Tribunal Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Page 28506

1 Monday, 26 February 2001

2 [Judgement Proceedings]

3 [Open session]

4 [The accused entered court]

5 --- Upon commencing at 2.05 p.m.

6 JUDGE MAY: Yes. Let the Registrar call the case.

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

8 IT-95-14/2-T, the Prosecutor versus Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez.

9 JUDGE MAY: This hearing is for the Trial Chamber to deliver its

10 judgement. This is the fifth case to be heard --

11 THE INTERPRETER: Microphone, please, judge.

12 JUDGE MAY: -- by the International Tribunal concerning events in

13 the Lasva Valley in 1992 and 1993. However, it is the first involving a

14 high-ranking politician.

15 The background is the conflict between the Bosnian Muslims and

16 Bosnian Croats which took place during those years in Central Bosnia. The

17 accused both played prominent parts in that conflict. Dario Kordic was a

18 politician, described as the most important in the area. Mario Cerkez was

19 a military man, Commander of a Brigade in the Bosnian Croat armed forces.

20 The charges against them arise from events during the conflict.

21 The Indictment contains 44 Counts, and charges each accused with

22 eight grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, ten violations of the laws

23 or customs of war, and four crimes against humanity. The first two Counts

24 charge the accused with persecution, a crime against humanity. The other

25 Counts charges offences relating to murder, inhuman treatment, detention

Page 28507

1 and destruction. The Indictment alleges that the accused participated in

2 a widespread or systematic campaign of persecution of the Bosnian Muslims

3 in that region culminating in a series of attacks over a two-year period

4 on towns and villages in the Lasva Valley and surroundings. Many Muslim

5 civilians were killed, seriously wounded, or detained. Meanwhile, their

6 homes were burned, their towns, villages, and places of worship destroyed,

7 and their property plundered.

8 The defence case for both accused amounts to a complete denial of

9 the prosecution case. Not only is the responsibility of the accused for

10 the crimes alleged against them disputed, there is an issue whether the

11 crimes were committed at all. The Trial Chamber, therefore, has had to

12 determine whether these crimes were committed, and, if so, whether the

13 accused were guilty of those charged against them.

14 The result has been an extremely long trial, lasting 20 months, in

15 which a great deal of evidence was put before the court. In all, 241

16 witnesses gave evidence and over 4,500 exhibits were produced. The

17 transcript runs to 28,000 pages.

18 What follows is a summary of the written Judgement and forms no

19 part of it. That Judgement is available today.

20 First, some matters of law. The Trial Chamber finds that there

21 was a general state of armed conflict in Central Bosnia at the relevant

22 time. It also finds that there is a clear connection between this

23 conflict and the alleged crimes set out in the Indictment. The Trial

24 Chamber finds that due to the intervention of the Republic of Croatia,

25 this conflict was international.

Page 28508

1 The Trial Chamber also finds that persecution may include conduct

2 not specifically listed as a crime against humanity in Article 5 of the

3 Statute of the International Tribunal. However, such conduct must reach

4 the same level of gravity as the other crimes listed in the Article. In

5 this case, the Trial Chamber finds that two alleged acts do not rise to

6 that level of gravity; namely, persecution in the form of encouraging and

7 promoting hatred, by propaganda and otherwise, and persecution in

8 employment.

9 Turning now to the facts. The relevant history begins with the

10 founding in 1990 of a Bosnian Croat political party, the Croatian

11 Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or "HDZ-BiH". This was an

12 offshoot of its Croatian parent, the nationalist HDZ party. In late 1991

13 the HDZ-BiH set up a separate Croatian community within Bosnia, the

14 HZ H-B, which the Trial Chamber finds was established with the intention

15 that it should, in due course, become part of the Republic of Croatia.

16 The HZ H-B thereafter created another body, the Croatian Defence Council,

17 the "HVO", as the executive and defence authority of the Bosnian Croat

18 community. Local municipal HVOs were then set up as the executive and

19 military power in the municipalities.

20 Meanwhile, Dario Kordic rose rapidly in the HDZ-BiH political

21 party, becoming its President in his home town, Busovaca; President of his

22 Regional Community; and Vice-President of the HZ H-B. Mario Cerkez, for

23 his part, was one of the founders of the HVO in Vitez and Commander of its

24 local brigade, known as the Viteska Brigade.

25 In 1992, the HVO began taking over all power in the municipalities

Page 28509

1 in Central Bosnia, in particular, in Busovaca, Vitez, and Kiseljak. They

2 met little armed resistance except in Novi Travnik and the village of

3 Ahmici. In these incidents, Dario Kordic demonstrated both his political

4 and military authority; and the Trial Chamber finds that by the end of

5 1992, on the eve of the conflict, Dario Kordic combined both forms of

6 authority. His military authority did not involve a formal rank but was a

7 position which he had won for himself. Accordingly, a precise position in

8 the chain of command cannot be ascribed to him. It is not suggested that

9 he had power to discipline or punish troops, and the Trial Chamber finds

10 that he has no liability under Article 7(3) of the Statute concerning

11 command responsibility.

12 We come now to the most important year in the conflict, 1993.

13 That year began with peace talks and the Vance-Owen Peace Plan. However,

14 the situation soon degenerated into conflict, first in Gornji Vakuf and

15 thereafter in Busovaca. The HVO attacked the latter municipality in

16 January 1993, using artillery and infantry on civilian targets, and

17 setting a pattern for subsequent attacks on towns and villages. The

18 evidence shows that Dario Kordic was implicated in this attack.

19 In April 1993, it was the turn of Vitez and the Muslim villages of

20 the Lasva Valley to come under attack. The Trial Chamber finds that the

21 evidence points to a well-organised and planned HVO attack upon these

22 locations, in particular, the village of Ahmici where the attack early in

23 the morning of 16 April resulted in a massacre in which more than 100

24 people were murdered, including 32 women and 11 children, and the village

25 was destroyed. There were similar attacks on the villages up and down the

Page 28510

1 Lasva Valley and on the town of Vitez. The Trial Chamber finds that these

2 attacks followed a common design or plan conceived and executed by the

3 Bosnian Croat leadership to ethnically cleanse the valley of Muslims.

4 Dario Kordic, as the local political leader, was part of this

5 design or plan, his principal role being that of a planner and

6 instigator. In addition, the Trial Chamber finds that Dario Kordic was

7 present at a meeting of politicians in the headquarters of Colonel Blaskic

8 on 15 April when the attacks on Ahmici and the other villages were

9 authorised; that Mario Cerkez was present at a subsequent military meeting

10 when plans were drawn up; and also that Dario Kordic was associated with

11 an order given by Colonel Blaskic to kill all the military-aged men, expel

12 the civilians, and set fire to the houses in Ahmici.

13 As for Mario Cerkez's role on 16 April, the Trial Chamber finds

14 that during this period, the Viteska Brigade was in the thick of the

15 fighting and that Mario Cerkez was in command of the Brigade. As

16 Commander, he participated in the attacks on Vitez, Stari Vitez, and

17 Veceriska. However, in spite of his presence at the military meeting on

18 15 April, the Trial Chamber is not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that

19 Mario Cerkez bears any responsibility for the attack on Ahmici. This

20 attack was the responsibility of the 4th Battalion Military Police, which

21 was not under his command.

22 The fighting around Vitez continued after 16 April. On 18 April,

23 a truck bomb exploded near the mosque in Stari Vitez, killing at least six

24 people and injuring 50 others. The Trial Chamber finds that this was an

25 act of pure terrorism committed by elements within the HVO in Vitez but

Page 28511

1 that there is no evidence to connect either of the accused with this

2 action.

3 On 18 April, the HVO attacked the villages in the Kiseljak

4 municipality. These attacks were part of the general offensive launched

5 by the HVO against the Muslims in this area and Dario Kordic, as the local

6 political leader, was associated with them.

7 On 19 April, the market-place in Zenica was shelled, killing 15

8 people and injuring many others. The Trial Chamber finds that the HVO was

9 responsible but that this was not consistent with the pattern of the other

10 attacks and thus falls outside the common design or plan. No political

11 connection has been demonstrated and consequently the Trial Chamber cannot

12 draw the inference that Dario Kordic was implicated in this unlawful

13 attack.

14 By the end of April, there was a cease-fire in place, but in June

15 further fighting broke out in Central Bosnia. The HVO launched another

16 series of attacks: This time on villages in the Kiseljak municipality,

17 including the village of Tulica where 12 people were killed and the

18 village destroyed. The Trial Chamber finds that these offensives were

19 another manifestation of the HVO design to subjugate the Muslims of

20 Central Bosnia. As with the offensives against the villages in April, the

21 Trial Chamber finds that the attacks would not have been launched without

22 the approval of the local political leadership in the person of Dario

23 Kordic.

24 In October 1993, events moved to Vares municipality. The village

25 of Stupni Do is located about a kilometre south of the town of Vares. On

Page 28512

1 23 October, the village was attacked and 38 people lost their lives. It

2 was not disputed that Ivica Rajic and his troops from Kiseljak were

3 responsible for this massacre. Some defence was offered in the village

4 but there can be no justification for what happened. However, the Trial

5 Chamber finds that Dario Kordic's influence and authority which were

6 concentrated in the Lasva Valley did not extend to Stupni Do, which was

7 thus outside his sphere of authority, and the attack on the village was

8 not part of any common plan or design to which he was a party.

9 During the HVO offensives, many hundreds of Bosnian Muslim

10 civilians were rounded up and detained in makeshift camps where conditions

11 varied from camp to camp but were generally inhuman. The Trial Chamber

12 finds that the detainees were subject to arbitrary and unlawful

13 imprisonment (which was part of the common design or plan) and that they

14 were forced without justification to dig trenches and were used as

15 hostages and human shields. The Trial Chamber also finds that, as

16 Commander of the Viteska Brigade, Mario Cerkez was responsible for the

17 unlawful imprisonment and inhuman treatment of the detainees in the Vitez

18 detention facilities, and that Dario Kordic was responsible for the

19 unlawful imprisonment of detainees in the areas for which he had

20 authority. However, the camps were run by the military and the evidence

21 is not such as to allow an inference to be safely drawn that Dario Kordic

22 was connected with the way in which the detainees were treated or that the

23 treatment was part of the common plan or design.

24 The Trial Chamber finds that there was a pattern of destruction

25 and plunder in all the places attacked by the HVO and that the HVO

Page 28513

1 deliberately targeted mosques and other religious and educational

2 institutions. All this was part of the common plan, and the accused were

3 implicated in the offences where they have been found to be responsible

4 for attacks.

5 In relation to those Counts alleging persecution, the Trial

6 Chamber finds, on overwhelming evidence, that there was a campaign of

7 persecution aimed at the Bosnian Muslims throughout the Indictment period

8 in Central Bosnia. It took the form of the most extreme expression of

9 persecution, that is, attacking towns and villages with the concomitant

10 destruction and plunder, killing, injury, and detention. The purpose of

11 the campaign was the subrogation of the Bosnian Muslim population.

12 Thus, the Trial Chamber rejects the defence case that these events

13 amounted to a civil war and that the Bosnian Croats were on the defensive

14 and themselves subjected to persecution. For these purposes, the fact

15 that individual atrocities were committed against Bosnian Croats is

16 irrelevant, although they may be the subject of other criminal

17 proceedings.

18 The Trial Chamber makes the following findings about the

19 participation of the accused in the campaign of persecution. Whatever

20 positions he may have held, the evidence does not support the contention

21 that Dario Kordic was in the very highest echelons of the Bosnian Croat

22 leadership or that he conceived the campaign of persecution. He was a

23 regional leader and lent himself enthusiastically to the common design of

24 persecution by planning, preparing and ordering those parts of the

25 campaign which fell within his sphere of authority.

Page 28514

1 As already noted, the Trial Chamber finds that Mario Cerkez, as

2 the Commander of the Viteska Brigade, participated in the attacks on

3 Vitez, Stari Vitez, and Veceriska. This was a high point of the campaign

4 of persecution. The accused played his part in that campaign by

5 commanding the troops involved in some of the incidents; as such he was a

6 co-perpetrator.

7 We turn now to the allegation that the accused are also guilty by

8 reason of their superior responsibility and failure to prevent these

9 crimes and to punish the perpetrators. The Trial Chamber notes that such

10 responsibility may attach to civilians once it is established that the

11 requisite power to prevent and punish exists. However, as already noted,

12 the Trial Chamber finds that Dario Kordic did not possess the authority

13 either to prevent the crimes or to punish the perpetrators and cannot

14 therefore be liable under Article 7(3) of the Statute. On the other hand,

15 Mario Cerkez knew of the impending attacks on Vitez, Stari Vitez, and

16 Veceriska by the troops under his command. He failed to take the

17 necessary measures to prevent those attacks, failed to punish those who

18 were responsible for them, and is therefore liable under Article 7(3) in

19 respect of the offences arising from attacks on those three locations.

20 Finally, the Trial Chamber applies the practice approved by the

21 Appeals Chamber recently in relation to cumulative convictions. As a

22 result, the accused will be acquitted of those Counts for which a

23 cumulative conviction would be inappropriate.

24 The Trial Chamber's findings on the Counts of the Indictment are

25 as follows:

Page 28515

1 Counts 1 and 2: crimes against humanity: persecutions.

2 Count 1: Dario Kordic - guilty

3 Count 2: Mario Cerkez - guilty

4 Counts 3 - 6: violations of the laws or customs of war (unlawful

5 attack on civilians).

6 Counts 3 and 4: Dario Kordic - guilty

7 Counts 5 and 6: Mario Cerkez - guilty

8 Counts 7 - 20: crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the

9 Geneva Conventions, and violations of the laws or customs of war (murder,

10 wilful killing, inhumane acts, wilfully causing great suffering or serious

11 injury, inhuman treatment).

12 Dario Kordic:

13 Counts 7, 8, 10, and 12: - guilty

14 Counts 9, 11, 13: - not guilty

15 Mario Cerkez:

16 Counts 14, 15, 17, and 19: - guilty

17 Counts 16, 18, and 20: - not guilty

18 Counts 21 and 22: a crime against humanity and a grave breach of

19 the Geneva Conventions (imprisonment, unlawful confinement).

20 Dario Kordic - guilty

21 Counts 23 - 28: grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and

22 violations of the laws or customs of war (inhuman treatment, use of human

23 shields, taking of hostages).

24 Dario Kordic, not guilty

25 Counts 29 - 31: a crime against humanity and grave breaches of the

Page 28516

1 Geneva Conventions (imprisonment, unlawful confinement, inhuman

2 treatment).

3 Mario Cerkez - guilty

4 Counts 32 - 36: violations of the laws or customs of war and grave

5 breaches of the Geneva Conventions (cruel treatment, taking of hostages,

6 inhuman treatment).

7 Mario Cerkez:

8 Counts 32, 34, and 36: - not guilty

9 Counts 33 and 35: - guilty

10 Counts 37 - 42: grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions;

11 violations of the laws or customs of war (extensive destruction of

12 property, wanton destruction, plunder).

13 Count 37: Dario Kordic - not guilty

14 Counts 38 and 39: Dario Kordic - guilty

15 Count 40: Mario Cerkez - not guilty

16 Counts 41 and 42: Mario Cerkez - guilty

17 Counts 43 and 44: violations of the laws or customs of war

18 (destruction or damage to religious or educational institutions).

19 Count 43: Dario Kordic - guilty

20 Count 44: Mario Cerkez - guilty

21 Turning now to the question of sentence, the Trial Chamber makes

22 some general points. The Trial Chamber will consider the appropriate

23 sentences in the case of the accused, emphasising that the sentences

24 reflect the evidence in this case and the role of these accused as found

25 by this Trial Chamber. Both accused have been convicted of numerous

Page 28517

1 offences. They all arise from the same common design which led to the

2 persecution and the "ethnic cleansing" of the Bosnian Muslims of the Lasva

3 Valley and surroundings. The resulting sustained campaign involved a

4 succession of attacks on villages and towns which were characterised by a

5 ruthlessness and savagery and in which no distinction was made as to the

6 age of its victims: young and old were either murdered or expelled and

7 their houses were burned. The total number of dead may never be known,

8 but it runs into hundreds, with thousands expelled. Offences of this

9 level of barbarity could not be more grave and those who participate in

10 that must expect sentences of commensurate severity to mark the outrage of

11 the international community.

12 Dario Kordic, will you stand.

13 [The accused Kordic stands up]

14 JUDGE MAY: Your role in the offences was an important one. As a

15 regional political leader in Central Bosnia, with particular authority in

16 the Lasva Valley, you were the effective political commander in the area

17 where the majority of the offences were committed. As already noted, the

18 Trial Chamber has not accepted the full extent of the Prosecution case and

19 has not found that you were in the highest echelons of the leadership of

20 the campaign of persecution. Likewise, you have been acquitted of some of

21 the offences arising from individual acts of terror and the massacre at

22 Stupni Do. Therefore, you are not to be sentenced as an architect of the

23 persecution or the prime mover in it. Nonetheless, you enjoyed the

24 campaign enthusiastically and played an instrumental part in the Lasva

25 Valley offensives in 1993, in particular in ordering the attack of Ahmici

Page 28518

1 and the other villages in April 1993. For your part in that dreadful

2 episode, you deserve appropriate punishment. The fact that you were a

3 politician and took no part in the actual execution of the crimes makes no

4 difference; you played your part as surely as the men who fired the guns.

5 Indeed, the fact that you were a leader aggravates the offences. You have

6 offered no mitigation and there is none.

7 The Trial Chamber considers that your overall criminality can best

8 be reflected in a single sentence. Dario Kordic, you are sentenced to 25

9 years' imprisonment.

10 You may sit down.

11 [The accused Kordic sits down]

12 Mario Cerkez, will you stand.

13 [The accused Cerkez stands up]

14 JUDGE MAY: Your position is different from that of your

15 co-accused. You were a soldier and a middle-ranking HVO commander. The

16 Trial Chamber notes that you have no previous experience of command and

17 that nothing in your earlier life could have prepared you for it.

18 However, you were the Commander of the Viteska Brigade during the time of

19 the terrible events in the Lasva Valley and led it in the assaults which

20 resulted in civilian death and destruction. While the Trial Chamber has

21 found that your troops were not involved in the massacre at Ahmici, you

22 played your part in the campaign of persecution, aggravated because of

23 your role as a commander. While there was positive testimony as to your

24 character and personality, none of the matters submitted as mitigating

25 circumstances amount to mitigation of these international crimes.

Page 28519

1 The Trial Chamber considers that your overall criminality can best

2 be reflected in a single sentence. Mario Cerkez, you are sentenced to 15

3 years' imprisonment.

4 You may sit down.

5 [The accused Cerkez sits down]

6 JUDGE MAY: The period of time which the accused have spent in

7 custody of the International Tribunal, that is, the period from 6 October

8 1997 to the date of this Judgement, shall be deducted from the sentences.

9 The Court will rise.

10 --- Whereupon the Judgement adjourned at 2.41 p.m.
















Page 28520













13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English

14 and French transcripts.