by TV Sarajevo outside the Bratsvo factory. He said that the people in charge of the plant would be considered war criminals in the eyes of the Croatian people if they continued what they were doing (a reference, it must be supposed, to attempting to supply arms to the JNA ).685 There followed a panel discussion in which Kordic explained the reasons for the HZ H-B taking the steps which it did , i.e., that there should be no monopoly of arms for the JNA and arms should be exported to Croatia; and that federal regulations were not binding on the HZ H- B, which recognised the legitimacy of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina but not of the federal government. Dario Kordic also said that it was no secret that the Croatian people, like everyone else, were arming themselves and no-one could deny their right to organise themselves into the HZ H-B.686

  27. On 7 March 1992 an interview with Dario Kordic appeared in a publication called the Lasvanski Krug (the Lasva Circle). In the interview Kordic said that the main reason for forming the Croatian Community was the fact that Serb forces occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina:

    The Croatian people are bound to protect the minimum area that historically belongs to them with the banovina borders. The HZ represents 30 naturally connected municipalities … on the territory where the Croatian population was and is in the majority. This entitles the Croatian people to organise relations to everybody’s satisfaction, respecting the right of Muslims, Serbs and other peoples in the area .687

  28. Evidence was also given of Mario Cerkez’s involvement in the obtaining of arms by a witness who said that in April 1992 the HVO and TO had agreed on a joint attack on the Slimena JNA depot near Travnik; however, the HVO attacked, alone, two days early: the witness received information that the “attack was carried out under the command of Colonel Filipovic” and Mario Cerkez.688 Another witness described Mario Cerkez’s take-over of a mountain lodge near Krusc ica for HVO exercises.689

    2. March - April 1992

  29. Further events in March 1992 may be noted:

    (a) On 16 March the Bosnian Serb Army (“BSA”) attacked Mostar;

    (b) On 17 March, at a joint meeting of the Municipal HDZ Boards for Vitez, Busovaca, Travnik and Zenica in Vitez (at which Kordic was present) it was decided that Zenica was to be included in the defence system of the HZ H-B.690

    (c) On 21 March a request was sent to the Ministry of Defence of Croatia, by the Central Bosnia Command, for a meeting between the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Susak, and representatives from Central Bosnia, including Dario Kordic (described as Head of the Crisis Committee for Central Bosnia and Vice-President of the HZ H-B).691 (The Prosecution comments that this document illustrates Dario Kordic’s true and important role at the time.)

    (d) On 26 March the BSA attacked Sarajevo.

  30. Meanwhile, a dispute had broken out in the Busovaca HDZ between the President , Dario Kordic and the Vice-President, Dragutin Zvonimir Cicak. The latter had denounced Dario Kordic, Mate Boban and Ignac Kostroman as extremists who had no authority to organise roadblocks and to prevent weapons going to the JNA.692 On 30 March 1992 Dragutin Cicak was beaten up and injured and articles stolen from his house by men who, it is alleged, were acting on behalf of Dario Kordic. In his evidence Mr. Cicak said that one of the men, when hitting him, said that this was “from Dario”.693 The next day Mr. Cicak went to Kordic’s office in Busovaca and confronted the latter with his injuries. Kordic said that he thought that Mr. Cicak would come, “repentant rather than rebellious”:694 Kordic denied responsibility.695 There is no dispute that Mr. Cicak was injured in this attack: a medical certificate to that effect and photographs of the injuries were produced.696 However, the defence case is that Kordic was not involved. The Trial Chamber accepts the evidence of Mr. Cicak on this issue and finds that he was beaten up on the orders of Mr. Kordic. Although a political opponent of Kordic, there is no reason to doubt the evidence of Mr. Cicak and no evidence was called to contradict it.697 The purpose of calling this evidence was to show the lengths to which Mr. Kordic was prepared to go in the silencing of opponents.698 However, the Trial Chamber does not find that it is assisted in coming to a judgement about these international crimes by evidence relating essentially to local political disputes.

  31. International events gathered pace in April 1992:

    (a) on 6 April the European Community Declaration on the Recognition of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RBiH) was issued;699

    (b) on 7 April the Republic of Croatia recognised RBiH;700

    (c) on 8 April the RBiH Presidency proclaimed an imminent threat of war;701

    (d) on the same day the Presidency of HZ H-B, at an emergency session, issued a decision establishing the HVO as the “supreme defence body of the Croatian people” in HZ H-B.702

    (e) On 20 June the President of the RBiH was to declare a state of war.703

    E. The Parties’ Cases and Trial Chamber Findings

  32. The prosecution case is that the HZ H-B had no legal foundation, as the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court found in a decision of September 1992.704 The prosecution case is also that the purpose of setting up the HZ H-B was to establish control within its territory, to exclude the Bosnian Muslims and to engineer unification with Croatia. This had been the original purpose of the setting up of the HDZ-BiH and explains why opponents such as Stjepan Kljuic were ousted. This programme gathered momentum in 1992 with the establishment of the HVO and was to lead to the exertion of HVO control over various municipalities with the object of controlling the Muslim population and ultimately securing its removal from the territory of the HZ H-B.705 According to the Prosecution, it was this plan which led to the conflict and the alleged crimes which are the subject of this case.

  33. The defence case about these events is to this effect: (a) that the HZ H-B was a purely defensive organisation, set up to provide defence for the Bosnian Croats in the face of JNA aggression;706 and (b) that it operated legally at all times and its officials had no notion of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court decision. A summary of the defence evidence follows.

  34. Zoran Buntic, a Croat lawyer, testified that the HZ H-B was not a set of parallel institutions, but rather replacement institutions that were fully constitutional and lawful under Chapters 6 and 7 of the Republic’s Constitution.707 Zoran Perkovic, who worked on legal matters for the HVO Department of Justice during the war, testified that the establishment of the HZ H-B was authorised under existing legislation concerning the organisation of political parties.708 Both the founding documents and the organisation of the HZ H-B, HR H-B and HVO show that they were only temporary organisations made necessary by the war.709

  35. Unlike the Serbs in Republika Srpska, who had enacted their own constitution and created a whole new system of laws, the HZ H-B mainly applied laws that were in force in RBiH. New legislation and decrees were passed to fill in the gaps and adapt RBiH laws where necessary. Essentially, the RBiH law applied, unless there was some reason to amend it in some way. Evidence was given that the HZ H-B advocated the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and tried to find a solution that would include all three ethnic groups.710 The Croats wanted to maintain their traditional status as a constitutive people.711

  36. HZ H-B institutions were necessary due to the general collapse of the RBiH system: the central government did not function and the municipalities were left to fend for themselves.712 Sarajevo lost all communication with the rest of the country, as well as all effective control . There was no mail delivery, no taxes and no salaries were paid, the banks did not operate, the whole monetary system had broken down and in some areas business was conducted by barter.713

  37. The Defence called evidence to the effect that the Muslims’ intransigence essentially forced the Croats to establish separate institutions. For example, Zoran Perkovic testified that the HZ H-B proposed to the Muslims the creation of a division of the Supreme Court in Mostar because Sarajevo was effectively cut off from the rest of the country. But the lack of political will in Sarajevo to create such a division gave the HZ H-B no choice but to create a detached division of the RBiH Supreme Court in Mostar alone.714

  38. Major-General Filip Filipovic testified that the HZ H-B was organised primarily to aid in the defence against the BSA and to give the Bosnian Croats a vehicle for participation in international negotiations over the future internal structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the HVO was formally declared on 8 April 1992, the Bosnian Croat armed forces were only organised during the summer and autumn of 1992. The HVO’s initial organisation was rudimentary; but as 1992 progressed , it gradually evolved into an effective and well-organised fighting force.715 It comprised two separate components, military and civilian, each with its own jurisdiction . While the military wing of the HVO held the front lines against the BSA, the civilian component was responsible for procuring food and logistical supplies for civilians and the military, and assisting people with travel when possible.716

  39. Having considered all the evidence on this topic, the Trial Chamber rejects that given on behalf of the Defence and finds that the weight of the evidence and all the circumstances point to the conclusion that the HZ H-B was founded with the intention that it should secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina and with a view to unification with Croatia.


  40. As has been stated, the prosecution case is that the HVO was the chief organisation through which the Bosnian Croat leadership planned and implemented their campaign of persecution and ethnic cleansing in the area of the HZ H-B. The Prosecution relies in support of this allegation on the events as they unfolded in the HZ H- B, in the spring and summer of 1992.

  41. It is the prosecution case on Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment that there was a campaign of persecution in the territory of the HZ H-B against the Bosnian Muslim population. This “campaign of persecution, violence and ethnic cleansing was … carried out on a widespread or systematic basis by various means and methods, including attacks on cities, towns and villages … and killing and causing serious injury to Bosnian Muslim civilians”.717 The other methods included detention and ill-treatment of civilians, forcible transfer , fomenting ethnic hatred, plunder and destruction and the use of prisoners for trench-digging and as human shields.718 “As a result of the persecution and ethnic cleansing campaign, the Bosnian Muslim population was substantially reduced and relocated from those areas [over which] the Bosnian Croats … and their leaders had seized control.”719 The campaign was implemented by securing control of the territory and then using armed force and violence to remove the Muslims.

    A. HVO Take-Over of Busovaca

  42. The background to the HVO take-over in Busovaca is to be found in the distribution of the arms and equipment of the local JNA (already mentioned in this Judgement). By this time Bosnian Serb aggression had led to many refugees coming to Busovaca .720 This in turn led to an increase in tension. (The population of Busovaca municipality was nearly 20,000 in 1991, almost evenly divided between Muslims and Croats.)721 It was agreed that the JNA equipment in the Draga and Kacuni barracks in Busovaca should be divided between the HVO and the TO equally. The above matters are not in dispute. However, there is a dispute about what happened then. The prosecution evidence was as follows: the HVO, headed by Dario Kordic, went into the Draga barracks while the TO went into Kacuni.722 Disputes arose over the arms from the third barracks at Kaonik; and Kordic was involved in planning the operation to take the barracks and remove the arms and ammunition.723 On the other hand , the defence evidence was that there was an understanding between Muslims and Croats that, because the Kacuni barracks were located in a predominantly Muslim area, the Muslims would take Kacuni; and, as the Draga barracks were located in a predominantly Croat area, the Croats would take Draga.724 Mr. Kordic did not lead the Draga operation.725 With respect to the Kaonik barracks, the defence case is that Muslims and Croats agreed that the barracks, which were located in the Croat-populated area,726 would be taken over by the HVO,727 and that any armaments found in the barracks would be distributed equally between them:728 however, this agreement was breached by the Muslims and General Merdan brought in military forces to take over the Kaonik weapons.729 The Defence contends therefore that the Prosecution’s suggestion that the Muslims arrived to collect the weapons pursuant to an agreement is unfounded.730

  43. There is no dispute that on the evening of 8 May an incident occurred at a checkpoint in which a member of the HVO was injured. According to the Prosecution this incident served as a pretext for the HVO take-over of Busovaca which occurred in the early hours of 10 May 1992. At 1.20 a.m. that day the Commander of the Municipal HVO, Ivo Brnada, issued an order, counter-signed by Dario Kordic as “HVO Vice-President ”, dismissing the Crisis Committee and ordering the Busovaca HVO to take over all authority, giving an ultimatum to the TO to hand over its weapons and to place itself under the command of the HVO and issuing a warrant for the arrest of three Muslim leaders, including Dzemal Merdan.731 The latter was duly arrested and beaten up: he was subsequently released by order of Dario Kordic.732 On the other hand, according to the Defence the 10 May 1992 order was issued by the Croat leadership of Busovaca in an attempt to rectify the situation and establish peace and order :733 (Mr. Kordic’s co-signature was only to give the order more weight, on the basis that he was the highest-ranking Croat politician in the municipality at the time)734 and only a few of the provisions of the order were, in fact, implemented.735 The Defence further contends that whilst General Merdan was arrested by the civil police,736 was apparently beaten and then released after two days,737 there is no evidence that Mr. Kordic had anything to do with this incident.738

  44. There is no dispute that on 22 May 1992 the President of the Busovaca HVO issued an order, again counter-signed by Kordic, lifting the blockade on the town (which had been imposed on 10 May) but imposing a curfew, ordering workers to return to work by 25 May and putting the HVO in charge of the municipality, displacing the Municipal Assembly, the Executive and the Crisis Staff.739 According to the Prosecution, the HVO then took over all authority, the agencies of RBiH were abolished and all functions were concentrated in the military.740 The effect was described by one witness as a military coup.741 According to another, anyone wanting to remain in the government had to swear allegiance to the HVO; those who did not were left sitting in their offices without power.742 By 25 June 1992 the Muslim Council of Busovaca had acknowledged that the Supreme Command was the HVO.743 Croatian flags were flown on the PTT building, police buildings and municipal buildings which were taken over by the HVO.744 Radio and television stations and transmitters were taken over and programmes coming from Bosnia and Herzegovina were abolished. The Croatian dinar was introduced745 and the names of streets were changed.746 There was no resistance by the Muslims except for a peaceful public protest on 25  May.747

  45. The prosecution case is that Dario Kordic was instrumental in the HVO take- over of Busovaca and the government of the municipality. By 1992, in Busovaca, according to Dragutin Cicak, Dario Kordic was solely responsible as civilian, military and police authority, all in one.748 Of the decision that Dario Kordic should become President of the Municipal Board in wartime, Mr. Cicak said that the Board never met and all decisions were taken by Dario Kordic.749 According to Witness J, who had been friendly with Dario Kordic since before the war started in 1992, Dario Kordic planned the take-over of arms from Kaonik in May 1992, and as Vice-President to Mate Boban was in H-B, in charge of the Lasva Valley and the main power in Central Bosnia with all the authority. It was common knowledge if he were absent, that Dario Kordic had gone to see Boban in Grude and Mostar. The witness said that he had concluded that Kordic was in charge in the Lasva Valley : this was known to all Muslims and everyone in Busovaca knew it.750 Thus, it was Dario Kordic who said in a television interview that the HVO had ceased to recognise the autonomy of the RBiH Ministry of Defence and the TO,751 and Dario Kordic who said at a meeting that the HVO would guarantee the security of the Bosniaks only if they recognised the lawfulness of the HVO.752

  46. The defence case is that the 22 May order was a step towards the normalisation of life.753 According to defence witnesses, the Busovaca TO and its police continued to operate autonomously without being subordinated to the HVO754 and patrolled the municipality alongside the HVO military police;755 all municipal civil servants were invited to return to the jobs that they had held before the outbreak of the war, regardless of their ethnicity and that they did so.756 There was also testimony from defence witnesses that no employees of the HVO provisional government had to take loyalty oaths when they returned to work757 and, in reality, after BiH had become independent, the central government never really began to function,758 particularly in relation to the municipalities.759 The street names were changed jointly, with one street named after a priest and another after an Islamic leader.760 In addition a number of Muslim witnesses supported the testimony that there was no prejudice from the HVO in Busovaca. For example, Witness DH testified that the quality of life improved under the HVO and that there was no required oath of loyalty ;761 and Witness DI, a Muslim, never had his shop damaged and lived in Busovaca throughout the war, providing supplies for the HVO. A Serb witness testified that the Croats acted peaceably towards the Serbs in Kaonik and that Kordic tried to resolve things peacefully.762

    B. Novi Travnik

  47. In June 1992 the focus switched to Novi Travnik where HVO efforts to gain control were resisted. The population of the municipality was over 30,000 in 1991 and was evenly balanced, with 40 per cent Croat, 38 per cent Muslim and 13 per cent Serb .763 In April 1992 the HVO was established in Novi Travnik and set up a headquarters. On 18 June 1992 the TO in Novi Travnik received an ultimatum from the HVO which included demands to abolish existing Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions, establish the authority of the HZ H-B and pledge allegiance to it, subordinate the TO to the HVO and expel Muslim refugees, all within 24 hours .764 There was a meeting between members of the HVO and the TO on the evening of 19 June 1992. During this meeting an armed conflict broke out.765 The fighting lasted two hours and the headquarters of the TO, the elementary school and the Post Office were attacked and damaged. Units wearing HVO and HOS uniforms took part. There was a report that units from the HVO in Vitez and Busovaca took part.766 This was confirmed by the evidence of Witness P who spoke to some captured HVO soldiers who said that troops had been sent by Dario Kordic from Busovaca.767

  48. On the other hand, the Defence asserts that, due to the influx of refugees, who had fled in the face of BSA attacks in Western and Eastern Bosnia, the crime rate rose, the government ceased to operate, as did a subsequent Crisis Staff which was set up.768 It was in this setting that the HVO administration was formed as a temporary measure to organize life in the wartime conditions:769 the local HVO government was appointed by Mate Boban and consisted of both Croats and Muslims .770 Shortly thereafter, Muslim politicians organised a parallel War Presidency consisting only of Muslims, which managed the part of the municipality mostly inhabited by Muslims.771 The latter provoked tensions by leaving the Croat section of the municipality without power, cutting off the water supply (which they controlled) and opening sewer lines in the high ground that they controlled, letting raw sewage run downwards into the Croat part of town.772 There was no order to persecute anyone; on the contrary, in the spring of 1993 Colonel Bla skic issued a directive to the civilian police and military units not to persecute members of any ethnic group, including Muslims.773 With respect to the brief fighting which broke out on the evening of 19 June 1992 , the fighting began when the TO attempted to seize some strategic points in the town of Novi Travnik.774 Refik Lendo , the TO Commander in Novi Travnik, who supposedly received the ultimatum from the HVO, was a known troublemaker in the area775 who refused any kind of cooperation with the HVO.776

    C. The HVO Take-Over in Other Municipalities

  49. The HVO exerted control in the municipalities of Vares, Kiseljak, Vitez, Kre sevo and Zepce. The evidence called by the Prosecution and the Defence is set out in the following paragraphs.

  50. In 1991 the population of Vares municipality was 22,000, of whom 41 per cent were Croats, 30 per cent Muslim and 13 per cent Serb.777 According to the Prosecution, on about 1 July 1992, the HVO took over all civilian and military power in Vares and all important official positions were delegated to those loyal to the HDZ/HVO.778 On the same day the Vares HVO commander signed an order prohibiting TO activity in Vares779 and a few days later all political parties were forbidden, except the HDZ.780 The minutes of a meeting of the Central Bosnia HVO on 22 September 1992 noted that “the HVO is in full control” of Vares.781

  51. According to the Defence the HVO assumed power in Vares because the SDA had refused to participate in government. According to a defence witness, the HVO take -over was peaceful, with the full consent of the Vares SDA branch;782 however, the Muslims in Vares formed their own military forces and established parallel government bodies:783 everybody stayed in their jobs and nobody was asked to sign a loyalty oath.784 When Croat refugees from Kakanj and Travnik arrived in Vares, they were not allowed to take over Muslim flats or to take revenge.785

  52. In Kiseljak municipality the population in 1991 was 52 per cent Croat and 40 per cent Muslim of a total population of over 24,000.786 The HVO was established there on 23 April 1992.787 The JNA having left the barracks, the HVO moved in.788 There was an agreement that the weapons and ammunition would be divided789 but it was never implemented. According to Witness D the TO received about 5 per cent of the poorest weapons and the rest were taken by the HVO.790 The HVO were not fighting the BSA at the time and would not allow the TO through the municipality when the TO wanted to try to raise the siege of Sarajevo.791 On 25 May 1992 the HVO passed a decision to abolish the TO in Kiseljak.792 On 25 June 1992 there was a decision to re-name the Executive Committee Municipal Assembly as the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) of Kiseljak.793 No Muslims were left on the Municipal Staff. The HVO assumed “absolute power, absolute domination and control” in the municipality.794

  53. In 1991 the total population of the Vitez municipality was nearly 28 ,000, of whom 46 per cent were Croat, 41 per cent Muslim and 5 per cent Serb.795 The locations in the municipality relevant to the Indictment are: the town of Vitez including Stari Vitez (the old, Muslim part of the town) and the villages of Vec eriska and Ahmici (with its associated hamlets of Santici, Pirici and Nadioci).796 The significance of Vitez lay, partly, in the presence of three armaments companies with facilities near the town: Slobodan Princip Seljo (or “SPS”), (the only company producing gunpowder in the former Yugoslavia), Vitezit (explosives and fuses) and Sintevit (chemical products). These companies shared a single factory near Vitez , employing 2,000-3,000 people and occupying an area bigger than the centre of the town: this location was known as ‘SPS’ or ‘Vitezit’ in the vernacular.797

  54. According to the prosecution evidence the municipal building and the police station were taken over by a group of HOS under the command of Darko Kraljevic on 19 June 1992. At a meeting of the municipality of Vitez the next day, Anto Valenta , a Vice-President of the HDZ-BiH, said that the HVO should be able to control everything and protect everybody.798 In mid -June the municipal hall and the civilian police building were taken over by HVO soldiers and flags of Herceg-Bosna were flown over these buildings.799 The Croatian dinar and various Croat symbols were introduced.800

  55. The Defence, on the other hand, relies on the evidence of Dr. Mujezinovic who testified that the take-over of the municipal building and police station in Vitez lasted only two or three days801 and that at the conclusion of this incident, weapons that had been seized from Muslim police officers were returned.802 Ivica Šantic, and other Vitez politicians, denounced this takeover.803 Additionally, Bosnian Croat politicians tried to maintain normal relationships between Muslims and Croats in Vitez.804 Nevertheless, the Muslim politicians proceeded to take their own steps to form a parallel government. The creation of the Muslim War Presidency, according to one witness,805 fractured the local municipal government in Vitez, which became two parallel governments – the War Presidency of the Muslims and the HVO government of the Croats.806 The Defence points out that no witness in this proceeding has indicated that Dario Kordic had any role in the June 1992 take-over of the Vitez municipal building or police station: in fact he had little or no role with respect to any of the political events in the Vitez municipality.807

  56. Kresevo: This municipality is next to Kiseljak and 30 kilometers from Busovaca. In 1991 the population was about 6,700, of whom 70 per cent were Croat , 23 per cent Muslim and 5 per cent Serb.808 In 1992 the Croats controlled the police in Kresevo. Public funds were diverted to the HVO and HZ H-B.809 At the same time the HVO assured the Muslims of Kresevo that there was no reason to be concerned.810 In April 1992 the municipal assembly was dissolved and a Crisis Committee established: although there were some Muslims on the Committee they did not wield genuine power.811 The Muslims started to prepare to defend themselves and Witness E tried to organise a joint force to defend the municipality against the Serbs; however, only five Croats joined. Dario Kordic, as Vice-President of the HDZ in Central Bosnia, sent a long fax stating that the HVO was the only military force allowed and any other force would be treated as an occupying force.812

  57. Zepce: Zepce lies to the north of Zenica. In 1991 the population of the municipality was recorded as nearly 23,000 of whom about 47 per cent were Muslims , 40 per cent Croats and 10 per cent Serbs.813 It was, therefore, an exception in that Croats were in a minority. In January 1993 the Croats took over all the institutions, including postal services, health centres etc., and put them under their administration.814 They also made preparations for conflict such as fortifying several locations, digging trenches and carrying out exercises.815 When asked, they would say they were doing so for their own security and that the Muslims should not be concerned.816

    D. Persecution in the Municipalities

  58. The Prosecution adduced evidence to the effect that with the assumption of power in these municipalities, the HVO initiated a campaign of persecution which took a number of forms.817

  59. The prosecution evidence was thus that the HVO took measures to coerce, intimidate and terrorise the Muslim population. During a peaceful demonstration in Busova ca the demonstrators were dispersed by shots being fired in the air.818 Persons were evicted from their apartments.819 In January 1993 the Muslim call to prayer was forbidden in Busovaca and Muslims were expelled:820 in the same month most left.821 In Kiseljak Bosnian Muslims were arrested and their business premises were damaged or blown up.822 There were incidents of Muslim shops being looted823 and Muslims being expelled from their homes.824

  60. Several Muslims were murdered in Vitez in 1992.825 In late 1992 and January 1993 damage was caused to Muslim businesses in Vitez .826 The same occurred in the village of Gacice nearby, where according to one witness, intimidation of the Muslims was greater after visits by Dario Kordic.827 Another said that violence was intentionally provoked by the Croats.828 In January 1993 two armed HVO soldiers forced their way into an apartment in Vitez , abused a witness and his family and stole money and valuables: the witness heard that the same thing had happened to about 20 other Muslim families in the same part of town.829 A Muslim member of the Vitez police compiled details of 37 crimes against Muslims in the municipality, between December 1992 and April 1993, involving harassment, wounding and murder; and the bombing, shooting at and arson of Muslim business premises.830

  61. There were also many instances of physical harassment of Muslims in Novi Travnik after the first conflict:831 Muslims came regularly to the police station to complain of violence and robbery , frequently by men in uniform from the HVO and HOS.832 The Muslims in the lower part of town were given ultimatums by HVO soldiers to leave within 24 hours.833 Muslims were also subjected to killings, rape and other mistreatment.834

    E. The Defence Case

  62. The Defence rejects the assertion that the HVO initiated and carried out a campaign of persecution as alleged by the Prosecution. One witness, who worked closely with Mate Boban, testified that he never saw any indication that Boban or any other top decision-makers had any intention, policy or plan for the ethnic cleansing of Muslims, or to persecute or discriminate against them.835 For example, another witness stated that although most of the humanitarian aid in Vares came from the Republic of Croatia and Croat areas of BiH, it was distributed to everyone in need, regardless of ethnicity.836

  63. The civilian governments in the municipalities and villages did not discriminate against Muslims. For instance, in Zenica the HVO never persecuted the Muslims . Rather, it was the Croats who were discriminated against following the influx of refugees.837 In 1992-93, when 35-50,000 Muslim refugees arrived in Zenica,838 the ratio became six Muslims to one Croat, and Croats were harassed, intimidated and expelled.839

  64. The Croats in Travnik never had a policy of persecution against the Muslims, but resources were scarce following the influx of refugees.840 Ivica Stojak, Commander of the municipal HQ, who tried to maintain good relations between the Muslims and Croats, was killed in October 1992.841 Further, the ABiH shot and killed two HVO members in March 1993 and arrested 70 prominent Croats in April.842 On Holy Thursday, the Muslims attacked the Croats in Travnik, looting the Caritas pharmacy and destroying several Croat businesses.843 Other ABiH provocations in the municipality included burning the Croat flag and driving through Croat villages waving flags, singing songs and intimidating the population.844 Although the Croats did fly the Croatian flag in Travnik, this did not represent a threat to the Muslim people, because each ethnic group would fly their flags on their respective holidays .845

  65. Ivo Mrso, an HDZ-BiH official in the municipality of Bugojno, testified that the HVO there was left to protect the front lines by itself during the BSA attack in 1992.846 While the HVO troops fought, the ABiH gathered forces and dug trenches in preparation for an attack on HVO positions.847 Incidents of harassment of Croats increased in late 1992 and early 1993, including the murder of Croats.848 In contrast, the Croats never had any policy of persecution towards the Muslims there.849

  66. The defence case was that the objective of the HZ H-B was not to create an ethnically homogenous territory; thus, there was no discrimination in the HZ H- B or the HVO. For instance, Major-General Filipovic testified that there was no official or unofficial policy of persecution and if there had been such a policy , he would have refused to implement it. Given the fact that the Muslims were in the majority due to the tremendous refugee influx in Central Bosnia, harassing or persecuting them would have been complete folly, tantamount to military suicide. Although there was pervasive violence on both sides, this was because the framework of civilised society had collapsed, not because of any deliberate policy imposed by political leaders.850

  67. In relation to this evidence the Prosecution accepts that atrocities were committed by both sides but argues that violations of international humanitarian law committed by an adversary do not justify violations by a belligerent.851

    F. Trial Chamber Findings

  68. The Trial Chamber finds that the weight of the evidence points clearly to persecution of the Muslims in the Central Bosnian municipalities taken over by the HVO: Busova ca, Novi Travnik, Vares, Kiseljak, Vitez, Kresevo and Zepce. The persecution followed a pattern in each municipality and demonstrates that the HVO had launched a campaign against the Bosnian Muslims in these municipalities. The fact that there may have been persecution of Croats by Muslims in other municipalities does not detract from this finding and in no way justifies the HVO persecution.



    A. July – September 1992

  69. This section deals with the events of the late summer and autumn of 1992, which led up to the major conflict between the Bosnian Muslims and Croats in 1993. The most important incidents involved renewed fighting in Novi Travnik and an associated incident in Ahmici. This period also saw the emergence of Dario Kordic as a key Bosnian Croat negotiator and his assumption of the rank of “Colonel”. The section ends with an assessment of the role of Dario Kordic on the eve of the conflict.

    1. The Role of Dario Kordic

  70. The events of the late summer show Dario Kordic being as active as ever:

    (a) On 28 July 1992 the first HVO press conference was held in Busovaca. Dario Kordic was introduced as Vice-President of the HVO. He greeted the conference on behalf of the regional HVO of Central Bosnia and reported that there had been “certain misunderstandings within the military section” of Busovaca municipal HVO. The misunderstandings had been cleared up.852

    (b) On 14 August 1992 a meeting of the Presidency of the HZ H-B was held in Grude, which was presided over by Dario Kordic (in the absence of Mate Boban) at which Mr. PrlZ was appointed President of the HVO.853 The Prosecution submits that the fact that the accused presided over such a significant meeting indicates the importance of his position. A defence witness, Witness DC , while giving evidence, was asked about this contention: he said that the accused could not be singled out because any of the Vice-Presidents could have chaired the meeting.854

    (c) On 18 August 1992 Colonel Tihomir Blaskic, who by this time had taken command of what was to become the Central Bosnia Operative Zone (CBOZ) of the HVO, ordered that swearing-in ceremonies for the HVO forces should take place.855 Dario Kordic was much in evidence at these ceremonies. In Busovaca he spoke and reviewed the troops.856 In Novi Travnik he was escorted by soldiers and in a speech said that Novi Travnik would be a Croatian town.857 In Fojnica between 800 and 1,000 took an oath to defend their “homeland” at a ceremony in the football stadium: Kordic was among the guests of honour.858 In Travnik, Kordic and Kostroman addressed the troops:859 the text of a proposed speech states that those who do not wish to live in the Croatian provinces of HZ H-B are all enemies and must be fought with both political and military means.860 In Vitez, the gist of Kordic’s speech was a statement to the Muslims of the Lasva Valley that this was Croat land and that they had to accept that this was Herceg Bosna.861

    (d) On 5 September 1992 a meeting of the HDZ Travnik Presidency was held with Kordic and Kostroman representing the HZ H-B. The minutes record that only one HVO government existed for the Croatian people in the municipality and the Croatian people did not accept a unitary State of BiH.862

    (e) On 30 September 1992 Kordic, as Vice-President of HZ H-B, was present at a meeting of the Presidency of the Kakanj HVO, a neighbouring municipality to Vares. The minutes of the meeting record Kordic as saying that the HVO was the government of the HZ H-B and what they were doing with the HZ H-B was the realisation of a complete political platform: they would not take Kakanj by force but “it is a question of time whether we will take or give up what is ours. It has been written down that Vares and Kakanj are in HZ H-B. The Muslims are losing morale and then it will end with ‘give us what you will’”.863

  71. The defence evidence on this topic dealt with Kordic’s speeches and the terms used in them. For instance, that he always attended areas when things were critical (for instance Jajce, Vitez and Travnik), that he provided political and moral support ;864 and gave a morale-raising speech to soldiers defending Jajce, saying “we have to defend Jajce and I will go with you to defend Jajce”.865 As to the terms used, the defence evidence was to the effect that Kordic’s political speeches were never racially inflammatory nor were they intended to foment hatred of Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Croats.866 KordZ was portrayed by many witnesses as a moderate, caring person with a strong sense of responsibility. His was not a vehement personality.867 One witness, who had worked with him for many years prior to the conflict and who claimed to have heard many of his political speeches, testified that she never heard Kordic use derogatory terms with respect to Muslims, publicly or privately, and furthermore that his speeches were never racially inflammatory or incited violence . He did not use derogatory terms for other ethnic groups, apart from extremists about whom he was very sharp.868 Brigadier Sekerija testified in similar terms and said that in his public appearances , which the witness often saw, Mr. Kordic often stated that Bosnian Croats were one of the constituent peoples in BiH as well as Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs .869 Several witnesses involved in the political process at the time testified that they never heard Kordic, in meetings or at press conferences, refer pejoratively to other ethnic groups.870

    2. Ruling of the BiH Constitutional Court

  72. Meanwhile, on 18 September 1992, decrees relating to the HZ H-B (including that to establish it on 18 November 1991) were annulled by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Constitutional Court.871 The defence evidence was that the leaders of the HZ H-B knew nothing of this.872 The Defence further contends that at any rate the 18 September decision of the Court was both invalid including for lack of notice to the HZ H-B under its own Statute and was never enforced.873 The Trial Chamber comments this is not the place to consider whether it was or not and notes the findings of the Constitutional Court.

    3. Role of Mario Cerkez

  73. It is convenient at this stage to consider the evidence about Mario Cerkez in the summer of 1992, when he was Assistant Commander of the Vitez Staff. The prosecution evidence was as follows:

    (a) In May 1992 there occurred the murder of a Muslim member of the TO in the Hotel Vitez. At one stage the Prosecution sought to prove that Mario Cerkez was implicated in this murder. However, that allegation was subsequently withdrawn. The evidence was that the accused came to the scene of the murder, accompanied by members of the HOS.874 The HVO identified a military policeman named Perica Vukadinovic as being responsible but he was never charged and, after a few months, he was seen walking around Vitez, a free man.875

    (b) Witness AS, a Bosnian Muslim member of the HVO, said in evidence that he joined that organisation in May 1992: on the day he joined he went to a restaurant in Kruscica, where the officers met and on the first floor of which building Mario Cerkez lived.876

    (c) Dr. Mujezinovic gave evidence about Mario Cerkez’s relations with the HOS in the summer of 1992, after the HVO take-over of Vitez. According to the witness, the commander of the local HOS unit, Darko Kraljevic, complained to him that Pero Skopljak , Anto Valenta and Mario Cerkez were trying to persuade the HOS to subordinate itself to the HVO and to mistreat Muslims.877 (In cross-examination it was put that he had not mentioned Mario Cerkez in this connection when giving evidence in the Blaskic trial. The witness said that Kraljevic had said that the most insistent were Skopljak and Valenta but that Mario Cerkez also said it.)878

    (d) According to Nihad Rebihic, in May 1992 the accused spoke to a review of HVO troops at the Vitez stadium which was broadcast on television: in his speech Cerkez said that the Croat people were in danger of attack by Muslims and must prepare themselves .879 (In cross-examination it was put that the date was August 1992.)

    B. Novi Travnik and the Ahmici Barricade: October 1992

    1. Conflict in Novi Travnik

  74. In October 1992 fighting broke out again in Novi Travnik. One witness stated the cause to be a demand by the HVO that they be allowed to take over the Bratsvo factory which the ABiH refused.880 According to Witness C the conflict lasted from 19 to 26 October and began with the HVO attacking an ABiH unit in the fire brigade building.881 The front line between the forces ran through the middle of the town.882 During the conflict a number of Bosnian Muslim-owned buildings, including houses , business premises and restaurants were set on fire or demolished.883

  75. The Prosecution alleges that Dario Kordic was directly involved in the fighting in Novi Travnik where he was acting as Commander of the HVO. This allegation is based on the evidence of Colonel Stewart, Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion , the Cheshire Regiment, then forming the British Battalion of UNPROFOR (‘Britbat’ ). Colonel Stewart’s evidence was that on 20 October 1992 serious fighting had erupted in Vitez and when he went to see Cerkez about it, the latter sent him to see the ABiH Commander in Novi Travnik. When the Colonel got to Novi Travnik on the afternoon of 20 October he found heavy fighting going on. He first saw Refik Lendo, the ABiH Commander. He then went to the Café Grand where, in an upstairs bar, he met Dario Kordic for the first time. Kordic was dressed in military fatigues and was surrounded by people who were similarly dressed. A number were HVO soldiers and it was clear that Kordic had authority over the soldiers who listened when he spoke and did what he said. (Blaskic was not present.) Kordic appeared to be the commander and negotiated with Colonel Stewart as such.884

  76. There is also indirect and documentary evidence to the above effect.

    (a) According to intelligence information received at Zenica HQ of the ABiH, the HVO unit attacking Novi Travnik was led by Dario Kordic.885

    (b) A witness saw a video showing Dario Kordic at the hotel in Novi Travnik requesting that Refik Lendo be arrested and tried.886

    (c) Another witness said that the Commander of the military police sent a group as reinforcements to Novi Travnik and told them to report to Dario Kordic.887

    (d) Three documents support the prosecution contention and illustrate the role of Dario Kordic at the time:

    (i) on 23 October 1992 Major Luka Sekerija reported on the situation in Gornji Vakuf as being tense but under control with all TO reinforcements blocked: the report on this military subject is headed as being “to Colonel Blaskic and Dario Kordic”;888

    (ii) on 24 October 1992 Kordic (as Vice-President HZ H-B) and Blaskic sent a message to the HVO Bugojno referring to information that two ABiH battalions were moving from Bugojno towards Novi Travnik to reinforce Lendo’s forces and stating that “ should these units participate in the fighting we shall use long-range artillery on Bugojno”;889

    (iii) In a CBOZ report on the situation in Novi Travnik, dated 21 October 1992,890 over the names of Blaskic and Kordic, it is stated that “while defence operations are being conducted … Dario Kordic and I are in Novi Travnik continuously leading the military operations with deep knowledge of the situation and by keeping all the forces under control”.

  77. On the other hand, the Defence relies on a Britbat Milinfosum which states that Refik Lendo is believed to have started the fighting in Novi Travnik.891 This was supported by the evidence of Witness CW1, who said that the HVO did not launch the operation and the aim of the ABiH was to gain control of the Bratsvo arms factory.892 Defence witnesses also testified that it was the ABiH that had attacked the HVO.893 With respect to Kordic’s role, the defence case is that Dario Kordic was not in command of any of the military operations in Novi Travnik in October 1992 and that the HVO military forces in Novi Travnik were under the command of Vlado Juric at that time.894 According to one defence witness, Kordic was present in Novi Travnik as a politician to monitor the situation there.895 With respect to Colonel Stewart’s evidence, the Defence points out that he agreed in his testimony that he did not know that Kordic existed before he met him in Novi Travnik on 20 October 1992 and that his testimony was based on a “first impression” only.896 The Defence also relies on the proposition that nobody considered Kordic important enough to include in subsequent cease-fire negotiations.897

  78. However, the Trial Chamber accepts the evidence of Colonel Stewart, supported , as it is, by the documentary evidence and finds that Dario Kordic had a clear role leading the HVO in the fighting in Novi Travnik.

    2. Ahmici Barricade

  79. On 19 October 1992, during the early part of the conflict in Novi Travnik, the local TO, on orders from their superiors, put up a barricade in Ahmici on the main road through the Lasva Valley in order to prevent HVO reinforcements reaching Novi Travnik. According to the evidence of Abdulah Ahmic, a resident of the village , four HVO soldiers were disarmed at the barricade, their rifles confiscated and they were returned to Vitez. Four hours later (during the evening) a courier from the Croat side arrived with a threat to the effect that the Muslims should remove the barricade or they and their houses would be burned. This was said to be a message from Dario Kordic and they (the villagers) were told to carry the message to their leader.898 The Prosecution relies on the evidence of this threat to show that it had been made in his name (thus illustrating his authority) and not necessarily to show that it had been made by Dario Kordic. Although hearsay, the evidence was admitted because of its spontaneous character and the Trial Chamber concludes that it is capable of demonstrating the nature of the authority wielded by Dario Kordic at this time.

  80. That authority was illustrated by events the same evening in Vitez when there was a meeting in the headquarters of the TO. Ivica Santic, Mayor of Vitez, and Mario Cerkez, the HVO Brigade Commander, came to the headquarters to ask for the Ahmici barricade to be removed. They were told that this would be done if the HVO stopped sending units to Novi Travnik. There were a number of accounts given of what happened then. According to one witness, Santic said that he did not have the authority to make such a decision which could only be taken by Dario Kordic:899 according to another, Mario Cerkez said that he had to consult with his boss (KordZ).900 The upshot was that a telephone call was made to Dario Kordic in Novi Travnik. The evidence of what was said by Dario Kordic during the conversation was confused. However, the gist was that the ABiH in Novi Travnik had to surrender before negotiations could take place.901 Santic then said that he had orders from Kordic and that he and Cerkez had to obey them.902 According to the evidence of Sulejman Kalco, during the meeting Mario Cerkez threatened that the municipality would burn down if the HVO was not allowed to go to Novi Travnik; and an hour later the attack on the barricade started.903 This latter statement was disputed in cross-examination on behalf of Cerkez.904 However, Witness AC also said in evidence that Cerkez had threatened that if the blockade was not removed, Ahmici would come under attack.905 According to the Kordic Defence, the defence to this aspect of the case is that Kordic simply said that negotiations would be possible if Refik Lendo would cease hostilities.906 Whatever the precise words used, the Trial Chamber accepts that Dario Kordic, thereby, demonstrated his political and military authority.

  81. According to the evidence of Abdulah Ahmic, the HVO attacked the Ahmici barricade the next morning. His account was as follows: the attack began early in the morning and houses were set on fire. The minaret of the mosque was hit. A 16-year-old boy was killed when he was shot near the barricade. About 200 men were guarding the village of Ahmici at the time of the barricade: half from outside the village . The attack lasted all morning until the people manning the barricade ran out of ammunition and the checkpoint was then removed.907 In an agreement on 22 October 1992 the “Muslim people of Ahmici” agreed to submit a list of their weapons to the HVO and to establish mixed units to defend the area .908 A general cease-fire for the Vitez municipality was signed on the same day by, among others, Mario Cerkez, on behalf of the HVO HQ.909

  82. A postscript to this incident occurred in November 1992, according to the evidence of one inhabitant of Ahmici. This witness said that he had seen footage of a press conference broadcast that month on Busovaca TV; Dario Kordic was present at the conference and in answer to a question said that Ahmici would pay a dear price for putting up a barricade, it would be razed to the ground.910 It was put in cross-examination that the accused had not said such things: the witness affirmed that he had.911 However, the Trial Chamber, noting that no tape of this broadcast has been produced , can place no reliance on the hearsay evidence of the witness.912

    3. After the Conflict

  83. Meanwhile, the conflict in Novi Travnik had repercussions in nearby Vitez. On 19 October 1992 a witness saw motor vehicles and HVO members, together with an anti-aircraft gun on a truck, outside the Hotel Vitez: he saw the soldiers board the trucks at about 1 p.m., leaving in the direction of Novi Travnik and it was noted that 27 soldiers from Vitez were among them.913 The same witness described a meeting at the TO building on the same day when a rocket was fired at the building and the witness overheard Mario Cerkez saying that the units were not his but Darko Kraljevic’s.914 Another witness, a policeman in Vitez, gave evidence of the take-over of Vitez police station on 20 October by HVO members in full combat gear and the resulting expulsion of the Bosnian Muslim police officers.915

  84. Towards the end of October 1992 the focus of the conflict moved to Jajce, a town north-east of Travnik, which had been under siege by the BSA and which was defended by a combined Muslim and Croat force. However, the defences began to crumble and on 29 October 1992 the Jajce HVO President reported that the defence had broken down and the town was in flames.916 By 4 November the town had fallen, releasing a flood of refugees into the area of Travnik and Zenica.917

  85. By December 1992 the situation in Central Bosnia was this: the HVO had taken control of the municipalities of the Lasva Valley and had only met significant opposition in Novi Travnik and Ahmici. Much of Central Bosnia therefore was in the hands of the HVO.

    C. Mixed Military Working Group: November - December 1992

  86. The prosecution case is that evidence about this group illustrates the importance of Kordic’s role, with his appearance at high-level negotiations with the rank of ‘Colonel’ and as the superior of Blaskic (which the Prosecution asserts was the truth).918 In October 1992 UNPROFOR had begun a series of negotiations between the three Bosnian factions at its building at Sarajevo Airport. Colonel Blaskic initially led the HVO delegation, Colonel Siber the ABiH delegation and General Gvero that from the BSA.919 This group came to be known as the Mixed Military Working Group (“MMWG”). In the course of time Kordic came to replace Blaskic on the MMWG.920 Thus, the Report of the ninth meeting of the group on 28 November records that “ Colonel Kordic was the new Chairman of the HVO delegation. He introduced himself as the superior of Colonel Blaskic and stated that he would be in attendance at all future MMWG meetings”.921 According to the evidence of Mr. David Pinder, who was then a Major in the British army and attended the meetings as Head of Public Affairs for UNPROFOR, Blaskic was replaced by Kordic as the decision-making became critical: when they were together KordZ took the lead and Blaskic did not contradict him.922 Mr. Pinder noted that Kordic did not have to defer to a higher authority and could take decisions on the spot; the witness observed that events on the ground and the odd remark by local officials indicated that senior command, whether political or military, rested with Dario Kordic.923

  87. The organiser of these meetings gave evidence at the trial. This was Lt. General Cordy-Simpson, then a Brigadier and Chief of Staff, UNPROFOR. His evidence was that from the meeting of 28 November 1992 onwards “Colonel Kordic” was the senior representative of the HVO at the MMWG meetings, effectively deputy commander of the HVO and accepted as such by General Gvero and Colonel Siber.924 The witness went on to say that on 7 December 1992 the HVO did not appear at a meeting , but sent a fax, signed by “Colonel Dario Kordic” proposing a delay because of the proximity of UNPROFOR headquarters to the Serb front lines.925 (Kordic and Blaskic had in fact been subject to harassment on the way back from a MMWG meeting.) On 12 December 1992 the witness met Colonel Kordic alone, when the latter came to explain his non-attendance on 7 December. The minutes of the meeting describe Dario Kordic as “a highly intellectual and capable journalist, come [sic] politician. He wields real power and is clearly respected by his side”.926 The witness said that this was his view of Dario Kordic at the time.927 In cross-examination the witness said that he assumed that Dario Kordic was superior to Blaskic since at the 28 November meeting the accused referred to himself as the man responsible for the HVO and Blaskic (who was present) did not demur.928 Lt.-General Cordy-Simpson said that as Mr. Boban and General Petkovic were oriented towards operations in Mostar (which was under Serb attack) the witness got the impression that with their authority Kordic exercised considerable authority in Central Bosnia .929

  88. On 12 December 1992, according to Mr. Pinder (based on his notes of the meeting ), Kordic said he was grateful for Lord Owen’s contribution to the peace process 930 and asked the other sides to join the HVO in acknowledging the goodwill shown in previous meetings. He said that the Bosnian Croats agreed all four main issues discussed, including the cessation of hostilities.931 At another meeting held on a date between 12 and 17 December, Dario Kordic said that the delegates had agreed to consult their political masters; he had done so and the HVO supported a cessation of hostilities. He had consulted the HVO military top level and the HVO were ready to sign a written agreement to freeze all military activity.932

  89. A further meeting was held on 18 December 1992, attended by Lord Owen, General Morillon,933 and the representatives of the three sides (including Dario Kordic, leading the HVO delegation). Lord Owen drew attention to the importance of the meetings when a very grave situation was developing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and announced a meeting at a higher level on 2 January in Geneva. Dario Kordic presented a proposal for “freedom of movement of 500 women, children and elderly prior to Christmas”. The proposal was accepted , with reservation, by the other sides.934 Then, on 22 December 1992, a meeting was held, attended by top level Generals, including General Petkovic for the HVO, at which Agreements for (a) free passage of civilians from Sarajevo, and (b) areas of separation, were signed.935 The minutes record that “General Petkovic signed the two Agreements as proposed and stated that Colonel Kordic would provide the representatives required”.936

  90. As a coda to these events, and illustrating the way in which Dario Kordic adopted the rank of Colonel, it may be noted that a magazine reported that on 23 December 1992 “Colonel Dario Kordic”, as Vice-President of HZ H-B, addressed the troops at the oath-taking ceremony of the Jure Francetic Brigade in Zenica and said that the territory of Zenica was Croatian, would be Croatian and added that they wanted to create a Croatian territory, the HZ H-B “which no-one will ever again take from us”.937

  91. For the Defence, evidence was given from within the HVO as to how it came about that Dario Kordic was given the rank of “Colonel”. Thus, Witness CW1 gave evidence that Colonel Blaskic was first assigned to represent the HVO at the Sarajevo airport talks. Blaskic attended once or twice and then said it was not necessary for him to do so and that anyone familiar with the situation could attend. The witness decided to assign Dario Kordic to attend since the talks were to deal with the de -blocking of Sarajevo, a matter with which Kordic was familiar. Accordingly, on 26 November 1992 the witness and Bruno Stojic (Head of the HVO Defence Department ) requested Kordic to attend the meeting on 28 November with full authority to represent the HVO and to introduce himself as “Colonel Dario Kordic (HVO Army Colonel)”.938 This was to give Kordic the necessary authority. The witness had been told that the group would only deal with humanitarian issues and that military problems were to be solved by commanders. However, the witness agreed that there was no reason after the meetings for Dario Kordic to continue in his rank of Colonel.939

  92. The Defence seeks to rely on the fact that while the evidence in this case is clear in regard to the military chain-of-command and the role of Colonel Blas kic, the international community witnesses made no real attempt to determine precisely what Mr. Kordic’s position or powers were.940 While this may be so, the Trial Chamber has to deal with the evidence as it has been given. As a result, the Trial Chamber finds that at the MMWG meetings the accused was not only the leader of the HVO delegation but was also the superior of Colonel Blaskic; and that, no matter how he came to be given the rank of “Colonel ”, it was one which he enthusiastically adopted.

    D. The Role of Dario Kordic on the Eve of the Conflict

  93. The Prosecution asserts that by this time Dario Kordic had assumed an important political and military role connected to the chain of command. “[by his] actions and titles it is clear that Kordic was the authority in Central Bosnia … and his titles, ranks and roles, these [...] were ubiquitous and all-encompassing”.941 This may be inferred from (a) his position as Vice-President in the HZ H-B and HDZ -BiH; (b) his leading role in the take-over of Busovaca municipality and the acquisition of JNA arms; (c) his command in the Novi Travnik conflict in October 1992; and (d) his leadership of the HVO delegation at the MMWG and assumption of the rank of Colonel.

  94. It is also the prosecution case that the military role of Mr. Kordic may be inferred from his wearing of uniform, his use of a headquarters and the fact that he was guarded. Thus, he had three offices. According to Nasiha Neslanovic, who was a cleaner and courier in the Busovaca municipal hall, she saw Dario Kordic nearly every day during this period in his office there: he wore civilian clothes at the outset but, from April 1992, he began to wear camouflage uniform; from time to time she saw him carrying weapons, sometimes over his clothes and sometimes a pistol under his jacket; and he had two bodyguards.942

  95. Dario Kordic’s second office and headquarters was at the Vila Ivancica, Tisovac , a converted restaurant in a forest in the hills near Busovaca, known by some as the “Eagles’ Nest”. Evidence about the villa in July 1992 was given by a local resident, who, with a friend, went fishing on the river near it when they came upon half-buried bodies (which they were told were those of executed Serbs) and were then detained by HVO soldiers.943 A defence witness who was an escort and driver to Ignac Kostroman said that he had been part of the staff at the villa when there had been a total of 14 staff, all in military uniform and where both Kordic and Kostroman had offices.944 A witness who had been a member of the HVO military police described Kordic’s office at the headquarters as having a big table, lots of maps and two to three telephones in it.945

  96. The villa impressed two international witnesses as having the hallmarks of a military headquarters. Dan Damon, the Sky News journalist, was taken there by a circuitous route and found it guarded by checkpoints by people in military uniform : to the witness it looked like a military planning centre (with maps on the walls ).946 The villa made a similar impression on Witness AA because of the extraordinary security measures and precautions taken to escort him to it.947

  97. The accused had a third office in the PTT building in Busovaca which will be discussed below.

  98. Evidence about Kordic’s security and escort was given by a number of witnesses . For instance, Witness AS described Kordic often coming to the HVO headquarters in the Hotel Vitez (when the witness was on guard duty) escorted by one or two cars : his escorts wore military police badges and had good weapons.948 Another witness said that Dario Kordic’s bodyguards were known as the “Scorpions ”: they had long-barrelled weapons, pistols and bullet-proof vests;949 while a list of conscripts in the IV Battalion Military Police (dated 18 February 1994) includes five men described as “Personal Security of the Chief of the HVO Main Staff, Colonel Dario Kordic”.950

  99. A description of the uniform worn by Dario Kordic was that it was dark, drab camouflage and had a dark T-shirt.951 The accused often also wore a large cross952 and an HVO patch or “flashes”953 (but no badges of rank). This outfit (or variations on it) can be seen in a number of photographs of the accused, e.g., with a delegation,954 chairing a press conference955 or posing with a rifle in the environs of the Tisovac headquarters.956

  100. Evidence was given of the use by Dario Kordic of the rank of Colonel. For instance, he introduced himself to General Merdan as a Colonel of the HVO,957 and seemed amused on meeting the Commander of the Dutch Transport Battalion at Christmas 1992 that he was a Colonel while the latter was only a Lieutenant Colonel.958 Similarly, the cease-fire agreement of 30 January 1993 was addressed (at least in one version) to “Colonel Kordic” and an ECMM report of 6 February 1993, written by Jeremy Fleming, deals with a meeting with “Colonel Kordic” about the clearance of a roadblock:959 the witness said that the accused was generally known as “Colonel Kordic” and the nomenclature stuck .960

  101. The final category of evidence from which the accused’s military role may be inferred is from orders and reports from him or mentioning him. There are, for instance, orders signed by him relating to military equipment, e.g., one to Travnik Technical Repair Institute dated 10 June 1992, for a staff vehicle;961 and another dated 27 May 1992, seeking equipment from Travnik War Presidency:962 or reports or other documents, e.g., a report from Kakanj Military Police dated 20 November 1992, referring to a Citroën van being returned to the ABiH pursuant to the orders of the HVO staff in Kakanj, following an intervention by Dario KordZ;963 or an order from Colonel Blaskic, dated 19 September 1992, concerning the procedure for the transport of weapons , stating that checkpoint commanders may permit unimpeded passage of weapons only with the signature of himself or Dario Kordic;964 or a report of 20 November 1992 about the arrest of an HVO military police patrol in Kruscica and the presence of Kordic at the Travnik HVO headquarters where the decision was made not to launch an operation to release the patrol;965 or telling Blaskic in a note of 5 September 1992, that he (Kordic) had prepared three lorry loads of supplies for Jajce and that Blaskic was to organise people from other municipalities.966

  102. There are, also, examples of orders given by Kordic in relation to personnel , approving the appointment of the Commander of the Special Purpose Police Unit in Travnik967 and the appointment of the Deputy Chief of Police there;968 signing the decisions of the HZ H-B to appoint the President of the Kakanj HVO,969 and to appoint a Communications Co-ordinator for the Central Bosnia HVO Main Staff ;970 and, over the protests of the locals, replacing the police chief in Fojnica.971

  103. In this connection, it should be noted that, according to the Official Gazette of the HZ H-B,972 Dario Kordic held a number of official positions during the time with which this case is concerned . For instance, in November 1992 he was appointed as a member of the HVO Personnel Commission. (According to a defence witness, Mr. Zoran Buntic, who was also a member of the Commission, it never met.) In October 1993 Kordic was elected as a member of a Committee for Internal and Foreign Policy and National Security of the HR H -B Chamber of Deputies and as a member of the Commission for Elections. (The Trial Chamber is satisfied that these positions were purely nominal and in no way represented the role played by the accused in the affairs of the HZ H-B.

  104. These were not normal times and the fact that the accused assumed a uniform (as many others did) does not mean that he had a military role. Nor, by itself, does the fact that he was called “Colonel”. However, these facts, together with his involvement in the issue of orders, the presence of security guards around him and the facts already found by the Trial Chamber, allow it to draw the inference that Dario Kordic by this time combined political authority in Central Bosnia (as leader of the Bosnian Croats in the Lasva Valley) with military authority. This latter authority did not involve a formal rank but a position which he had won for himself by his energy, character and commitment to the Croatian cause. Accordingly , a precise position in the chain of command cannot be ascribed to him. For instance , it is not suggested that he had power to punish or discipline troops.973 However, the Trial Chamber is satisfied that by this time Dario Kordic had a role which was at least consultative in relation to the Commander of the CBOZ, Colonel Blaskic.