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|The wonder of kufr justice|
|02/26/01 at 11:28:26|
|War crimes tribunal convicts top Bosnia Croat |
By Anthony Deutsch, Associated Press
26 February 2001
The U.N. war crimes tribunal Monday convicted Dario Kordic, a Bosnian Croat politician and the most senior civilian in U.N. custody, of authorizing murders and war crimes against Bosnian Muslims.
The tribunal also convicted Mario Cerkez, a Croat military commander, of war crimes in leading attacks against Muslim villages during the Bosnian war in 1993–94.
The court said Kordic, 40, helped plan and organize a systematic campaign to drive Muslims from an area the Croats wanted to be joined to the newly created state of Croatia. He was the head of the nationalist Croatian political party in his Bosnian home town and a vice president of the Croatian Defense Council, which guided the Croatian military.
Presiding judge Richard May of Britain said Kordic was involved in crimes "characterized by ruthlessness and savagery and in which no distinction was made as to the age of its victims: young and old were either murdered or expelled."
He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.
The court sentenced Cerkez to 15 years imprisonment for commanding troops that committed atrocities against Muslims, failing to prevent those crimes and failing to punish the perpetrators.
Kordic was found innocent of being among those who set the policy of ethnic cleansing, but he was "enthusiastic" in carrying out the campaign "and played an instrumental part," the judgment said.
Although he was only a politician, May told Kordic, "you played your part as surely as the man who pulled the trigger."
The worst of the massacres was in Ahmici on April 16, 1993, when Croatian militiamen stormed into Muslim homes, gunned down entire families and set houses ablaze. Survivors of the bullets were burned alive.
The court found that Kordic was involved in planning that raid, but Cerkez was acquitted in that incident, since his brigade was did not take part in the fighting.
The two men were charged with a total of 44 counts of murder, persecution, plunder and other war crimes or crimes against humanity, and could have been sentenced to life imprisonment. But the court found that their responsibilities were less than described by the prosecution during the 20–month trial.
Kordic was convicted on 12 counts, and Cerkez on 15. The more than three years they have been in custody will be reduced from their prison terms, the court said.
The proceedings against Kordic, who was the most influential political figure to be brought to trial, were seen as a test case for political responsibility for atrocities on the battlefield.
But the court was cautious in applying the rule of command responsibility against him, saying the chain of command was unclear. It said Kordic was not in "the highest echelons" of policymaking, and he "did not possess the authority to stop the crimes or punish the perpetrators."
Both men were found to have organized "a pattern of plunder" in which mosques were deliberately targeted.
"The number of dead may never be known" in the ethnic cleansing campaign, Judge May said, but they were surely in the hundreds, with thousands more expelled.
The Ahmici attack was singled out as especially brutal. Before it began, 356 Muslims and 87 Croats lived in the village. Immediately afterward, no Muslims remained. Croat homes were left untouched.
As part of an "ethnic cleansing" campaign, Bosnian Croat forces murdered hundreds of Muslims from a string of villages, used women and the elderly prisoners as human shields during enemy bombing raids and forced thousands of others to flee, the indictment says.
Prosecutors say the massacres were so effective and systematic that they effectively destroyed or removed almost the entire local Muslim population.
Kordic has been described as a determined figure who quickly climbed the ranks of the political structure at the onset of Croatian independence. A former journalist and political science student, he gave himself the title of Colonel, but never formally obtained military rank.
"In his various high–ranking positions and through the power and influence that he exercised, Dario Kordic, played a key role in developing, establishing and executing the policies," his indictment said.
Both suspects turned themselves in to the tribunal in 1997, two years after being indicted.
The indictment initially included four other co–accused Bosnian Croats. Gen. Tihomir Blaskic has appealed a 45–year sentence handed down in March and Zlatko Aleksovski was transferred to Finland to serve a 7–year term in September.
Charges were dropped against Ivan Santic and Pero Skopljak in 1997.
The tribunal, established in 1993 to try those responsible for atrocities in the Balkans, has publicly indicted 98 individuals. The most wanted of 27 suspects still at large are former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, ex–political strongman Radovan Karadic and military chief Ratko Mladic.
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