1 Wednesday, 4
2 [Open session]
3 [The witness entered court]
4 [The accused entered court]
5 --- Upon commencing at 9.43 a.m.
6 JUDGE MAY: Mr. Nice, I'm sorry, first of all, that we've kept
7 everybody waiting, but there has been a development which will require the
8 attention of the Court at 4.00. We'll deal with it then. Yes, it will be
9 in closed session, though.
10 Yes, let the witness take the declaration.
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I solemnly declare that I will speak
12 the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
13 WITNESS: ANTO BERTOVIC
14 [Witness answered through interpreter]
15 JUDGE MAY: If you'd like to take a seat.
16 Yes, Mr. Kovacic.
17 MR. KOVACIC: Thank you, Your Honours. Since a closed session was
18 mentioned, on behalf of this Defence, we don't have any request for a
19 closed session for this witness.
20 JUDGE MAY: Very well.
21 Examined by Mr. Kovacic:
22 Q. [Interpretation] Good morning, Mr. Bertovic.
23 A. Good morning.
24 Q. Thank you for coming here at our request. Let me warn you. First
25 of all, we both speak the first language, and I would like you to pause
1 between my question and your answer so that we enable the interpretation
2 to run smoothly.
3 Also, will you please state for the record your full name, place
4 and date of birth.
5 A. My name is Anto Bertovic. I was born on 12 January 1969 in Mali
6 Mosunj, Vitez municipality, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
7 Q. Mr. Bertovic, are you married?
8 A. Yes, I'm married, and I'm a father of one.
9 Q. What is your education, and what is your last schooling you
11 A. I graduated from the higher military academy of the former JNA
13 Q. Where and when did you graduate?
14 A. I graduated from the academy in 1990 in Sarajevo.
15 Q. Did you say 1990 or 1999?
16 A. My apologies. It was 1990, not 1999.
17 Q. Major Bertovic, today you hold the rank of major in the federal
18 army of BiH. Can you please tell me what is your unit, and what is your
20 A. I presently hold a rank of major in the Federation army, in the
21 Third Division Vitez, 3rd Brigade of the 1st Croat Guard Corps.
22 Q. If this is not a secret, what is your position there? What do you
24 A. In this unit I am the head of the S-3 section, which has to do
25 with the operations and training.
1 Q. Very well, Mr. Bertovic. Were you ever a member of any political
3 A. During my service in the JNA I was a member of the Communist
4 Party, but definitely not an active one. However, today I am not a member
5 of any party, and I'm completely apolitical.
6 Q. When you came to Vitez after you left the JNA, were you a member
7 of the HDZ?
8 A. No.
9 Q. Let me just take you through your career in 1991 and 1992. In
10 1990, where were you stationed?
11 A. In 1990, I was in the Republic of Macedonia, in the Stip
12 garrison. I was there as a second lieutenant and I was a platoon
13 commander there.
14 Q. From there you were transferred. Where were you transferred from
15 there, and what was the position you were given on that occasion?
16 A. I was transferred from the Stip garrison to the Gevgelija
17 garrison. That is also in the Republic of Macedonia. I became the
18 platoon commander; I was put in charge of training the border guards.
19 Q. Both these positions were within the JNA, that is, the former
20 Yugoslav People's Army; is that correct?
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. When did you join the defence which the Croats had organised in
24 A. I joined the defence organised by the Croats in 1992, in early
25 spring of 1992, in fact, in the month of February.
1 Q. Within which HVO body was this?
2 A. After I escaped from the JNA, that is, at the very beginning I
3 reported to Stara Bila, to the coordinator for such activities - I believe
4 that this was Rudo Kurevija - and also to an official of the Territorial
5 Defence, and then finally to the HVO municipal staff.
6 Q. We will come back to that, but let me just take you through all
7 the positions that you've held. What was your position in December 1992?
8 A. In December 1992 I was given the position of the commander of the
9 2nd Battalion of the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade.
10 Q. What was the position which you held in 1993?
11 A. Sometime in mid-March 1993 I was appointed to the position of
12 commander of the 1st Battalion of the newly established Vitez Brigade.
13 Q. Now, this takes us beyond the indictment, but just in order to
14 provide continuity, what position did you get after the Washington
16 A. After the Washington Agreements, I was appointed liaison officer
17 with the ABiH in UNPROFOR, with the Vitez Brigade.
18 Q. Now, this position of liaison officer required the agreement of
19 all sides with which you were to be in contact. Was there any opposition
20 to you being assigned to this position?
21 A. Yes. Such duties could not be carried out by people who were
22 compromised in any way during the conflict, and if such persons would be
23 assigned to this position, there would be opposition. However, I carried
24 out this task without any opposition and without any objections of any
25 side, to everybody's satisfaction.
1 Q. Members of ABiH with whom you had daily contacts during that
2 period, did they have any negative attitudes towards you due to your
3 wartime activities?
4 A. No, they had no negative attitudes; in fact, we cooperated very
5 successfully and we solved many problems which existed at that time.
6 Q. Thank you. I'll move to the next topic now, which is your escape
7 from the JNA. Perhaps it would be best if you'd just describe in your own
8 words briefly why you escaped from the JNA in 1991.
9 A. I escaped the JNA because of the following: I carefully watched
10 the development and the break-up of the Yugoslav Federation, the events in
11 Slovenia and later in Croatia. I then reached the conclusion that I
12 should leave the JNA because at that time it became something that had
13 nothing to do with what I was taught in the school and it was something
14 that I did not expect. So I decided to formally file a request for
15 severance of my position in the JNA.
16 Q. And did you do that?
17 A. Yes, but I did not get approval to leave the JNA, and I believe
18 that that was illegal. It was only several months later, more precisely,
19 at the end of 1991, I received oral approval, but I was to wait until June
20 of 1992 in order for this severance to take place.
21 Q. Is it correct that in early 1992 it finally became clear what the
22 JNA role was in the break-up of Yugoslavia?
23 A. During that period I was able to clearly see that the JNA was
24 becoming more and more pro-Serbian, both through its activities and
25 through the events which were taking place in the former Yugoslavia at
1 that time. On the basis of these conclusions, I reached the decision to
2 escape from the JNA. This happened in late January 1992, that is, early
3 February 1992.
4 Q. And then you came back to Vitez?
5 A. Yes.
6 Q. Perhaps we need to clarify one thing so that the Trial Chamber be
7 perfectly clear on this point. You said that you could not agree with
8 certain things which were going on in the army, in the Yugoslav People's
9 Army, in the course of 1991, 1992 because you have been taught differently
10 in school. The relationship of equality of various ethnic groups which
11 formed the JNA personnel, did it change?
12 A. Yes, of course. At that time in the military district where I was
13 serving, suddenly there were personnel changes, and commanders of Serbian
14 ethnic background were appointed to all key positions, all commanding
16 Q. Mr. Bertovic, maybe this will just call for a "yes" or "no"
17 answer. Did you fully accept the concept of equality of all ethnic groups
18 who lived in the former Yugoslavia?
19 A. Yes, completely, and that was my guiding idea. At that time that
20 was presented as a brotherhood and equality of all people. However, in
21 late 1991 that completely fell apart, for reasons which I have just
22 mentioned, and as a person, I also was discriminated against by people who
23 were in charge of units at that time. And after I formally requested
24 my severance, I was sent to be commander of the border post which usually
25 was a position held by either lower-ranking officers or non-commissioned
1 officers. So that was a form of discrimination against me.
2 Q. You mentioned the HVO and that you arrived in Vitez, that you
3 reported to the Territorial Defence and, through the coordinator in the
4 village, you reported to the HVO municipal headquarters. What were the
5 reactions? Let's go step by step. Were you called by the Territorial
6 Defence and engaged by them?
7 A. The Territorial Defence never called me and never gave me any
8 role. The truth of the matter is that on one occasion I received a
9 salary, a paycheque from the Territorial Defence, but I never was given
10 any position with the Territorial Defence. And the first task I was ever
11 given was by the municipal headquarters, which was to go as a soldier to a
12 training camp at Zabrdje.
13 Q. Major Bertovic, when you reported to these bodies which were
14 engaged in defence duties, why did you report to them?
15 A. The reason why I reported was exclusively to join the defence
16 against the aggression of the then-JNA or the BSA in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
17 At that time my view was this was coming up and there were a number of
18 things that pointed to this development.
19 Q. You mentioned that you were first summoned there by the municipal
20 HVO staff to go --
21 JUDGE MAY: Don't lead. Can we deal with this more quickly too?
22 We need to get to -- the witness has given his evidence that he wasn't
23 given a position with the Territorial Defence. He was given a task by the
24 municipal headquarters, which was go to the training camp at Zabrdje.
25 Now, can we not move on to there. Yes, Mr. Nice.
1 MR. NICE: Your Honour, it's also clear the witness is following
2 his summary. I don't know what his recall is on that, but he is and
3 indeed reading from it from time to time.
4 JUDGE MAY: Well, it may be better if you give your evidence as
5 you recollect it, Major Bertovic, without referring to the summary. If
6 you want on a particular point to refresh your memory, just say so and
7 you'll probably get leave to do so.
8 Yes. Can we move on to Zabrdje.
9 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
10 Q. And you specifically, what did you do at Zabrdje after you were
11 summoned there? What was it all about?
12 A. At Zabrdje specifically I did the following: I was summoned as a
13 plain soldier to perform tasks as such, and they were definitely military,
14 that is, basically training of men, preparing for various tasks.
15 Q. Other people who came summoned by the staff, how did they report,
16 on the basis of what?
17 A. Well, I guess like me, being summoned by those local
18 coordinators. At least at that time I saw no other difference.
19 Q. Was it -- were you duty bound to report, you and other people, or
20 could one simply refuse to report?
21 A. As I saw it at the time, it was all fully voluntary, and I too, as
22 a volunteer, embarked on executing that task.
23 Q. Major Bertovic, in 1992, could you tell us which were the chief
24 activities or, rather, the principal actions conducted by the staff?
25 Which was its best-known action?
1 A. At that time, in addition to the training at Zabrdze, the
2 municipal staff was also engaged in some more important activities. I
3 think they were most important regarding the conduct of actions in the
4 areas of Turbe, Travnik, and then Jajce.
5 Q. Did you take part in the action at Slimena?
6 A. No, I was not a participant in the action at Slimena because at
7 that time I was at the Zabrdze camp.
8 Q. Do you know anything about the Slimena action?
9 A. About the Slimena action I know certain things that I learnt
10 personally, and that would be as follows: In the Slimena action, members
11 of the municipal staff took part alongside members of the Territorial
12 Defence, and as far as I know, Mario Cerkez also took part in the action.
13 Q. When you say "Slimena," what does that mean? What kind of a
14 facility was it?
15 A. That was only a depot of materiel which the former JNA had
16 collected from the Territorial Defence in the area, and that was the sole
17 purpose of that facility.
18 Q. Did you take part in the action at Galica?
19 A. No, I did not take part in the Galica action either.
20 Q. Was it one of the actions in the struggle against the Serbs? Do
21 you know something about that?
22 A. I do know, because at that time such actions meant a great deal in
23 terms of information. That was certainly an action against the JNA in the
24 area where it held its front lines, in the Vlasic area.
25 Q. Just briefly, Major Bertovic, will you tell us something about the
1 front lines in Jajce? Who fought against whom?
2 A. At the Jajce front line it was quite clear that the forces -- that
3 the parties to the conflict were as follows: The JNA and the army of
4 Republika Srpska versus the municipal HVO staffs and --
5 JUDGE MAY: We don't need to go into what happened. We've heard a
6 lot of evidence about this. Unless the witness has direct evidence which
7 is new, I suggest that we've covered it. Unless there's something
8 particular you want covered.
9 MR. KOVACIC: Certainly, Your Honours, I would be more than happy
10 to skip that part. I just wanted to be sure that we defined the activity
11 of Stozer.
12 Q. [Interpretation] Later on, I believe you've already told us
13 something about it, there were also some defence military operations
14 nearer to your area, nearer to your municipalities. Will you just list
15 those localities, please?
16 A. These localities were, by and large, related to Turbe; whether to
17 the south or to the north or, rather, northwest of it, but somewhere in
18 the area of Turbe. And then towards Novi Travnik, Kamenjas, and Slatka
20 Q. When you went to those places, did you spend some time in the
21 village of Vlahovici?
22 A. Yes, I did go to those places on various occasions, and I spent
23 quite a lot of time in the village of Vlahovici.
24 Q. And the village of Vlahovici in terms of ethnicity belongs to
1 A. Well, that village was -- I mean, that village was exclusively
2 Muslim, and there were Muslims living in it.
3 Q. How did they receive you there? What kind of a reception did you
4 meet with there?
5 A. The reception I met with there was very good, and the cooperation
6 was very good, indeed. In the area of that village, since I was in
7 possession of considerable knowledge, I trained some of their members to
8 use some specific types of weapons.
9 Q. Major Bertovic, did the Territorial Defence and the HVO municipal
10 staff in Vitez cooperate in the struggle against the JNA and the ARS?
11 A. I recall that there was some cooperation, that they had some
12 agreed activities, and I think yes.
13 Q. Just one question more about 1992, until we come to a particular
14 incident in 1992, and that is, in 1992, up to the 20th of October, were
15 there any clashes, was there any fighting between the HVO and the BH army
16 or, rather, the Territorial Defence in the area which you covered?
17 A. As far as I can remember, during that period of time there were no
18 clashes between the HVO and the BH army. Well, yes, there were some
19 incidents, but they had little to do with the army, and they were resolved
20 very quickly to the satisfaction of both sides.
21 Q. Thank you. And now, perhaps, we should move on to the well-known
22 events of the 20th of October, 1992.
23 Mr. Bertovic, at the time did you get any specific task when that
24 incident happened with the roadblock below Ahmici?
25 A. Yes, I was given a concrete task, and it had to do with the
1 pulling out of materiel from the area of Kruscica to Vitez. That task was
2 assigned me on the 19th, and also on the 20th of October.
3 Q. What did you do on the 19th?
4 A. On the 19th, on the 19th, together with Stipo Ceko, we pulled out
5 that materiel from the Lovac Motel, near Vitez. And if necessary I can
6 describe in detail how we did that.
7 Q. No, I do not think that will be necessary now. But when you say
8 "Stipo Ceko," whom do you mean?
9 A. Stipo Ceko at that time was our logistics man.
10 Q. Did you transfer some of the materiel from that place to Vitez, to
11 the town?
12 A. Yes. In the evening of the 19th we managed to transfer some of
13 the materiel.
14 Q. How many persons took part in this on the 19th? How many of you
15 were there in the group?
16 A. That group comprised, I think, four or five persons; it was a
17 small group.
18 Q. What happened the next evening, on the 20th of October?
19 A. On the 20th of October, when the sides clashed and some operations
20 took place, I requested that I be given an escort for the task, vehicles
21 that I would take to the depot in Kruscica. I was assigned some ten
22 military policemen as escort; in addition to them, there were myself,
23 Stipo Ceko, and a couple of other members of the municipal staff.
24 Q. Thank you.
25 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honour, I would like to go now into private
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 session now for a brief period because the name of a protected witness
2 will be mentioned.
3 JUDGE MAY: Yes.
4 [Private session]
2 [Open session]
3 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
4 Q. Mr. Bertovic, if this name comes up again, just don't mention it.
5 Just say the young man that I spoke about. That second night, did you
6 carry out that task that you were assigned?
7 A. That second night we failed to carry out that task because
8 somewhere near the facility, that is, the Plavac Motel, we were ambushed
9 by the BH army and an open clash ensued between the group that I led and
10 those people who had waylaid us. And after I and several other men were
11 wounded, we had to beat a retreat, that is, return down the same road
13 Q. And if I understand you well, you did not manage to get to those
14 weapons, or rather the motel where those weapons were kept.
15 A. No, we did not make it to the hotel and we had to turn back.
16 Q. At that time, when you went on that mission and when you were
17 wounded, was the situation with the blockade of the road below Ahmici
18 resolved by that time or wasn't it?
19 A. Could you repeat that question, please? I didn't really quite
20 understand it.
21 Q. You said that you undertook that action in the evening of the 20th
22 of October. And by that time, was the roadblock from the main road below
23 Ahmici removed?
24 A. In the evening of the 20th of October, I think, as far as I know,
25 that yes, that the roadblock had been removed by that time.
1 Q. And shall we now go back a little, because we omitted to mention
2 one thing when we were talking about the municipal HVO staff. Could you
3 please tell us, who was the first man -- who was the commander of that
5 A. The commander of the municipal staff was Marijan Skopljak.
6 Q. And at that time, say in summer 1992, how many men did he have
7 under his command?
8 A. As far as I could observe at the time, he had about five or six
9 men working with him in that municipal staff.
10 Q. Could you perhaps give us the names of some of the men that you
11 remember worked with him at the time?
12 A. Yes, I do remember some of them. They were with him, Stipo Ceko,
13 then Mario Cerkez. Stipo Ceko, Mario Cerkez. Oh, yes. Zeljo Sajevic was
14 there too, and a couple more.
15 Q. And where was the headquarters of that staff when you joined it?
16 A. The headquarters of the municipal staff was in the -- in Marijan
17 Skopljak's house and then was transferred to the Vitez Hotel.
18 Q. Thank you. I think we can now move on to the time or rather the
19 events related to the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade. Major Bertovic, could
20 you tell us, when was the HVO Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade founded?
21 A. The HVO brigade Stjepan Tomasevic was founded sometime in early
22 December 1992.
23 Q. And did that brigade cover only one municipality?
24 A. That brigade covered the municipalities of Vitez and Novi Travnik,
25 and its seat, or rather its command was in Novi Travnik.
1 Q. Was that a common solution, for one brigade to cover two
2 municipalities, to be founded for two municipalities in Central Bosnia at
3 that time, or perhaps did some others devise some different solutions?
4 A. Well, by and large, in the majority of municipalities in Central
5 Bosnia, every municipality had its brigade, and the only exception was the
6 Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade, which spread across the territory of two
8 Q. And who was the first commander of the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade?
9 A. The first commander was Borivoje Malbasic.
10 Q. And at the time when Borivoje Malbasic was the commander, did
11 Cerkez hold any post in that brigade?
12 A. He did. He was the head of the staff, or rather deputy
13 brigade -- brigade deputy commander.
14 Q. And could you tell us, Major Bertovic, when did Malbasic leave?
15 A. Mr. Malbasic left sometime in February 1993. I believe he went to
16 Vares, in the area of Vares somewhere.
17 Q. And was Mario Cerkez assigned a different role, and what role was
19 A. Yes. Mario Cerkez was assigned the role of the commander's
20 representative in the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade, and to all intents and
21 purposes he became the brigade commander.
22 Q. You said representative of the commander or agent of the
23 commander. This evidently is some kind of a military solution. What does
24 it mean?
25 A. Well, I would say it was a transition period until the final
1 solution, until the final appointment of a person to step in, that is, to
2 succeed the person who had left this post. We still have the situation
3 that such administrative problems are resolved in this manner.
4 Q. Thank you. Tell us, which was the military task of the Stjepan
5 Tomasevic Brigade? What was its task at the time?
6 A. The only military task of our then-brigade, of our Stjepan
7 Tomasevic, was only and exclusively the struggle against the ARS and the
8 JNA in the broad area of Turbe, and the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade carried
9 out this task successfully.
10 Q. Major Bertovic, in addition to that task, did the Stjepan
11 Tomasevic Brigade undertake any activities directed at civilians?
12 A. No. I'm quite confident about that.
13 Q. And with regard to the defence against the JNA and the ARS, which
14 you mentioned as its task, which sector and where -- which sector did the
15 Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade hold at the time performing this defence task?
16 A. The brigade held the positions at the Slatka Voda, Strikanca,
17 Mravinjac, Kamenjas to Vucja Glava.
18 Q. And what function were you assigned after the foundation of the
19 Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade?
20 A. I was appointed commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Stjepan
21 Tomasevic Brigade.
22 Q. And where were the recruits of the 2nd Battalion recruited from?
23 A. Members of the 2nd Battalion of the Stjepan Tomasevic were all
24 volunteers reporting from the territory of the municipality of Vitez.
25 Q. And did some people use a lay name? Was there a popular name for
1 that unit which you say was the 2nd Battalion?
2 A. Yes. As far as I can remember, they referred to it as the Viteska
3 Battalion, Vitez Battalion.
4 Q. And with regard another battalion within the same brigade, you
5 again had a defined sector on the defence line which you mentioned; is
6 that correct?
7 A. Yes, that is correct.
8 Q. So within a larger sector which you described to us, you were
9 responsible for a part of that sector, and which part of the defence line
10 was it?
11 A. It was the segment of the front line Slatka Vode, Strikanca, to
13 Q. And all this is -- geographically, as against Turbe, where is it?
14 A. Well, with reference to Turbe, it would be south, south-west.
15 Q. Where was the command seat of your 2nd Battalion?
16 A. The command seat of -- my command seat, rather, the command seat
17 of my battalion was, in the beginning, in the Workers' University
18 building, that is, the cinema, and subsequently at the Sumarija building
19 at Rijeka.
20 Q. And both those places are where?
21 A. In Vitez.
22 Q. The headquarters of the battalion while you were in the Stjepan
23 Tomasevic, was it in the cinema all the time?
24 A. I think so, yes. I do think so.
25 Q. Is it correct that it was only after the command of the Vitez
1 Brigade was formed that you were transferred to a different location?
2 A. Yes, that is correct; that is, after the Vitez Brigade was
3 founded, we were posted to the Sumarija, Rijeka post.
4 Q. Just one more question about this. When the Vitez Brigade began
5 to come into being, the command of your battalion, was it simply assigned
6 to a different unit, or was this command also changed in some way,
7 restructured, cut down in numbers, increased in numbers? What happened to
8 your command?
9 A. When the Vitez Brigade was founded, a certain restructuring of my
10 command began to take place; that is how I could call it. Some people
11 changed their functions; some people were not happy with those solutions
12 and they just switched off. But a larger part of the command did stay the
13 same even though we did go through this restructuring.
14 Q. Thank you. To avoid misunderstanding, at what time did the
15 establishment of the Vitez Brigade begin? When did you first hear that
16 this was going to happen?
17 A. I first heard about activities related to the establishment of
18 that brigade in early March 1992 -- 1993.
19 Q. Could you repeat the year?
20 A. 1993.
21 Q. The establishment of the Vitez Brigade at the time that you
22 mentioned, did the military tasks of your battalion change?
23 A. Well, if I can remember now, the military tasks remained the same
24 on the whole. We covered that same defence sector in the Turbe area.
25 There were minor shifts to the left or to the right, but on the whole we
1 remained in the same area, in the area of Turbe.
2 Q. If I understood you correctly, you soldiers refer to it as your
3 zone of responsibility; is that correct?
4 A. Yes, it is.
5 Q. Since defence lines were set up in those territories, in those
6 locations, and since the establishment of the Vitez Brigade, how did you
7 keep the army on those defence lines? How did you organise yourselves?
8 A. We maintained those lines by taking shifts, by rotating shifts.
9 We called up soldiers from the certain potential that the battalion had;
10 we rotated shifts up to 90 soldiers, but for certain reasons we usually
11 directed up to 60 soldiers to that particular area.
12 Q. That target number of 90 soldiers, that would correspond to what
13 type of unit?
14 A. Well, that would be a diminished company, a smaller company.
15 Q. Could you explain that a bit? I didn't quite understand.
16 JUDGE MAY: I don't know, really, whether we need to go over this
17 evidence yet again about the shifts. We've heard a great deal of
18 evidence; I don't know how many witnesses have given evidence about the
19 shifts. We don't need to go over where the Sumarija building is in Vitez;
20 we know that. All the evidence which has been given so many times and
21 hasn't been challenged need not be repeated time and time again.
22 MR. KOVACIC: Thank you, Your Honour. I perfectly agree with
23 that, but I sensed lately from some questions on cross from the
24 Prosecution that that seems to be challenged. And since Mr. Bertovic is a
25 person who obviously organised that system, I thought it would be wise to
1 ask him. But I would skip that easily, and of course if the Prosecution
2 wanted to ask, he's available.
3 JUDGE MAY: They can ask him about the shifts if they challenge
4 that there were shifts going up. If you want to ask about a particular
5 day, of course you're able to do that.
6 [Trial Chamber confers]
7 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] Then perhaps just another question.
8 If you allow me, Your Honours, I would like to ask one more question in
9 this area.
10 JUDGE MAY: Yes.
11 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
12 Q. Major Bertovic, after fulfilling the task on the front line, when
13 the soldier would come back to his village, would you still consider him
14 your soldier?
15 A. After completing a task, the soldier is completely free to go home
16 and reunite with his family, do his own business -- go about his own
17 business. He is no longer a soldier of mine.
18 Q. Did you have any serious accommodation facilities for troops that
19 you used in 1993, like barracks?
20 A. No. You can hardly call them serious facilities. We had no
21 barracks; that complicated our work, and that is why we worked in shifts.
22 There was no other way to do it.
23 Q. At that same time, say, from the beginning of 1993, did the army
24 of Bosnia-Herzegovina on the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina have
1 A. Yes, the BH army had barracks such as in Travnik, in Zenica, and
2 some others.
3 Q. To conclude the story about holding the defence line against the
4 JNA, you as major issued orders to send soldiers to that front line,
5 didn't you?
6 A. Yes.
7 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honours, I was trying to find a way so that we
8 would not waste time with the documents, and I've prepared files with
9 about 26 documents mainly issued either by the witness or his superiors,
10 with an index, of course, on the top, which are showing more or less
11 continuous shifts in that period, from mid-December 1992 until April
13 JUDGE MAY: Yes, we'll put the documents in.
14 MR. KOVACIC: I would like to have that numbered as the evidence.
15 I will not bother to ask any more about the details. Only if you wish, we
16 can use any of those orders maybe as an example, and then we know what
17 was ...
18 JUDGE MAY: Thank you.
19 THE REGISTRAR: The document will be numbered Defence Exhibit
21 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
22 Q. Sir, this contains some documents which are more or less directly
23 related to shifts, and a great number of documents which specifically
24 relate to the sending of troops to the front lines. I would like you,
25 Major Bertovic, for formal reasons to take document number 3. Its
1 original number is 15/93. Look at the signature on page 2. Is that your
3 A. Yes.
4 THE INTERPRETER: Please put it on the ELMO because we don't seem
5 to have it.
6 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
7 Q. It looks like a typical document which you would issue during
8 preparations for going to the front line.
9 JUDGE MAY: The interpreters do not have the document. Let it go
10 onto the ELMO.
11 MR. KOVACIC: I will not go further into the details with that
12 document. I'm sorry if there was a mistake. In this file we have
13 documents related to organisation and related circumstances, and the other
14 ones are shifts continuously. But since we started with this one ...
15 Q. [Interpretation] Mr. Bertovic, have you seen all these documents
16 that we have prepared?
17 A. Yes.
18 Q. Do you accept that all these documents were either issued by you
19 or by other persons, and at a certain stage you have seen them and they
20 relate to the shifts, to the organisation of shifts, and other related
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. Thank you.
24 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] I would like a number for
25 identification. We did receive a number. I'm sorry. Perhaps it would be
1 best to take up the second list of documents. I apologise again for my
2 mistake; I mixed up binders. This binder contains documents which
3 directly relate to the shifts.
4 THE REGISTRAR: Document D132/2.
5 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
6 Q. Mr. Bertovic, if you would be so kind as to consider an example, a
7 typical example, I would say. Could you look at document number 2. Could
8 you tell us, first, is this your signature?
9 A. Yes.
10 Q. Could you tell us, very, very briefly, not to waste time: What
11 was the purpose of this order? What did you want to achieve with it?
12 A. Well, with this order, I wanted to achieve the following: After
13 the assembly of the shift and their preparation, I wanted to move that
14 shift to the zone of responsibility I was assigned by the command of the
15 Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade, and as we can see clearly from here, that is
16 Slatka Voda, Strikanca. I am appointing commander of the shift and I also
17 designate other details relating to transport and operation.
18 Q. Thank you. And let us take another example, document number 22,
19 chronologically the last one. That document is dated 13 April 1993. Is
20 that your signature?
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. Basically would you say it is very different from the first
23 document we've seen?
24 A. Well, basically there are no major differences. There are small
25 differences, but it is basically the same as the first one.
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 Q. In the introductory paragraph we see the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade
2 mentioned along with the Vitez Brigade. Is that one of the regular shifts
3 or was it called that due to some extraordinary event?
4 A. Well, the reason lies in the fact that the commander of the
5 Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade filed a request for help, for reinforcement,
6 probably due to the fact that movements of the enemy were observed, but
7 other details seem to be the same.
8 Q. And in this document, item 2, we can see at what time the unit was
9 to go to the defence line; is that correct?
10 A. Yes.
11 Q. Do you remember that this shift was scheduled to go there?
12 A. Yes. It is quite clear from this order.
13 Q. And was this order fulfilled? Was it carried out?
14 A. We did not have time to carry it out.
15 Q. Why didn't you do that?
16 A. Well, we didn't carry out this order because conflicts arose in
18 Q. We can put aside this document now. Thank you.
19 Major Bertovic, when the Vitez Brigade was established, who was
20 appointed its commander?
21 A. That was then Colonel Mario Cerkez.
22 Q. Who appointed you commander of the battalion?
23 A. I got my appointment through the brigade command, specifically
24 from the people who were in charge of personnel. I am not familiar with
25 the workings.
1 Q. Would you say it was from a level higher than the brigade level?
2 Is that how you remember it?
3 A. Yes, and from the point of view of personnel rules. That was the
4 way it was supposed to be.
5 Q. Major Bertovic, in the days just before the direct Muslim-Croat
6 conflict in the area of your municipality, how was your battalion
7 organised, the one that you commanded? How many members of the command
8 were there?
9 A. I had about eight standing members of the command.
10 Q. And how many troops did you have?
11 A. Well, the potential number from which I could draw shifts was 270,
12 300 max, and it was limited by the fact that response was voluntary and
13 people who wanted to leave the unit could not be prevented from doing so.
14 So the potential number was about 270.
15 Q. Please tell me, Major Bertovic: At any time before the 16th
16 April, was this entire potential number ever mobilised?
17 A. No, never, and the reason was obvious: We had no accommodation
18 facilities for such number of people and we simply could not afford to
19 organise our work in this way.
20 Q. What was the status of the equipment of the soldiers which you
21 activated and deactivated from time to time as needed?
22 A. Well, I would answer in two parts. As far as quartermaster
23 equipment is concerned, soldiers were dressed in camouflage uniforms,
24 pretty well worn. We had almost no possibility to change those uniforms,
25 and it sometimes happened that people would go to the front line in
1 civilian clothes. And a special problem regarding quartermaster equipment
2 was the lack of warm jackets in winter, so the shifts which would come
3 back from the zone of responsibility gave their jackets to the next shift
4 and went back home wearing their shirts only.
5 As far as weapons are concerned, it was mainly infantry weapons,
6 personal weapons, and it fell short of our needs at the time. The
7 infantry weapons included those very old rifles called Sokac, and that, of
8 course, was not adequate. And this was also shared between shifts, and as
9 far as I can remember now, not all soldiers were issued with weapons.
10 Q. The number of weapons which changed hands on the front line and
11 the type of these weapons, what did you leave on the front line: better
12 quality weaponry or lower quality, on the contrary?
13 A. Well, due to the present danger, we had to leave the best
14 available weapons on the front line.
15 Q. So weapons usually changed hands on the front line?
16 A. Yes, during the rotation of shifts.
17 Q. With regard to the preparations and departure, just before the
18 conflict, in March 1993, in view of the status of organisation, since you
19 led this unit, could you tell us: How much time did you need for the most
20 rapid possible mobilisation of one or more groups?
21 A. Well, in the beginning when the battalion was established, we
22 realised that this is one of the most important problems. It was not easy
23 to quickly gather the troops to go up and take up their shift. And that's
24 why we introduced the stage of preparation, which took place in the
25 Ribnjak Motel. It took us about three days to assemble a shift.
1 JUDGE MAY: I must ask you to concentrate on questions. The
2 question was: How much time did you need for the most rapid possible
3 mobilisation of one or more groups? I have no doubt you're trying to tell
4 us that, but it would help, and it would help us to finish this evidence
5 more quickly, if you could just concentrate on the time. How long would
6 it take you to mobilise a shift? Can you tell us? Days or weeks or
7 hours? Can you just deal with it that way, please.
8 A. Your Honours, together, one shift, to do this work completely, I
9 would need about three days.
10 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
11 Q. Did your organisation improve with time or did it remain the
12 same? Did this required time become shorter or not? Just answer with a
13 yes or no. If it did get shorter, then by how much?
14 A. Well, basically it remained the same.
15 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] Thank you.
16 [In English] Your Honours, I think it would be an appropriate
18 JUDGE MAY: You're going on to the 16th of April?
19 MR. KOVACIC: You mean before the break?
20 JUDGE MAY: After the break. That's the next topic, I
21 understand. Yes, so that would be a convenient moment. We'll adjourn now
22 for half an hour.
23 Major Bertovic, would you remember during this and any other
24 adjournment not to speak to anybody about your evidence until it's over.
25 Don't let anybody speak to you about it, and that does include members of
1 the Defence team.
2 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, Your Honour. It's perfectly
3 clear to me.
4 JUDGE MAY: Thank you. Half past 11.00, please.
5 --- Recess taken at 11.01 a.m.
6 --- On resuming at 11.35 a.m.
7 JUDGE MAY: Yes, Mr. Kovacic.
8 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honour, before going on to the 16th of April,
9 1993, I think that it would be economically wise to use document Z653 to
10 be presented to the witness. Since that document was many times shown to
11 the witnesses and since it is produced by the unit under the command of
12 this witness, probably it would be practical to see what the witness may
13 say about that document. What I'm trying to say is we did waste a lot of
14 time with that document, but probably this is the proper witness to deal
15 with that.
16 Q. [Interpretation] Mr. Bertovic, just two or three questions
17 regarding this document. This document has been presented in the
18 courtroom several times already. Please, first, is it correct that this
19 document was compiled by your office?
20 A. Yes.
21 Q. Are you able to recall which person - you see the date of this
22 document - which person was the SIS officer at that time with your unit?
23 A. This is not signed. As far as I can recall today, the SIS officer
24 at that time was Ivan Budimir.
25 Q. Can you be certain of that, or do you just believe that he was
1 this person at the time?
2 A. When I think a little harder, yes, I can say with certainty that
3 it was Ivan Budimir.
4 Q. Thank you. Major Bertovic, could you please interpret for us,
5 first of all, the heading? No, let me ask you this first: Did you
6 request of SIS to compile this report for you?
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. What was the purpose of this request? What did you ask the SIS to
9 do for you?
10 A. Through this document I had requested of the SIS to provide me
11 information about the overall pool from which I could send shifts, first
12 for preparations and then for carrying out assignments in the area of
13 responsibility which was ours.
14 Q. Major Bertovic, was this the only attempt of yours to get such
15 information? In other words, had you given such requests before?
16 A. From the moment I assumed the role of the battalion commander at
17 the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade, and later at the Vitez Brigade, I requested
18 on several occasions to have such documents produced for me, because the
19 members of the brigade were volunteers, and the number of these volunteers
20 changed because some would leave the brigade. And there was a constant
21 need to track the pool of people available from which I could plan, and
22 then send off people to shifts at the line of defence.
23 Q. Just one more question. You see the subheadings, 1st, 2nd, 3rd,
24 and you have listed the company and the company commander. Does this
25 correspond to the companies which you had to form for certain tasks in
1 your area of responsibility, or was this something else?
2 A. This is something else. This does not correspond to the strength
3 of the unit that I would send there. I just am showing here the pool of
4 people from which I could draw personnel to send to the front line.
5 Q. Just one more question connected to this. Would you always try to
6 send people from the same village, from the same small area, or would you
7 typically try to combine people from various areas?
8 A. The practice was not to send soldiers from a single area. That
9 meant that we had to combine personnel from various areas, and so the
10 shifts that were sent up were usually combined. That also depended on the
11 situation, concrete situation, that we had when trying to tackle all the
13 Q. Thank you. I have no further questions related to this document.
14 Let us move to the conflict of 16 April 1993.
15 By way of introduction, Major Bertovic, on the 15th of April or
16 before, did you have any information regarding a possible conflict between
17 the HVO and ABiH? In other words, was it anything that could be expected,
18 or that any side had any plans in that regard?
19 A. No.
20 Q. When did you first learn about such a possibility?
21 A. I first heard of such a possibility in the evening hours when
22 Commander Cerkez called me.
23 Q. We're not going to go into the conditions that led to this. But
24 in the course of April there were a number of incidents, some of them
25 fairly serious. Did you during that period think at any point that there
1 could be an open conflict between these two sides?
2 A. As you just said, there had been incidents before that and they
3 were successfully dealt with through negotiations, and such incidents were
4 settled. But on the basis of information which I had available, I never
5 believed that there could be an open conflict, that is, a war, that took
6 place between the two sides. And I was deeply convinced that this would
7 be basically limited to incidents which would be solved and dealt with,
8 and this is how I went about -- this is how I dealt with it in terms of my
9 job against the BSA.
10 Q. Major Bertovic, did you have any contacts with your fellow
11 officers? And what was their thinking?
12 A. I was not an officer who had such views. I believe that my whole
13 command staff, some of those brigade command members, had similar views.
14 And in my assessment, they sort of represented a public opinion at the
15 time. I believe that most people with whom I had contact at the time
16 thought along those lines.
17 Q. Very well. Let's go to the next question. When did you meet with
18 Cerkez on the eve of this conflict?
19 A. I met with Commander Cerkez sometime in the evening hours, that
20 is, the early night. I cannot give you the exact time, but this is after
21 I was called by my duty officer. I went and reported to the brigade
23 Q. And what did Mario Cerkez tell you at that time, to your best
25 A. On that occasion, at the headquarters, in his office, he told me
1 that he had received information from Commander Blaskic that ABiH was
2 preparing to take some strategic locations in Central Bosnia, especially
3 in the Vitez municipality, and that on the basis of this information he
4 had ordered a higher alert of all units. And I was tasked at that time
5 expressly to block with my unit the direction which the ABiH may be using
6 to get to those locations at Kruscica and Vranjska.
7 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] Perhaps it would be fastest if we
8 give the witness map D85/2. This was a map drawn by Witness Sajevic.
9 Q. So you said that your task was to block the direction from which
10 the attack had come from the area of Kruscica and Vranjska. Now, you will
11 see the map. Here another witness who gave evidence before you marked up
12 what in military terms this could mean in the field. Would you agree with
13 me that the blue line, the blue dotted line, in military terms was the
14 area which you were to cover militarily in order to prevent the advance of
15 the enemy forces from Kruscica and Vranjska towards the town?
16 A. I agree with what is shown on this map in general terms. Perhaps
17 the map is even broader on the right flank than what we were able to carry
19 Q. Very well. But let's leave the map for a moment. My question to
20 you really is what specifically you did as a soldier who had this task.
21 In military terms, what would you attempt to control? Were these only
22 roads or would you try to establish a full line of defence?
23 A. After having assessed the situation, I decided to basically
24 establish control over the road coming from Kruscica and Vranjska to
25 Vitez, and at Crveno Brdce was also an important feature, that is, a
1 feature above the villages of Rijeka and Vranjiska.
2 Q. Very well. But let us now follow the time line to see how you
3 went about your task. First of all, Major Bertovic, at the time when you
4 were tasked with this, where were your soldiers, your active soldiers or
5 your mobilised soldiers?
6 A. At that moment my active-duty soldiers were deployed as follows:
7 It was in the Hotel Ribnjak at Kruscica where I had a shift which was
8 preparing to go to the front line, and in another location I had at Slatka
9 Voda another -- and Strikanca had another shift which was to go to the
10 line of defence.
11 Q. In these two locations, can you give us an approximate number?
12 How many in total -- how many soldiers in total did you have?
13 A. In the Slatka Voda-Strikanca sector, from what I recall now, I had
14 about 60 soldiers; and at the location in the Ribnjak Hotel, 40, up to 50
16 Q. If my math is correct, that would be a total of about 100
17 active-duty soldiers at the time.
18 A. Now, what point in time are you referring to?
19 Q. I'm referring to the night when you received this information.
20 A. Yes.
21 Q. That evening, on the 15th of April, did you have reliable
22 communication lines with your shift up at the front line, the shift you
23 referred to?
24 A. I did not have -- we did not have reliable communication equipment
25 with the shift that was up at the Slatka Voda-Strikanca line.
1 Q. And as far as the group in the Kruscica motel is concerned, what
2 did you do with them?
3 A. I issued a task to the group in the Kruscica motel to be on the
4 alert, in other words, to stay in that location and to be watchful.
5 Q. Did you have a reason why you did not tell them to go, and why did
6 you not deploy them in the locations where you thought they should be
8 A. There were several reasons why I did not move them from that area.
9 Q. Could you give us just the basic reasons for it?
10 A. The reasons were as follows: If they were to move from that area
11 to the area near my command post, incidents could be provoked similar to
12 the incidents we had before during such movements. On several occasions
13 such shifts were disarmed at Fatina Vodica and in the area around the
14 school, that is, in the lower part of Kruscica. The ABiH soldiers had
15 disarmed these previous shifts and abused them. That was one reason.
16 Another reason was that the local population could be disturbed because
17 this was not the usual type of movement. And the third reason was to
18 avoid any type of incident that might happen. And then the fourth reason
19 was my own personal assessment and decision that they should stay in the
20 location where they were.
21 Q. Perhaps we should clarify this because there were some questions
22 in that regard. On the map which you had in front of you, could you
23 please point out the location of this motel.
24 A. [Indicates]
25 Q. That would be in the southern-most --
1 A. Yes, the southern-most part of Kruscica. And it has been marked
2 here in blue colour, that is, the location of this motel.
3 Q. After having talked to Commander Cerkez, and after having received
4 the order which you said you received, did you summon the members of your
6 A. After I personally assessed the task that I had received, I tasked
7 the duty officer with summoning all members of my command.
8 Q. Where did you all gather?
9 A. The staff gathered around midnight at the Sumarija command post.
10 Q. The members of the command staff, I assume that they lived in
11 various locations in the Vitez municipality; is that correct?
12 A. Yes. They were basically from all areas, all corners, of the
13 Vitez municipality.
14 Q. What did you tell them?
15 A. I told the members of the command staff what order we had received
16 from Commander Cerkez, and then we proceeded with assessing the
18 Q. What conclusion was reached, or was there a joint decision
20 A. We defined the common position, and there were several
21 conclusions. If necessary, I can list them.
22 Q. Perhaps just this: In essence, after having talked to the members
23 of your command staff, did you maintain the conclusion which you had
24 formed in your mind before having talked to them?
25 A. Yes. We all reached the same conclusion based on the previous
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 incidents which had taken place in the municipality.
2 Q. Did any of those present argue that a real conflict and a real war
3 were actually going to happen in reality?
4 A. No. Everybody was convinced that it would not, just as I was.
5 Q. Major Bertovic, even before, in the days and weeks leading to
6 this, were there --
7 JUDGE MAY: I think we've heard about this a great deal now. The
8 witness has said, repeated several times, that he was not expecting a
9 conflict. If we would stick to the summary more, I think we would make
10 better progress instead of going off in various directions.
11 MR. KOVACIC: Certainly, Your Honour, I will. I just wanted to
12 corroborate the other witness who especially said something in detail.
13 But that has obviously indirectly been said already.
14 Q. [Interpretation] The concrete plan that you drew up on the basis
15 of that order, you told us already that you decided not to activate the
16 group at Kruscica and the other one at Slatka Vode, and you already had
17 the order which you explained to us. So how did you embark on that task,
18 and what did you really manage to carry out?
19 A. We embarked on the execution of the task as follows: We decided,
20 as I have said, not to pull out the shift from Kruscica, but rather to
21 activate part of the men from the battalion who were nearest the
22 localities of Kruscica and Vranjska. We managed to do that in the course
23 of that night by deploying those men at the places that I have indicated,
24 with the task of, as I have said, preventing a possible breakthrough of
25 the ABiH forces and their occupation of strategic features.
1 Q. Major Bertovic, could you tell us, roughly, at least, how many
2 groups did you manage to deploy on the ground, and how many of them were
3 there altogether?
4 A. If my memory serves me well, there were about four groups, and
5 they were deployed in the facilities, as I have indicated. And that would
6 not be more than 80 men whom we managed to bring together.
7 Q. Did you get any other task concerning any other area that night
8 within the municipality of Vitez or outside it?
9 A. There were no other tasks within the municipality of Vitez that
10 night, nor did we deploy men at any other place, because we were
11 explicitly given this order, as I have already indicated.
12 Q. Thank you. Did you, thus, in military terms cover points or,
13 rather, directions along which that announced attack might possibly take
15 A. We covered the most important ones, in my judgement, but we did
16 not manage to cover the whole area. However, those points which, in my
17 view, were the most important ones, yes, those were covered.
18 Q. That night did you have another occasion to communicate with Mario
20 A. I managed to contact the commander on two occasions: once it was
21 in the area of the village of Rijeka, and that was a personal contact,
22 that is; and the second time was by telephone, and I called his home to
23 inform him about the undertaken measures.
24 Q. Your commander at the time, Mario Cerkez, does he live somewhere
25 in that area?
1 A. Yes, he lives precisely in that northern part of Kruscica.
2 Q. Thank you. That second contact which was by telephone, as you
3 have just told us, do you know his whereabouts at the time that you spoke
4 to him?
5 A. Yes. He was at home.
6 Q. Could you give us the approximate time when that happened? At
7 night, in the morning, roughly?
8 A. I cannot pinpoint the time, but it was late in the evening or,
9 rather, just before daybreak, perhaps.
10 Q. Major Bertovic, what did happen that morning?
11 A. In the morning that day, I mean, in the municipality, fire was
12 opened from different directions, from different places, and it perplexed
13 me. Because in the part of the sector that was assigned to me, there was
14 also some sporadic fire, but an organised attack from the villages of
15 Kruscica and Vranjska against Vitez did not happen. Only fire was
16 opened. But an organised attack against my shift under preparation took
17 place in the area near the motel.
18 Q. When did you learn that morning that your shift at the Kruscica
19 Motel had been attacked?
20 A. That was early in the morning. I cannot pinpoint the time, but it
21 was in the early hours of the morning.
22 Q. Did you, then, eventually learn that day what happened to civilian
23 Croats in houses around the motel?
24 A. I was notified that civilians who were nearer the motel had fled
25 to the motel itself, to the soldiers; whereas some of them, as it could be
1 seen, had been captured by members of the BH army.
2 Q. As the situation, as things unfolded, did you also establish that
3 some of them were still free?
4 A. Well, as the developments unfolded, I learned that the BH army
5 members had interned all of the Croats from the village of Kruscica, and
6 that some of those civilians had been ill-treated quite seriously.
7 Q. Major Bertovic, in military terms, what was now the position of
8 your shift in the motel, after the attack had begun?
9 A. In military terms, and according to the reports which I was
10 receiving from there, that shift found itself almost completely surrounded
11 by members of the BH army; that is, there were operations from all these
12 directions. The shift found it difficult to move about, and they had to
13 fortify themselves in that facility that they were in, that is, to see
14 whether they could pull out from that area, because any resistance was,
15 well, impossible.
16 Q. Could you tell us, when did this shift pull out from Kruscica?
17 A. Well, I mean since that was impossible during daytime, they
18 undertook the pullout at night, and they pulled out through the woods,
19 towards Zabrdze, that is, towards the mountaineer's lodge at Zabrdze,
20 after which they returned to the town of Vitez.
21 Q. You mean the night from the 16th to the 17th; is that correct?
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. That first day of the conflict, could you tell us which were
24 basically your principal actions? What did you, as an individual, as a
25 major responsible for a sector, what did you focus your attention on that
1 first day of the conflict?
2 A. Well, I basically focused on the coordination of the pullout of
3 the shifts around the motel and supervision of the groups which had been
4 deployed at the sector assigned to me. And those would be roughly those
5 principal activities, and also my collection of information as to what was
6 going on throughout the area.
7 Q. Major Bertovic, did you manage to gain a certain picture about the
8 situation, about this situation as it unfolded that day, or didn't you?
9 A. Well, no. No, I did not, because the intensity of fire, be it
10 artillery or infantry from all directions, was very high and it was very
11 difficult to gain a true picture of what was going on. And throughout it
12 all I also had to take care of the task given me by Commander Cerkez.
13 Q. Major Bertovic, when collecting this information, was one of the
14 sources -- and if it was, how important was the information that you were
15 receiving from the brigade command?
16 A. Yes. It was significant information telling me about the
17 developments in the municipal territory.
18 Q. And yet you did not acquire a solid picture about what was going
20 A. Quite. And I even think that the brigade command did not have
21 quite a clear picture.
22 Q. And what was happening to your shift who found itself at that time
23 at the defence line against the JNA at Slatka Voda?
24 A. I tried to establish contact with it through the Stjepan Tomasevic
25 Brigade command in Novi Travnik, but that was impossible. And I made
1 efforts in order to learn what was -- what their condition was. And the
2 first thing I learned came from the commander of that shift, who called me
3 from somewhere in the municipality of Travnik to let me know that that
4 shift had been withdrawing and sought assistance.
5 Q. Do you know when did they eventually arrive in the territory of
6 the municipality?
7 A. Well, they moved via Vilenica and arrived in the municipal
8 territory sometime on the 17th or the 18th. I cannot really pinpoint the
9 time. And the shift commander notified me about it.
10 Q. What did he do when he arrived in the territory of the
11 municipality of Vitez?
12 A. The shift commander asked me to let his men go home because they
13 were worried about their families, in view of the developments. But in
14 point of fact, he faced me with a fait accompli, because he had already
15 released most of his men. And I therefore approved such activity, telling
16 him that he should be at a known locality so that he could be assigned the
17 next task, if need be.
18 Q. Do you remember who was the shift commander at that time?
19 A. I think -- I think it was Zuljevic.
20 JUDGE MAY: Haven't we called him, heard him as a witness?
21 MR. KOVACIC: Yes, we did, Your Honour.
22 JUDGE MAY: There's no point asking this witness who the shift
23 commander was when we've heard from him. It just wastes time going over
24 these facts. Let's move on to something new.
25 MR. KOVACIC: My idea was just to show how that looks -- looking
1 from his aspect, from his side of the problem. We heard another side.
2 JUDGE MAY: You can ask him about his side of it, but there's no
3 need to ask him who the shift commander was. We know who it is. We don't
4 need to repeat information continually. It's evidence we want from this
6 MR. KOVACIC: Certainly, Your Honours. I will not go further with
8 Q. [Interpretation] Major Bertovic, and did you now take any steps so
9 as to, if possible, increase the number of soldiers, to improve the
10 strength of your troops?
11 A. Yes. I undertook steps. And for something like that, we needed,
12 as I have already said, quite a lot of time. However, I came across yet
13 another difficulty, meaning that those men who were off duty had joined
14 the defence of their houses, that is, villages, in cooperation with those
15 village guards which existed in villages, so that it was not easy to do,
16 and eventually I realised that some -- that there could be no serious, no
17 noteworthy results in the conceivable future.
18 Q. And what did you do then?
19 A. Well, after that, because of the highly complex situation, I had
20 to report to Commander Cerkez about this, and that is what I did.
21 Q. And did you then analyse the problem together?
22 A. When I came to the brigade command, we considered the problem, and
23 I think that Commander Cerkez thought along the same lines as I did. And
24 then we tried to devise a solution, that is, to try to improve on the
25 organisation in the execution of the task. And we then arrived at a
1 suggestion, namely, to organise sectorial defence. And I think that
2 Colonel Cerkez then put this suggestion to Commander Blaskic, and as a
3 result we then later on received the order for the organisation of
5 Q. Just one more thing. At that time, as you were discussing this
6 problem, had the general mobilisation been proclaimed in the municipality?
7 A. Yes. I knew about the proclamation of the general mobilisation in
8 the municipality.
9 Q. And during your discussion with Mario Cerkez, did you learn
10 whether the mobilisation had succeeded in part, at least so far as
11 soldiers from the town were concerned?
12 A. Yes. I learned that activities were being conducted regarding the
13 mobilisation and that in a small part it had already been done and that
14 those activities were underway.
15 Q. Let us just clear up a couple of points. I think you mentioned
16 here when you spoke about your commander, Mario Cerkez, you referred to
17 him as Colonel. Could you please tell us, when did Cerkez acquire that
19 A. I couldn't really tell you -- give you the exact date. It emerges
20 for me from the fact that when I became a member of the brigade command,
21 that is, during the war, he already had that rank, and that is how I
22 addressed him.
23 Q. Could you just draw a distinction: Was it before or after the
24 Croat-Muslim conflict? If you can, fine; if not, fine again.
25 A. I think even before it, but I cannot really pinpoint it.
1 Q. And this, what you call it, sectorial defence concept, was that
2 principle already a part of the national defence concept, of the SFRY?
3 A. In a way, yes. I mean, the Territorial Defence of the former JNA
4 was, I mean, territorial. It had to do with municipal territories.
5 Q. And when it came to forming these sectors, what was the idea?
6 What is it that you were trying to achieve?
7 A. What we were trying to achieve was the following: That is, I mean
8 that those improvised defences which the village guards had succeeded in
9 setting up to place them under one command and one supervision and to have
10 it -- and to have this command or supervision in working order so that
11 these defence lines should become what they should be rather than
13 Q. Is the sectorial defence, or rather this model that you suggested,
14 did it also mean the possibility of moving soldiers from one village to
16 A. The sectorial defence was organised solely along territorial
17 lines; that is, villages remained at those positions and their transfer to
18 any other areas was not envisaged.
19 Q. And in application -- pursuant to this model, did you achieve the
20 desired goal? Did you then place under control men who were already part
21 of the defence? Did you somehow gradually put them under the brigade
23 A. Yes. To my mind, the goal was achieved. Perhaps less so in the
24 beginning, but as the time went by, it proved very good.
25 Q. You mentioned the order which you received and from which you
1 concluded that Mario Cerkez had made such a proposal to the higher
3 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] I should like now to show the
4 witness three documents related to this subject. They've already been
5 introduced. Z704.1, Z765.1, and D87/2. [In English] English on the ELMO
6 and Croatian in front of the witness, please.
7 Q. [Interpretation] Major Bertovic, my first question: You have
8 before you a document dated the 17th of April, 1993, issued at 10.10 p.m.;
9 do you see it?
10 A. Yes.
11 Q. Tell us, to your recollection, was that the document issued with
12 regard to the sector organisation?
13 A. Yes.
14 Q. Will you now --
15 JUDGE MAY: Mr. Kovacic, which is the number for this for my
17 MR. KOVACIC: This one was admitted earlier. That is Z704.1.
18 THE INTERPRETER: Mr. Kovacic, your microphone, please.
19 JUDGE MAY: Your microphone. But we can see that the number is
20 Z704.1. Thank you.
21 MR. KOVACIC: There is a regional number -- I mean, the number of
22 the regional document is 01-4-325/93, dated 17 April, in the evening, 2210
23 hours, on 17 April.
24 Q. [Interpretation] Major Bertovic, will you now look at the next
25 document before you, the date of which is the 21st of April, 1993. It is
1 Exhibit Z765.1. The reference number of the document is 01-147-1/93.
2 Have you seen this order before?
3 A. Yes, yes. This is the document which came from the brigade
4 command, from the Vitez Brigade command.
5 Q. Shall we pause for a moment and look at items 2 and 3. Will you
6 please read them to yourself and tell us if that was the order appointing
7 you the commander of the 2nd and 3rd Sectors.
8 A. Yes, yes. It does transpire from this, clearly.
9 Q. And you were also assigned assistants for both of the sectors.
10 A. Yes, yes.
11 Q. Thank you. Now will you please look at the last document which we
12 have taken out, which is D87/2. Its regional number is 01-181-1/93, and
13 the date of it is the 24th of April.
14 Will you please look at the signature on that document, on the
15 bottom, as well as the heading. Can you confirm that this is, indeed, the
16 document issued by the Vitez Brigade and signed by Mario Cerkez?
17 A. Yes.
18 Q. Major Bertovic, will you please read just the first paragraph of
19 this document to yourself.
20 The question is the following, Mr. Bertovic: This statement, in
21 the first paragraph, is saying that the brigade received the order,
22 Z704.1, only on the 21st of April.
23 A. Yes, it is exactly as it says in this document. I received the
24 order only on the 21st of April.
25 Q. Does this mean that you believe that the brigade issued the order
1 appointing you, among others, sector commander, the order we have seen,
2 only on the 21st of April, and that is when you had first seen it?
3 A. Yes.
4 Q. In practical terms, does this mean that you began to form sectors
5 only on the 21st of April?
6 A. That is quite correct.
7 Q. You can put aside the order; we won't need it anymore. We will
8 use a simpler way to show the sectors.
9 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] Please show the witness Exhibit
11 Q. Major Bertovic, you will now see a map with sectors marked on it.
12 Please be so kind as to confirm or deny that the sectors marked on these
13 maps are precisely the sectors described in the order.
14 A. Yes, these are, indeed, the sectors.
15 Q. Will you please show us which sectors you were charged with?
16 A. As it says in the order, these are the -- these were the 2nd and
17 3rd sector.
18 Q. Will you please enumerate the principal geographical features
19 demarcating this sector?
20 A. This line goes through the northern part of Krcevine towards Donja
21 Dubravica, through Krizancevo Selo, Krizancevo village. Here it says
22 Donja Dubravica. Below Sljivcica, towards the village of Santici. Then
23 moves up towards the feature -- it says Vidovici, but it is actually Barin
24 Gaj, followed by Kratine, and ending with the village of Jelinak.
25 Q. Major Bertovic, when did you begin to inspect this line, to tour
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 this line?
2 A. I started to tour this line immediately upon receipt of the order,
3 that is, on the 21st, and then more frequently on the 22nd, and so on.
4 Q. What was the status of the line as you found it when you began to
6 A. Well, the situation in those locations was as follows: Village
7 guards had organised some sort of improvised defence with very shallow
8 trenches which were not interlinked. They were not the best possible --
9 the best placed in terms of micropositions.
10 Q. You mentioned village guards. Did you find your soldiers which
11 earlier used to report to your shifts?
12 A. Yes. There were some of my soldiers which had earlier been
13 available to the battalion.
14 Q. Did you also find mobilised civilians which lived in town and
15 were, therefore, not members of village guards?
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. In military terms, on a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate this
18 defence? Would you give it a 1 or a 5?
19 A. Well, not more than 1, surely.
20 Q. As for appointments of commanders in those microlocations, how did
21 you go about it?
22 A. I had to be rather creative in this respect. In certain areas I
23 appointed -- in fact, I confirmed the appointment of the commander which
24 had led the village guards up to that moment, and in other cases I chose
25 people who had basic military skills; for instance, in Santici, I found a
1 man who was a reserve officer of the JNA and I appointed him, or I would
2 find people who, in my personal opinion, could deal with the task, were
3 able to.
4 Q. Would you say that you left things as you found them in terms of
5 command staff?
6 A. I don't understand the question.
7 Q. You said that you acted differently depending on the situation.
8 Would you say that in the majority of cases you left things as they were?
9 A. Well, I couldn't put it that way. It depended on the situation.
10 In some places I left the commanders which were commanding the village
11 guards, and in other places I appointed other people.
12 Q. Would you say that from the day when you arrived at the position
13 and gave the instructions you gave, would you say that from that day on
14 that was your army?
15 A. Yes, from that moment on it was my army, because the order put me
16 in charge of those two sectors.
17 Q. Could you give us a time frame -- well, first of all, give us an
18 idea in terms of kilometres. How large a territory was it that you
20 A. Well, we are talking about 15 kilometres, perhaps slightly more.
21 Q. How much time did you need to make that first inspection? Are we
22 talking days, hours, what?
23 A. Well, we're talking about several days.
24 Q. Could you be more precise? Perhaps a date. Could you tell us the
25 time of day when you began the inspection?
1 A. It was the 21st of April, as I said, perhaps about noon. That was
2 when I began. And it went on for the next five or six days.
3 Q. Thank you. While you were inspecting the army, did you issue any
4 kind of documents concerning appointments and other details, or did you
5 just give oral instructions and orders?
6 A. It was mostly oral, and written documents were issued only at a
7 later stage.
8 Q. Were you assisted in this job by your members of the battalion
9 command or did you do it all by yourself?
10 A. I couldn't cope on my own. I was assisted by the members of the
12 Q. During those days, this beginning of organisation, and for some
13 time before, there were some ceasefires. Do you remember any of them?
14 A. Yes, I do remember that there were ceasefires, and I personally
15 thought they were going to last.
16 Q. However, that isn't what happened, is it?
17 A. Yes. In reality, the ceasefires were broken by the BH army, and I
18 think the reason was that our position against their forces was extremely
19 unfavourable, and we were outnumbered by far.
20 Q. Nevertheless, did those ceasefires give you breathing space, at
21 least in certain sectors?
22 A. Yes. We had some breathing space, but we sometimes paid a price
23 for that, because during the ceasefires our soldiers sometimes got killed
25 Q. Major Bertovic, until what time did you stick to this territorial
1 organisation, sectorial defence?
2 A. If I can remember this correctly now, it lasted until the
3 beginning of the summer, perhaps June 1993, and thereafter we got an order
4 instructing us to get organised in a different way.
5 Q. What different way?
6 A. Well, we were to establish battalions. Battalions were set up.
7 In the beginning there were three or four battalions established, and
8 another one was established later.
9 Q. With regard to lines and their juxtaposition, did anything change
10 for a soldier, for a plain soldier who was sitting in a trench, perhaps
11 100 or 200 metres away from his own house?
12 A. Well, from the viewpoint of the soldier, nothing changed. He
13 remained where he was. However, there were changes in control and
14 command. These were improved and raised to a higher level.
15 Q. Thank you. I think we can move on now.
16 You were a major, an officer, that is, in the Croatian Defence
17 Council during that conflict. Have you ever heard, on or off the record,
18 that there was an HVO policy of persecution or harassment of Muslim
20 A. No.
21 Q. Perhaps there was some informal secret policy accepted among the
23 A. No, certainly not among the officers I had contact with.
24 Q. In view of your training, and you are a trained soldier, did you
25 learn about the provisions of humanitarian and war law during your
2 A. Yes.
3 Q. During your service as an officer, as a soldier, did you do
4 anything to spread that knowledge among your soldiers?
5 A. Yes. There were special tours of the troops dedicated to
6 familiarising the troops with international and humanitarian law. We did
7 that on several occasions, and I think we had success.
8 Q. Did you ever issue any instructions, orders in this regard?
9 A. Yes. There were several such orders and instructions.
10 Q. Did you issue such documents based on the line of command or did
11 you do it at your own initiative?
12 A. There were cases when we got -- when we were instructed to do so
13 by the command, by the brigade command, but I also did such things at my
14 own initiative.
15 Q. Did you ever receive from your superiors any orders instructing
16 you to engage in activities contrary to international law?
17 A. No, never.
18 Q. Tell me, Major Bertovic: As a professional soldier, how would
19 you -- what would you have done if you had received such orders?
20 A. Well, I would certainly do the following: I would draw the
21 attention of my superior officer to the possible violation of
22 international humanitarian law and I would certainly request that the
23 order not be executed in the way envisaged if it was contrary to
24 international humanitarian law.
25 Q. Major Bertovic, in the territory of the municipality of Vitez,
1 where you spent the war, or in Novi Travnik, where you were in 1992, did
2 you ever meet soldiers or officers of the Croatian army?
3 A. No, never.
4 Q. Do you know a soldier of the 17th Krajina Brigade by the name of
5 Fikret Cuskic?
6 A. Yes, I know this man.
7 Q. Is it true that he was deployed with his unit from the summer
8 onwards in Kruscica?
9 A. Yes. As far as I know, he was the commander of the 17th Slavna
10 Krajiska Brigade, and they were deployed in Kruscica.
11 Q. Could you tell us why the name of this brigade was Slavna, which
12 means glorious?
13 A. Well, from all I know and from all I could see, that brigade was
14 named the Glorious Krajina Brigade because it was very successful and
15 sometimes rather cruel in the execution of its tasks. When I say "cruel,"
16 I mean that those who survived the attacks of this brigade could witness
17 the cruel demeanour of the members of that brigade.
18 Q. Do you know if he was perhaps a member of the Croatian army before
19 he came to your area?
20 A. Yes. I know that he had been a member of the Croatian army.
21 Q. Did you know at the time if he had had any special training as a
22 commander, either in the JNA or in the Croatian army?
23 A. I know he was an officer in the former JNA, and I was interested
24 not only in him but in all other officers, where they worked, and I wanted
25 to know about their fate, and thus I learned that he had undergone special
1 training in the area of propaganda in the former JNA.
2 Q. Major Bertovic, as a member of the HVO headquarters up to the
3 establishment of the Stjepan Tomasevic Brigade, and later, at the time of
4 the Vitez Brigade, at any position that you ever held, did you ever have
5 any commanding -- did you ever hold any commanding position over the
6 village guards?
7 A. No. There had never been any orders to that effect. The orders
8 always said exactly which sector, which area a commander was in charge of,
9 and thus I was commander of the second and third sectors in the Vitez
10 Brigade and of the 2nd Battalion in the Vitez Brigade.
11 Q. Did your soldiers at any time during the war attack civilian
13 A. No.
14 Q. Did they ever attack civilians or religious buildings?
15 A. No.
16 Q. During the war, at least in the period which interests me, which
17 is from September 1993 onwards, did you ever undertake an offensive action
18 to gain control of an area, of a territory?
19 A. Offensive operations did take place on several occasions, but they
20 were of -- they were contained. We are talking about microlocations, and
21 our objective was to improve the position of certain units I was in
22 command of.
23 Q. Could you give us an example, perhaps?
24 A. I think so. I'll try. For instance, that was the attack in the
25 area of Barin Gaj and the attack on the area of Sljivcica.
1 Q. Now that you mention Sljivcica, when was that? When did you try
2 to conquer Sljivcica?
3 A. That was perhaps in June 1993.
4 Q. What was the military reason for this attempt to conquer
6 A. If you look at the map, and if you are a military man at that, you
7 can easily understand that this is one of the dominant features, and the
8 side which controls it certainly controls the rest of the area.
9 Q. Did you succeed in conquering Sljivcica?
10 A. No, because very strong forces of the BH army were deployed there
11 and we suffered significant losses in the attempt.
12 Q. Did Sljivcica then remain one of the dominant features held by the
13 BH army for the whole period?
14 A. Yes.
15 Q. From that position, could the army attack the road, for instance?
16 A. Yes, and very effectively so.
17 Q. Do you remember -- in fact, is it correct that during the war
18 there were many cases when civilians and soldiers were wounded by walking
19 along that road, precisely from Sljivcica?
20 A. Yes. There were several such cases, and I think they are recorded
21 in documents.
22 Q. Thank you. Major Bertovic, you are a soldier. Tell me, please:
23 If you are attacked by the enemy forces from a civilian house, is that
24 treated -- is that house treated as a military target or as a civilian
1 A. According to the provisions of the international law and the
2 Geneva Conventions, if anyone attacks from a civilian building, that
3 automatically becomes a military target.
4 JUDGE MAY: Which paragraph are we on, please?
5 MR. KOVACIC: I was just about to begin with paragraph 9.7, but
6 probably it would be wiser to take a break.
7 JUDGE MAY: Yes. We'll adjourn now and sit again at half past
8 2.00. At just before 4.00 we will adjourn and we will go into closed
9 session. After that we'll hear the pre-rebuttal conference.
10 --- Luncheon recess taken at 1.01 p.m.
1 --- On resuming at 2.36 p.m.
2 JUDGE MAY: Yes, Mr. Kovacic.
3 MR. KOVACIC: Thank you, Your Honour.
4 Q. Major Bertovic --
5 JUDGE BENNOUNA: [Interpretation] Mr. Kovacic, the
6 examination-in-chief, it has lasted the whole morning so far. Could you
7 tell us, how much longer do you think you will take to examine this
9 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honour, I'm quite sure that it cannot be longer
10 than half an hour. Probably less, but I'm trying to ...
11 JUDGE BENNOUNA: [Interpretation] I should simply like to remind
12 you, even though you know that already, that the general questions about
13 which we have already received a great deal of information, as you were
14 told this morning, there is absolutely no need to go back to them. There
15 is no need to go back over them again and again. It is much better for
16 you to focus on those matters on which this testimony could be of
17 consequence, of relevance.
18 As you know, our time is becoming very limited indeed, so will you
19 please try to focus on these matters which are really relevant.
20 MR. KOVACIC: I will skip some details which I had in mind, and if
21 I repeat myself -- if I will repeat anything which was already presented
22 in the courtroom, that will be only because I think that those are such
23 important elements that they probably will be addressed from the other
25 Q. [Interpretation] Major Bertovic, from the beginning of this
1 conflict and throughout this conflict, you as a major must have had some
2 assessment, some estimate, on the ratios between the strength of the ABiH
3 and HVO. Could you tell us what the ratio was? Let's say within the
4 first month of the conflict.
5 A. Of course I did make such estimates, and in my assessment at the
6 very beginning of the conflict, the ratio of forces was at least 4:1.
7 Q. In the course of this year, towards the end of 1992 to the end of
8 1993, did this ratio change?
9 A. Yes, probably because the side which was under the ABiH control
10 was under full mobilisation. And I believe that the ratio actually
11 increased in favour of the ABiH.
12 Q. What was the ratio it reached eventually?
13 A. Sometime in the middle of the conflict, we can say, and this is my
14 assessment only, that this ratio was 6:1. In cases when the ABiH launched
15 certain offensives, the ratio must have been even higher.
16 Q. Just one further detail in that regard. After the fall of
17 Sebesici in June, you were completely encircled; is that correct?
18 A. I'm sorry. I did not understand the question.
19 Q. After the war started and after the road was cut off at Sebesici,
20 you were completely surrounded by the ABiH forces; is that right?
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. During this conflict, from the fall of Sebesici onward, did you
23 ever receive any reinforcements in terms of additional soldiers?
24 A. The reinforcements in that sense of the word never materialised.
25 Q. Did you during the conflict fully explore the human potential
1 issue? In other words, all the militarily-fit men, were they all pressed
2 into service?
3 A. I can give you an estimate. I can say that to a large degree this
4 available human potential was used.
5 Q. Major Bertovic, in the last few months there was a whole campaign,
6 a host of media reports on the events in Ahmici, both in the Croatian
7 press and in the BH press. Did you follow those reports?
8 A. Yes, I have been following them.
9 Q. In all these reports, have you become aware of a report of the
10 HIS, which supposedly was published in Zagreb, where it states that the
11 units which you were a member of did not take part in the operations at
13 A. Yes. I did read that article.
14 Q. As a member of the Vitez Brigade, were you glad to finally see
15 such a thing appear in a report of this kind?
16 A. Of course I was glad, especially because this is a document which
17 makes perfectly clear that the Vitez Brigade had nothing whatsoever to do
18 with the events in Ahmici, and this document details these events.
19 MR. KOVACIC: I'd like to show that document to the witness, or
20 I'd just refer to the number of it.
21 JUDGE MAY: The one that's been exhibited already?
22 MR. KOVACIC: Right.
23 JUDGE MAY: Yes, you can refer to the exhibit.
24 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] These questions related to document
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 Q. Let us go back again to the history of 1992. Before the general
2 outbreak of hostilities in the Lasva Valley, were there some initiatives
3 while you jointly fought against the JNA aggression? Were there any
4 initiatives to form a joint defence, in other words, to establish a unit
5 that would comprise both parties that were fighting the JNA?
6 A. Yes. I was aware of such activities.
7 Q. Do you recall an initiative where the name of the 1st Vitez
8 Brigade was featured?
9 A. Yes.
10 Q. Can you tell us what this was in reference to, and how were you
11 connected to that?
12 A. This was an initiative to establish a joint brigade of the
13 then-municipal HVO headquarters and the TO command, and this brigade was
14 to be composed of members of both parties. I know this because it had
15 been planned that I would be commander of one of the battalions of this
17 Q. Was this idea ever realised?
18 A. This idea was not realised, and in my judgement both military
19 sides were quite interested in establishing it. But based on the
20 knowledge that I had, such initiative was vetoed by the SDA.
21 Q. In other words, it was a political party that stopped this from
22 taking place, while you soldiers never opposed it?
23 A. In my judgement, as I said, both military wings had desired to do
24 this, but I think that this was stopped by the SDA.
25 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation] Can the witness please be shown
1 Z165.2, please.
2 Q. Major Bertovic, this is a document that has been tendered here
3 before. Very well. Do you recognise the person whose name is mentioned
4 here? And I think that the image is also fairly clear.
5 A. I don't believe I know this person.
6 Q. This name, the 1st Vitez Brigade, was it ever used by the HVO
7 after this initiative to form a joint brigade?
8 A. No, it was not. What I see before me was a test military ID. I
9 even had one of those. But it was only in existence during that short
10 period during that initiative.
11 Q. And were these IDs used later?
12 A. No, they were not.
13 Q. Thank you. You mentioned in a way that during the war there were
14 some offensives. Can you please tell me: Is it true that one of the most
15 intense offensives of ABiH was carried out sometime in September 1993?
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. In your sector, what location was particularly under threat during
18 that offensive?
19 A. In my sector, the location that was especially threatened was the
20 area of Krcevine and the unit which manned that sector of the defence
22 Q. Were even tanks used during that offensive?
23 A. Yes.
24 Q. Were you able to maintain the line?
25 A. At first, at the beginning of this offensive, the line was
1 partially broken, but we were able to consolidate the line and we
2 maintained the line as it was.
3 Q. Did you have casualties, dead and wounded during that fighting?
4 A. Yes. We had both dead and wounded.
5 Q. At the same time while Krcevine was attacked, the southern sector
6 of the front line was also attacked. Can you tell us where that fighting
7 went on?
8 A. Yes. On the same day the offensive was launched in the sector of
10 Q. From which direction did that attack on Bobasi come from?
11 A. The attack on Bobasi came from Kruscica and it was to go through
12 Bobasi in the direction of town.
13 Q. Were there civilian casualties there as well?
14 A. According to the information I later received through the brigade
15 command, yes, there were also civilian casualties.
16 Q. You lost this battle? Bobasi was lost?
17 A. Yes, Bobasi was lost. I could see that from where I was, because
18 we could see the houses burnt down and we saw that the area was completely
20 Q. To the right of you there is still the map. Will you please show
21 us on this map where Bobasi is. Due north-west of Kruscica?
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. Between Kruscica and the centre of town?
24 A. Yes.
25 Q. Were there civilian casualties in the village of Bobasi too?
1 A. Yes. As I said, I received such information.
2 Q. My apologies. It's my mistake. And the population of this
3 village was what?
4 A. They were Croats.
5 Q. Were there any Croat civilians taken prisoner in Bobasi?
6 A. Again, I learned from the brigade command -- this was formally,
7 but informally through conversations with people, I learned that civilians
8 had been -- there were civilian casualties and also that civilians had
9 been taken prisoner.
10 Q. Another episode that I would like you to address is: You will
11 remember this last spring the Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper carried an
12 article on Bobasi, and it is an incident that was the subject of a lot of
13 talk in Vitez in those days. Can you tell us what this was?
14 A. Yes. This was the return of the Sero family in this area, and
15 this return was prevented by --
16 MR. NICE: Your Honour, can I just raise an objection here?
17 JUDGE MAY: Yes. This is 1990 what?
18 MR. NICE: 1993, but I'm not sure that the witness claims any
19 firsthand knowledge. I think he's simply relating something that he
20 learned in a newspaper.
21 JUDGE MAY: Yes, I agree. I'm not sure it's going to help us at
23 MR. KOVACIC: I was just about to ask him whether he heard about
24 that from the participants or witnesses.
25 JUDGE MAY: Yes. Again, whether it really assists us to hear what
1 he heard second- or thirdhand, I rather doubt. You can ask him where he
2 heard the information.
3 MR. KOVACIC: [Interpretation]
4 Q. You heard His Honour's question. Where did you learn about this
6 A. Your Honour, in addition to learning from the newspapers, I also
7 learned about this from my conversations with colleagues who lived in this
8 area and who were close to the Sero family.
9 Q. In that regard, just one additional question. Do you -- again in
10 regard of this family Sero, do you know a person named Zoran Sero?
11 A. Yes. I knew Zoran Sero at that time.
12 Q. Do you remember a member of which unit he was during 1993?
13 A. He was a member of the military police.
14 Q. Do you remember when this man was killed and where?
15 A. He was killed somewhere in the middle of the conflict in the area
16 of Stari Vitez.
17 Q. Was he ever a member of the Vitez Brigade?
18 A. From what I know, he was not a member of the Vitez Brigade.
19 Q. Just one more question. I have been addressing you as Major
20 throughout this examination. Can you tell us when you were first given
21 the rank of Major in the HVO?
22 A. I was accorded the rank in 1994, when the personnel files were
23 officially first established.
24 Q. And were your colleagues also then accorded ranks?
25 A. Yes. My colleagues were also given their ranks then for the first
2 Q. Do you remember whether your former commander, Mr. Cerkez, who is
3 present here today, was he also accorded a rank at that time?
4 A. I cannot give you the exact time when he was accorded the rank,
5 but it is possible; however, I was under the impression that it could have
6 been earlier too.
7 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honours, I don't think I have any further
8 questions. And in order to avoid a possible objection from the other
9 side, if I may just say that I may have used this witness for many, many
10 other subjects, but I refrained myself only to the points which I find
11 most important for the Defence. Thank you, Your Honours.
12 MR. NAUMOVSKI: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour. The
13 Defence of Mr. Kordic has no questions of this witness.
14 Cross-examined by Mr. Nice:
15 Q. Before I forget, a comparatively recent piece of your evidence
16 when you were talking about an HIS report that had exonerated the Viteska
17 Brigade, I think you were actually talking of a report that spoke of Mario
18 Cerkez rather than the Viteska Brigade itself, and said that he was not
19 involved in the massacre in the village of Ahmici and didn't have any
20 influence on the events themselves. Is that the report that you have in
21 mind, Mr. Bertovic?
22 A. I spoke about the HIS report, H-I-S, which was in print at the
24 Q. Well, just help us a little bit. From your military experience,
25 HIS reports were prepared how?
1 A. Investigating services have a special form of activity in the area
2 that they have an interest in, and I did not participate in such
3 investigative activities. So I cannot speak in detail about the
4 organisation and manner of operation of investigating and security
6 Q. But there's a regular reporting system that underlies a HIS
7 report; is that correct?
8 A. I can say that that is highly probable. But again, I repeat: The
9 method of work of the investigating services is not something that I am
10 familiar with, nor did I receive any training in that regard.
11 Q. Thank you. But you were consoled by the conclusions of this
12 report, which you read in a newspaper. Is that because you, in your own
13 judgement, found the report to be accurate?
14 A. I am confident that the report is accurate, because I was in Vitez
15 at that time and it fully agrees with how I perceived the situation during
16 the time.
17 Q. You'll know that the report went on to describe Cerkez as a bad
18 commander, a coward, who was directly responsible for the events in
19 Krizancevo Selo and Buhine Kuce. Now, presumably if it's an accurate
20 report, is it accurate about those items as well?
21 A. My then commander, Cerkez, to my mind, was not a major military
22 expert, a military expert. And with this part, I could agree partly. I
23 know that he's an honest man, and that is what I have to say about this.
24 Q. Thank you. Did you trust Mr. Cerkez?
25 A. Absolute trust.
1 Q. So far as you could judge, did he trust you?
2 A. I suppose to a large extent. And I can also tell you a very
3 important reason, if necessary.
4 Q. I just need to know that so far as you could judge, he trusted
6 MR. NICE: While I'm asking the next couple of questions, could we
7 retrieve, because I'm afraid I've lost my copy, mislaid it, the map that
8 is Exhibit D87/2.
9 Q. And so far as you could judge, in the higher echelons of the HVO,
10 did Cerkez trust Blaskic, and did Blaskic trust Cerkez?
11 A. The question was worded so that I didn't understand. Do you mean
12 Cerkez himself, personally, or somebody else through him?
13 Q. Well, just from your knowledge of your commander and from events
14 on the ground, did it appear to you that there was trust between Cerkez
15 and Blaskic, or was there some evidence of mistrust or distrust between
17 A. As a military man, I did not judge the conduct of my superiors or
18 higher echelons of command. As far as I know, between them there was no
19 friction, so that one could say, one could assume, that the relations
20 between them were normal military relations.
21 Q. Put on the ELMO just the map that we were looking at earlier, and
22 I'm going to leave it on there, I think, because it will help us. This is
23 a Defence map, and if you'll recall, it shows something about somebody
24 else's understanding of what you were doing on the night of the
25 15th/16th. But let's go back. Just leave it there.
1 Tell us again in a little bit more detail, please, Mr. Bertovic,
2 what it was that Cerkez said to you on the evening of the 15th.
3 A. Well, he told me that in a conversation with Commander Blaskic he
4 had been given the task to raise the preparedness to a higher level in
5 view of a possible takeover of strategic facilities by the BH army in the
6 territory of the municipality of Vitez; and that the concrete task he was
7 given had to do with the possible interception, blocking, of the passage
8 of ABiH forces from the village of Kruscica and Vranjska, in the direction
9 of the town of Vitez, and their task was to prevent the passage of those
11 Q. Well, that's, indeed, what you told us earlier. But what I'd be
12 grateful for is if you could please now tell us what were the strategic
13 facilities that were at risk?
14 A. The question, I did not quite get the question. I mean I do not
15 know what area you have in mind.
16 Q. Drawing my question from your answer, and I apologise for not
17 making it entirely clear, you said that you were to raise -- Cerkez told
18 you that he'd been given the task of raising the preparedness to a higher
19 level in view of the possible takeover of strategic facilities by the BH
20 army. Which strategic facilities?
21 A. Well, he said what he had been told by Blaskic, these strategic
22 facilities. Which facilities Colonel Blaskic had in mind, I do not know.
23 But as for the part of the task that Commander Cerkez was given, these
24 facilities should have to do with this area where we were given the task
25 at Crveno Brdce, the road from Kruscica towards the town of Vitez, the
1 road from the village of Vranjska towards the town of Vitez too.
2 Q. Mr. Bertovic, you were the commander being given the task of
3 securing important facilities in Vitez. Are you really telling us that
4 the commander whom you trusted didn't tell you what facilities you were
5 there to guard? Think back, please, and tell us if you can what detail
6 you were given of what you were really to do that night.
7 A. I can repeat again: The task that I was given, very precisely and
8 accurately, that task which I carried out that night, it fully agrees with
9 what I have already stated.
10 Q. You won't name the strategic facilities, Mr. Bertovic, because
11 what you've told us about that is untrue, and you know that if you give an
12 answer you'll be pursued until the inaccuracy of your answer is revealed.
13 Is that the position?
14 A. No. I told the truth. The task, I repeat again, was concrete and
15 clear, and as a soldier and officer, that is how I fully understood it.
16 And in the best way I knew at that time I also carried it out.
17 Q. After, as you tell us, discussing with your own subordinates
18 whether the thing was a serious risk and making your own assessment that
19 it wasn't; is that correct?
20 A. No, I wouldn't agree with that statement.
21 Q. Well, you told us about making a conclusion with your colleagues.
22 I want to know why you bothered to make a conclusion when you'd been given
23 a clear instruction by a commander whom you trusted.
24 A. I am a trained soldier. In modern armies, in present-day armies,
25 after you've received an order from the superior, through the whole chain
1 of command, the technical and operative units make an analysis of the
2 situation, and on the basis of that, the decision is taken by the
3 commanding level. So in agreement with the manner in which I was trained,
4 I also analysed the situation, and it was on the basis of that that I
5 carried out the task in the way in which I judged it, and I was
6 responsible for what I did.
7 Q. Mr. Bertovic, I suggest again you're not telling us the truth
8 about this, but I'm going to ask the technical booth or the usher to focus
9 in now, if we can, on the centre of Vitez so that we can see a little bit
10 closer what's shown on this map. The blue line -- is this right: The
11 blue line, you think, broadly speaking, reflects where you deployed your
12 troops on that night; is that right?
13 A. I wouldn't agree with that. That is, it does not show where the
14 units were deployed. It shows, rather, the task that was issued the
15 brigade. But as I have said when I saw the map for the first time, I
16 wouldn't really agree with that fully, because the right or the left flank
17 could be somewhat wider, in my view.
18 Q. You mean wider on the map than was the deployment of forces by you
19 on the ground, or do you mean the other way around? Help us.
20 A. Well, it is wider than the units deployed on the ground covered,
21 and also wider when compared with the analysis, that is, when compared
22 with how I understood the task that was given me.
23 Q. Before I move to explore that answer a little further, just
24 confirm a couple of other things. On the way you described the Viteska
25 Brigade as at the 15th of April, you and the troops you were deploying
1 were the Viteska Brigade. There was no other bit of the Viteska Brigade
2 deployed that night; correct?
3 A. Yes. There were no other units, because the Viteska Brigade, at
4 the time when it was organised, at that time had only that one battalion,
5 which was under my command.
6 Q. Cerkez, acting on what he had been instructed to do by Blaskic,
7 didn't tell you about any other deployed troops or groups, did he?
8 A. He did not say anything to me.
9 Q. So that you were simply told, again, to -- how have you originally
10 put it? -- be on the alert because of the protection of strategic
11 facilities. It's unfortunate that the colour on the map is rather
12 changed, at least on my screen it has. But the blue line to the west, or
13 the north-west, is wider than the position of the troops on the ground.
14 So that if we just have a quick look to remind ourselves, at D88/2 or
15 Z2160, we can imagine, seeing that map -- is it just my screen or have all
16 the screens gone to a very sort of light colour? I don't know if there's
17 anything that can be done.
18 JUDGE MAY: It's lost -- that's better.
19 MR. NICE: We've got it. That's fine. And we can go out a bit
20 now. Thank you very much.
21 Q. So what you're suggesting, Mr. Bertovic -- we can just about see
22 it if we move the map a little bit to the right. What you're suggesting
23 is that your deployed troops stopped well to the east or the south-east of
24 the huge factory that is Vitez's principal strategic resource. That's
25 what you're telling us, isn't it?
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 A. No, I wouldn't agree with that.
2 Q. Well, look at this map. I'd rather you didn't mark it, because we
3 don't necessarily have that many of them, but you may if you wish. At
4 least point out where was the most westerly part of the deployment of your
5 troops on this map.
6 A. Part of the map is missing. South of Vitez.
7 Q. South. Providing absolutely no protection for that huge SPS
8 factory for troops coming further south and west, absolutely none. Now, I
9 ask you again: What strategic locations, if any, was your protection
10 aimed at? Even in your own mind, Mr. Bertovic, if you persist in saying
11 that Cerkez didn't give you any by name, which resources were you
13 A. Well, in accordance with the task, we were protecting the access
14 roads, that is, technical resources, from Kruscica and Vranjska towards
15 the town of Vitez, and thereby protecting the town of Vitez itself and
16 these important technical roads and the important technical location in
17 that area which is Crveno Brdce.
18 Q. I think you're changing your vocabulary, please, Mr. Bertovic. I
19 quite understand that you want to tie yourself to the orders you received,
20 but I also want you to apply common sense. If you're protecting a factory
21 or a town hall or a school or an ammunition dump, you know what you're
22 protecting and you can give it a name. Now, will you please tell us what
23 places, what things you regarded yourself as protecting. You must have
24 given thought to this, for reasons to which we'll come in a minute. What
25 did you think you were protecting?
1 A. Well, in my judgement, I was protecting the access to the town of
2 Vitez from the south, and in the town of Vitez there was, I mean, the
3 brigade command, the command of the Operative Zone, then the materiel
4 depot belonging to the Viteska Brigade, and my command nearby, and that is
5 how I understood that task.
6 Q. So you did think about the things that you were actually
7 protecting, the strategic facilities?
8 A. Yes, I did think about it.
9 Q. Well, then, as an experienced commander, so you were, did it not
10 worry you that the factory that was at the root of so much ambition by the
11 competing sides, the weapons factory, huge factory, did it not trouble you
12 that this was being left by your commander entirely unprotected?
13 A. It did not worry me much, because as a soldier I did not
14 think -- I do think about the task given me and how to carry it out. So I
15 did what I was expected to do in the best way I knew.
16 Q. Will you agree with me over this, please: If more than one set of
17 troops -- or more than one set of troops are deployed to protect an area
18 for any reason, then it would be important, if not essential, that they're
19 able to communicate one group with the next one in line. You'd agree with
20 that, wouldn't you?
21 A. I did not quite understand that question.
22 Q. Probably my poor phrasing, and I'll have another go. If you are
23 protecting some area, but you're also doing this task with another group
24 of soldiers from another unit to your west and a further group to your
25 east, it's important that you can be in contact with both those groups,
1 isn't it; it's essential?
2 A. The principles of military operations say so, but in the practice
3 that I know during fighting against the ARS and the fighting in Vitez
4 during the war, that did not happen often.
5 Q. Perhaps we can go back to the earlier map, the map which has the
6 little line drawn on it, now that we've reminded ourselves of the
7 geography. If -- just accept this as an if for the time being, please --
8 if there was another group protecting the factory to your west, it would
9 be pretty important for you to be able to communicate to them if they were
10 suddenly going to be at risk from attack by the ABiH. That would be
11 correct, wouldn't it?
12 A. Well, in this case I can say that I was not informed about the
13 deployment of any other groups west of me, and I did not communicate with
14 any such group.
15 Q. When did you discover, Mr. Bertovic, that you had been misled on
16 this night by your commander or by his commander?
17 A. What I thought then I still think. My commander did not mislead
18 me. He issued an order to me officially, and I carried it out as best I
20 Q. Mr. Bertovic, it can't have been many days, if any, before you
21 realised that at the time you were asked to be on the alert, the HVO was
22 preparing to massacre Ahmici. Now, when did you learn about that?
23 A. I never learnt that the HVO was preparing a crime in Ahmici. But
24 about the events in Ahmici, I learnt a few days after they had taken
1 Q. And you learnt that HVO soldiers of one kind or another had
2 massacred a civilian population; correct?
3 A. I wouldn't quite agree with that. I know that a crime was
4 committed in Ahmici, and I do condemn every such act and I do not support
6 Q. Did it not occur to you, Mr. Bertovic, that what you'd been asked
7 to do was to provide a fence to the south of the area that was going to be
8 attacked in a criminal way, and that you'd been misled into doing that?
9 A. That is not how I understood it. I understood the task in a way
10 in which I carried it out. And from the context of the conversations and
11 the orders issued to me, I simply could not draw such a conclusion.
12 Q. Again, we'll have to return to that in a minute. But let's go for
13 more detail now of how it was that you came to deploy, was it, 80 men,
14 four groups of a total of 80 men, is that right, in strategic positions.
15 A. Well, about 80 people were deployed in four groups in those
16 locations with regard to which I issued the order.
17 Q. Your first encounter with Cerkez - I've simply forgotten and it's
18 my mistake - was where and when on this night?
19 A. Our first contact that night was at the command when he gave me
20 the order, in the early evening hours.
21 Q. By "the command," you mean the command where?
22 A. I mean the command in the town of Vitez, the building of the
23 Workers' University.
24 Q. I see. How many metres is that from Blaskic's command post,
1 A. That is about 50 to 100 metres away from Blaskic's command post.
2 Q. What time of the evening were you there?
3 A. Well, I cannot recall that exactly. But I do recall it was early
4 evening, maybe 8.00, 9.00 p.m. I can't say exactly.
5 Q. Cerkez, after he'd given you these instructions, as you described
6 them, what did he do? Stay in the command post, go somewhere else, go
7 back to a meeting, what?
8 A. I don't know exactly what he did. But I know that in the rest of
9 the evening -- later in the evening he was at home because that's where I
10 found him when I called on the phone.
11 Q. I'll come to that immediately. How did you discover that he was
12 at home, please?
13 A. Well, in our first contact in the village of Rijeka, somewhere in
14 the middle of the night when he was going home, we talked, and on that
15 occasion he said that he would be at his place and that's where I could
16 reach him.
17 Q. Let's just deal with it in order. You leave the centre of town.
18 Did you not go back to the centre of town at all that evening?
19 A. Perhaps we should be more precise with hours.
20 Q. Well, please do. You've told us that you saw him at about 8.00 or
21 9.00. You went back to your local command post, as I understand it, and
22 had your discussion with other people to assess the risk. Did you go back
23 to the centre of town again after that, please, Mr. Bertovic?
24 A. Yes. I had some simple errands to run in the town of Vitez, to go
25 to my place, and I met Commander Cerkez somewhere on the way, in the town
1 of Rijeka.
2 Q. What time was this?
3 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's correction: It was the suburb of
5 A. I don't know exactly the hour, but it was night. It was late in
6 the evening, beginning of the night.
7 MR. NICE:
8 Q. What errands could you run in Vitez in the middle of the night?
9 There was a curfew in operation, wasn't there?
10 A. As I said, I went to my place, to my own flat, to collect some
11 necessities and a part of the equipment that I deemed I would require.
12 Q. Why did you need necessities and other equipment when you and your
13 men had assessed the risk effectively as negligible? Why did you go back
14 for those things, Mr. Bertovic?
15 A. Well, I needed my toiletries, and I also needed some things I
16 carried in my briefcase, material for drawing and writing, that I didn't
17 have on me.
18 Q. You knew, didn't you, that something extraordinary was going to
19 happen that night, and that's why you went back to get these odd things.
20 A. No, that's not it. I was a bachelor at the time, and I was on the
21 move frequently; sometimes I would be at my place; sometimes at my
22 parents' place; sometimes on the post. And what I did that night was
23 perfectly common.
24 Q. Well, in your encounter with Cerkez in the suburb of Rijeka, did
25 he tell you anything else about this assessed risk, or about what response
1 had been made to it?
2 A. No. It was a brief meeting where I explained in a couple of
3 sentences what I had done regarding the instructions I was given, and he
4 just told me where and how I could reach him if that should be required.
5 Q. The last question on this topic before we move on: Was this
6 meeting before or after half past one in the morning, do you think?
7 A. I cannot recall exactly. I think now that it was before, before
9 Q. The second contact with him at his house was undoubtedly after
10 1.30 --
11 JUDGE MAY: There's an objection.
12 THE INTERPRETER: Mr. Kovacic, your microphone, please.
13 MR. KOVACIC: I'm not sure whether the interpreter's remark was
14 given on the English channel as well. There was a confusion in the time,
15 1.30 or 12.30, and the interpreter corrected that. In other words, the
16 witness did not answer the same question. Perhaps it should be repeated.
17 JUDGE MAY: Well, the time that was recorded was 0030.
18 MR. NICE: I suspect it's the problem between half past -- half an
19 hour to one and half an hour past, whatever it is.
20 Q. Was this first meeting before 0130 in the morning or after 0130 in
21 the morning, please?
22 A. As I said, I cannot say exactly. I think it was before.
23 Q. And the second meeting was undoubtedly -- the meeting at his house
24 was undoubtedly after.
25 A. There was no meeting at his house. I just called him on the
2 Q. The telephone call was after 1.30.
3 A. Yes.
4 Q. And if, as you say, Cerkez was at home and not at his command
5 post, there would be someone at the command post, would there not?
6 A. There is always an officer on duty, an operative officer on duty
7 at the command post, and he is the person we contact whenever the
8 commander is not available.
9 Q. And he is in a position, of course, at all times to get in touch
10 with the brigade commander, Mario Cerkez.
11 A. Every operative officer on duty, whatever the unit concerned,
12 should always be able to reach his commander, and vice versa.
13 Q. Roughly what time did you make the phone call to Cerkez at his
15 A. Well, I could not say exactly the hour. But I would say it was
16 the second half of the night; in the small hours, I would say.
17 Q. These four groups of men, can you tell us very rapidly but just in
18 summary where you deployed them?
19 A. Yes.
20 Q. Go on, then. Show us.
21 A. Four groups of troops were deployed in the following positions:
22 One --
23 THE INTERPRETER: Closer to the microphone, please.
24 A. One was --
25 JUDGE MAY: Yes. Can you just make sure you speak into the
1 microphone? I know it's very difficult.
2 A. One was deployed on Crveno Brdce. That is grid 517. One group
3 was on the road leading from -- going from Vranjska to the village of
4 Rijeka. So this would be the road. One group was on the road going from
5 Kruscica to the village of Rijeka. And there was one group deployed on
6 the road to the west from the village of Kruscica to the village of
7 Rijeka, into town, somewhere around the village of Bobasi.
8 MR. NICE:
9 Q. Forgive my asking you this, Mr. Bertovic, but if that's really
10 where your four groups were deployed, how are you able to say that that
11 blue line was even remotely a reflection of where the Viteska Brigade
12 was? You've pointed to the centre centimetre of that blue line and no
13 more. On your evidence, that blue line doesn't relate to what you were
14 doing at all really, does it?
15 A. I said in my testimony today that I do not agree with the way the
16 right and the left flanks were shown. That's one thing. And another
17 thing is that in that short period of time we did what we could to cover
18 the broader area from Kruscica and Vranjska and towards Vitez. And that's
19 why I decided to place my groups precisely in those locations, and that
20 was the best way to cover this area with the available troops, that being
21 the area I was entrusted with. And furthermore, I judged that it might
22 well turn out to be sufficient, because there would be no conflict, no
23 serious conflict.
24 Q. I'm going to suggest to you straight away that your
25 account attempts to create the maximum distance between you and your
1 troops, and Ahmici to the east and north-east, and Veceriska to the west,
2 because you know that those are places where atrocities were committed,
3 and that's why you're narrowing your alleged field of operation,
4 Mr. Bertovic. Isn't that the truth?
5 A. I would not agree with that.
6 Q. Why was it necessary to contact Cerkez in the morning? What was
7 it you said to him?
8 A. It was very necessary to me because I had a dilemma about
9 withdrawing my troops from the Ribnjak Motel to the location I had to
10 cover in the area of Kruscica and Vranjska. And as the commander, I later
11 paid a price for that, for failing to suggest to Cerkez myself to withdraw
12 these people, because these people were later completely surrounded and
13 they barely managed to escape during the night. That was my mistake, and
14 on that night I gave a wrong suggestion to Commander Cerkez.
15 Q. If you'd like to look, please, at Exhibit 676.
16 MR. NICE: I've got mine here to save time. Usual format.
17 Q. Now, this, you see -- and you can see the original. If we start
18 at the top, remind the Judges, the Chamber -- is a document of the 16th of
19 April, it's at 0130 in the morning, a combat command order to prevent
20 activity by the enemy, and it goes to the commander of the HVO Brigade
21 Vitez, Mr. M. Cerkez, and PN units Tvrtko. It's said to be an order to
22 prevent attack activity by the enemy, extreme Muslim forces, and blockade
23 the broader territory of Kruscica, Vranjska, and Donja Veceriska. It
24 says, as you see, is this:
25 "On the basis of the NGS HVO command and the assessment made, we
1 expect enemy attack in the direction of Kruscica town centre and Vranjska
2 town centre, with the probable goal, after carrying out the planned
3 terrorist activities, of engaging open offensive against the HVO and
4 destroying all that is Croatian. The enemy will probably use infantry
5 units but will direct GS at the command headquarters and other HVO
7 Paragraph 2: "The assignment of your forces is to occupy the
8 defence region, blockade villages, and prevent all entrances to and exits
9 from the village. In the event of open attack activity by the Muslims,
10 neutralise them and prevent their movement with precise fire from PN.
11 Time of readiness, 0530. Combat formation, blockade forces, search
12 forces, forces for offensive activity."
13 And then paragraph 3, if the usher would just move it up a teeny
14 bit. Thank you. "In front of you are the forces of the 4th Battalion
15 police. Behind you are your forces. To the right of you are the forces
16 of the unit Zrinjski, and to the left of you are the forces of the
17 civilian police. Personally responsible to me for the execution of the
18 given assignment is the commander, Mr. Cerkez."
19 Run back, shall we, Mr. Bertovic, to the previous evening. Were
20 you told the previous evening that what was required of you was a
21 deployment exactly in line with or broadly speaking in line with this
22 order given at 1.30 in the morning? And just so that I can make the
23 position quite clear, was it made clear to you that there was going to be
24 an attack on Ahmici and other villages, that Zuti was going to have the
25 charge of looking after the upper side of Stari Vitez, that the civilian
1 police would attack from the Lasva and the Vitezovi would be looking after
2 the town centre, and you were part of an overall protection plan? Is that
3 the truth?
4 A. I have not seen this order ever. I don't think what you said is
5 true. And the task, as it was given to me, was exactly as I had stated
6 earlier. I am sure that this order addressed to my battalion, in this
7 form, or at least in this translation, had never reached me.
8 Q. You're sure of that, are you? How come? This is an order to
9 Cerkez. You saw Cerkez in the second half of the night. Think back. Are
10 you suggesting that somehow, if this order is a genuine order -- it comes
11 from the appropriate records -- are you suggesting from what you know of
12 Cerkez that he'd disregard an order like this?
13 A. I'm certain of what I've said. I maintain that I did not see
14 Commander Cerkez in the second half of the night, as you said. I just
15 called him on the telephone because I had -- I personally had a dilemma.
16 MR. NICE: Is there time for one more document, Your Honour,
17 before we close?
18 Q. I'd like, please, to look at a new document, 692.2. Just before
19 we -- while it's being distributed and while you're thinking, you and you
20 alone were the Viteska Brigade for the night of the 15th, 16th. There was
21 no one else from the Viteska Brigade deployed, was there? Was there?
22 A. I did not understand the question in terms of -- I did not
23 understand the word "deployed." Deployed where?
24 Q. Your 80 men were the only members of the Viteska Brigade deployed
25 on the night of the 15th, 16th; correct?
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.
1 A. The night between the 15th and the 16th I can only speak about the
2 deployment of my battalion, which was the only one in the Viteska Brigade,
3 and it was deployed in the positions of the villages of Kruscica and
4 Vranjska, which we were charged with.
5 JUDGE MAY: We've heard all that.
6 MR. NICE:
7 Q. Can you look at this document, you see, please.
8 JUDGE MAY: Where is it from, please?
9 MR. NICE: It's a Zagreb document.
10 Q. This is a document. It comes from Blaskic on the 16th of April,
11 to the commanders of brigades 1 to 12. It says: "Report on the state in
12 your zone of responsibility." It's requested that you "immediately
13 deliver me a report on the current situation in your zone of
14 responsibility." And then handwritten on this document -- you can see it
15 on the last page -- there's something headed "the Viteska Brigade," which
16 records: "D Vec," probably Veceriska, "fell. We are advancing in
17 Ahmici. Sivrino Selo and Vrhovine are offering a truce. We have three
19 Mr. Bertovic, can you help us, please, with how such a report
20 headed "Viteska Brigade," which you were in command that night, should say
21 that Veceriska had fallen and that there was an advance in Ahmici?
22 A. I cannot confirm that this is a document of the Viteska Brigade.
23 It does not contain all the required elements. And I'm saying it for the
24 first time now: I don't think that is correct.
25 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honour, if I may.
1 JUDGE MAY: Yes.
2 MR. KOVACIC: This is simply a matter of the document. The first
3 page of the document is obviously the complete document with a header and
4 a signature and --
5 JUDGE MAY: Well, we shall have to hear some evidence about it
6 before it's admitted. Yes.
7 MR. KOVACIC: Certainly. But what I was trying to say, the second
8 page --
9 JUDGE MAY: We'll have to see the original to see what it says.
10 At the moment, this is all we've got, a copy.
11 MR. KOVACIC: I just wanted to ask whether the Prosecution could
12 explain to us whether the note, the second page, is a part of this
13 document, or what is it, because it --
14 JUDGE MAY: Let them produce the original and then we'll see what
15 they've got.
16 And you can produce the original, Mr. Nice?
17 MR. NICE: Your Honour, the position is: This document, like the
18 other documents, including the one referred to by Mr. Kovacic in his
19 examination of the witness, comes from Zagreb. This one, as we can see
20 from the legend on the second sheet, in its original form has a
21 handwritten passage on the reverse of the typed page. The document is
22 presently draft translated, and the formal translation will be available
24 JUDGE MAY: We will see in due course the original that you have.
25 MR. NICE: The original we have will only certainly be a copy for
1 reasons that you know.
2 JUDGE MAY: Yes, but the original as far as you're concerned.
3 MR. NICE: Absolutely. It may be in the same form because it may
4 have been copied in two sheets, but it's --
5 JUDGE MAY: Is there anything more you want to ask this witness
6 about this document?
7 MR. NICE: No, not at the moment, Your Honour.
8 JUDGE MAY: No. Very well. It's time for us to adjourn, at least
9 as far as the evidence is concerned.
10 Major Bertovic, would you be back tomorrow, please, at half past
11 nine to conclude your evidence.
12 We'll rise for five minutes in order to reconvene in closed
14 MR. KOVACIC: Your Honour, could I just ask the Prosecution the
15 approximate planning of that witness so we can order our next witness in
16 the courtroom for the appropriate time.
17 JUDGE MAY: Yes. How long -- I could pass the question along even
18 though it was not on the microphone. How long?
19 MR. NICE: I will be until the break. I understand there's only
20 one other witness this week, or probably, so there's no great problem with
22 JUDGE MAY: Yes. Thank you.
23 [The witness stands down]
24 --- Recess taken at 4.01 p.m.
25 --- On resuming at 4.11 p.m.
1 [Closed session]
13 Pages 25923 to 25951 redacted – in closed session.
16 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 5.12 p.m.,
17 to be reconvened on Thursday, the 5th day of
18 October, 2000, at 9.30 a.m.