1 Monday, 26
2 [Judgement Proceedings]
3 [Open session]
4 [The accused entered court]
5 --- Upon commencing at 2.05 p.m.
6 JUDGE MAY: Yes. Let the Registrar call the case.
7 THE REGISTRAR: Good afternoon, Your Honours. Case number
8 IT-95-14/2-T, the Prosecutor versus Dario Kordic and Mario Cerkez.
9 JUDGE MAY: This hearing is for the Trial Chamber to deliver its
10 judgement. This is the fifth case to be heard --
11 THE INTERPRETER: Microphone, please, judge.
12 JUDGE MAY: -- by the International Tribunal concerning events in
13 the Lasva Valley in 1992 and 1993. However, it is the first involving a
14 high-ranking politician.
15 The background is the conflict between the Bosnian Muslims and
16 Bosnian Croats which took place during those years in Central Bosnia. The
17 accused both played prominent parts in that conflict. Dario Kordic was a
18 politician, described as the most important in the area. Mario Cerkez was
19 a military man, Commander of a Brigade in the Bosnian Croat armed forces.
20 The charges against them arise from events during the conflict.
21 The Indictment contains 44 Counts, and charges each accused with
22 eight grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, ten violations of the laws
23 or customs of war, and four crimes against humanity. The first two Counts
24 charge the accused with persecution, a crime against humanity. The other
25 Counts charges offences relating to murder, inhuman treatment, detention
1 and destruction. The Indictment alleges that the accused participated in
2 a widespread or systematic campaign of persecution of the Bosnian Muslims
3 in that region culminating in a series of attacks over a two-year period
4 on towns and villages in the Lasva Valley and surroundings. Many Muslim
5 civilians were killed, seriously wounded, or detained. Meanwhile, their
6 homes were burned, their towns, villages, and places of worship destroyed,
7 and their property plundered.
8 The defence case for both accused amounts to a complete denial of
9 the prosecution case. Not only is the responsibility of the accused for
10 the crimes alleged against them disputed, there is an issue whether the
11 crimes were committed at all. The Trial Chamber, therefore, has had to
12 determine whether these crimes were committed, and, if so, whether the
13 accused were guilty of those charged against them.
14 The result has been an extremely long trial, lasting 20 months, in
15 which a great deal of evidence was put before the court. In all, 241
16 witnesses gave evidence and over 4,500 exhibits were produced. The
17 transcript runs to 28,000 pages.
18 What follows is a summary of the written Judgement and forms no
19 part of it. That Judgement is available today.
20 First, some matters of law. The Trial Chamber finds that there
21 was a general state of armed conflict in Central Bosnia at the relevant
22 time. It also finds that there is a clear connection between this
23 conflict and the alleged crimes set out in the Indictment. The Trial
24 Chamber finds that due to the intervention of the Republic of Croatia,
25 this conflict was international.
1 The Trial Chamber also finds that persecution may include conduct
2 not specifically listed as a crime against humanity in Article 5 of the
3 Statute of the International Tribunal. However, such conduct must reach
4 the same level of gravity as the other crimes listed in the Article. In
5 this case, the Trial Chamber finds that two alleged acts do not rise to
6 that level of gravity; namely, persecution in the form of encouraging and
7 promoting hatred, by propaganda and otherwise, and persecution in
9 Turning now to the facts. The relevant history begins with the
10 founding in 1990 of a Bosnian Croat political party, the Croatian
11 Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina, or "HDZ-BiH". This was an
12 offshoot of its Croatian parent, the nationalist HDZ party. In late 1991
13 the HDZ-BiH set up a separate Croatian community within Bosnia, the
14 HZ H-B, which the Trial Chamber finds was established with the intention
15 that it should, in due course, become part of the Republic of Croatia.
16 The HZ H-B thereafter created another body, the Croatian Defence Council,
17 the "HVO", as the executive and defence authority of the Bosnian Croat
18 community. Local municipal HVOs were then set up as the executive and
19 military power in the municipalities.
20 Meanwhile, Dario Kordic rose rapidly in the HDZ-BiH political
21 party, becoming its President in his home town, Busovaca; President of his
22 Regional Community; and Vice-President of the HZ H-B. Mario Cerkez, for
23 his part, was one of the founders of the HVO in Vitez and Commander of its
24 local brigade, known as the Viteska Brigade.
25 In 1992, the HVO began taking over all power in the municipalities
1 in Central Bosnia, in particular, in Busovaca, Vitez, and Kiseljak. They
2 met little armed resistance except in Novi Travnik and the village of
3 Ahmici. In these incidents, Dario Kordic demonstrated both his political
4 and military authority; and the Trial Chamber finds that by the end of
5 1992, on the eve of the conflict, Dario Kordic combined both forms of
6 authority. His military authority did not involve a formal rank but was a
7 position which he had won for himself. Accordingly, a precise position in
8 the chain of command cannot be ascribed to him. It is not suggested that
9 he had power to discipline or punish troops, and the Trial Chamber finds
10 that he has no liability under Article 7(3) of the Statute concerning
11 command responsibility.
12 We come now to the most important year in the conflict, 1993.
13 That year began with peace talks and the Vance-Owen Peace Plan. However,
14 the situation soon degenerated into conflict, first in Gornji Vakuf and
15 thereafter in Busovaca. The HVO attacked the latter municipality in
16 January 1993, using artillery and infantry on civilian targets, and
17 setting a pattern for subsequent attacks on towns and villages. The
18 evidence shows that Dario Kordic was implicated in this attack.
19 In April 1993, it was the turn of Vitez and the Muslim villages of
20 the Lasva Valley to come under attack. The Trial Chamber finds that the
21 evidence points to a well-organised and planned HVO attack upon these
22 locations, in particular, the village of Ahmici where the attack early in
23 the morning of 16 April resulted in a massacre in which more than 100
24 people were murdered, including 32 women and 11 children, and the village
25 was destroyed. There were similar attacks on the villages up and down the
1 Lasva Valley and on the town of Vitez. The Trial Chamber finds that these
2 attacks followed a common design or plan conceived and executed by the
3 Bosnian Croat leadership to ethnically cleanse the valley of Muslims.
4 Dario Kordic, as the local political leader, was part of this
5 design or plan, his principal role being that of a planner and
6 instigator. In addition, the Trial Chamber finds that Dario Kordic was
7 present at a meeting of politicians in the headquarters of Colonel Blaskic
8 on 15 April when the attacks on Ahmici and the other villages were
9 authorised; that Mario Cerkez was present at a subsequent military meeting
10 when plans were drawn up; and also that Dario Kordic was associated with
11 an order given by Colonel Blaskic to kill all the military-aged men, expel
12 the civilians, and set fire to the houses in Ahmici.
13 As for Mario Cerkez's role on 16 April, the Trial Chamber finds
14 that during this period, the Viteska Brigade was in the thick of the
15 fighting and that Mario Cerkez was in command of the Brigade. As
16 Commander, he participated in the attacks on Vitez, Stari Vitez, and
17 Veceriska. However, in spite of his presence at the military meeting on
18 15 April, the Trial Chamber is not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that
19 Mario Cerkez bears any responsibility for the attack on Ahmici. This
20 attack was the responsibility of the 4th Battalion Military Police, which
21 was not under his command.
22 The fighting around Vitez continued after 16 April. On 18 April,
23 a truck bomb exploded near the mosque in Stari Vitez, killing at least six
24 people and injuring 50 others. The Trial Chamber finds that this was an
25 act of pure terrorism committed by elements within the HVO in Vitez but
1 that there is no evidence to connect either of the accused with this
3 On 18 April, the HVO attacked the villages in the Kiseljak
4 municipality. These attacks were part of the general offensive launched
5 by the HVO against the Muslims in this area and Dario Kordic, as the local
6 political leader, was associated with them.
7 On 19 April, the market-place in Zenica was shelled, killing 15
8 people and injuring many others. The Trial Chamber finds that the HVO was
9 responsible but that this was not consistent with the pattern of the other
10 attacks and thus falls outside the common design or plan. No political
11 connection has been demonstrated and consequently the Trial Chamber cannot
12 draw the inference that Dario Kordic was implicated in this unlawful
14 By the end of April, there was a cease-fire in place, but in June
15 further fighting broke out in Central Bosnia. The HVO launched another
16 series of attacks: This time on villages in the Kiseljak municipality,
17 including the village of Tulica where 12 people were killed and the
18 village destroyed. The Trial Chamber finds that these offensives were
19 another manifestation of the HVO design to subjugate the Muslims of
20 Central Bosnia. As with the offensives against the villages in April, the
21 Trial Chamber finds that the attacks would not have been launched without
22 the approval of the local political leadership in the person of Dario
24 In October 1993, events moved to Vares municipality. The village
25 of Stupni Do is located about a kilometre south of the town of Vares. On
1 23 October, the village was attacked and 38 people lost their lives. It
2 was not disputed that Ivica Rajic and his troops from Kiseljak were
3 responsible for this massacre. Some defence was offered in the village
4 but there can be no justification for what happened. However, the Trial
5 Chamber finds that Dario Kordic's influence and authority which were
6 concentrated in the Lasva Valley did not extend to Stupni Do, which was
7 thus outside his sphere of authority, and the attack on the village was
8 not part of any common plan or design to which he was a party.
9 During the HVO offensives, many hundreds of Bosnian Muslim
10 civilians were rounded up and detained in makeshift camps where conditions
11 varied from camp to camp but were generally inhuman. The Trial Chamber
12 finds that the detainees were subject to arbitrary and unlawful
13 imprisonment (which was part of the common design or plan) and that they
14 were forced without justification to dig trenches and were used as
15 hostages and human shields. The Trial Chamber also finds that, as
16 Commander of the Viteska Brigade, Mario Cerkez was responsible for the
17 unlawful imprisonment and inhuman treatment of the detainees in the Vitez
18 detention facilities, and that Dario Kordic was responsible for the
19 unlawful imprisonment of detainees in the areas for which he had
20 authority. However, the camps were run by the military and the evidence
21 is not such as to allow an inference to be safely drawn that Dario Kordic
22 was connected with the way in which the detainees were treated or that the
23 treatment was part of the common plan or design.
24 The Trial Chamber finds that there was a pattern of destruction
25 and plunder in all the places attacked by the HVO and that the HVO
1 deliberately targeted mosques and other religious and educational
2 institutions. All this was part of the common plan, and the accused were
3 implicated in the offences where they have been found to be responsible
4 for attacks.
5 In relation to those Counts alleging persecution, the Trial
6 Chamber finds, on overwhelming evidence, that there was a campaign of
7 persecution aimed at the Bosnian Muslims throughout the Indictment period
8 in Central Bosnia. It took the form of the most extreme expression of
9 persecution, that is, attacking towns and villages with the concomitant
10 destruction and plunder, killing, injury, and detention. The purpose of
11 the campaign was the subrogation of the Bosnian Muslim population.
12 Thus, the Trial Chamber rejects the defence case that these events
13 amounted to a civil war and that the Bosnian Croats were on the defensive
14 and themselves subjected to persecution. For these purposes, the fact
15 that individual atrocities were committed against Bosnian Croats is
16 irrelevant, although they may be the subject of other criminal
18 The Trial Chamber makes the following findings about the
19 participation of the accused in the campaign of persecution. Whatever
20 positions he may have held, the evidence does not support the contention
21 that Dario Kordic was in the very highest echelons of the Bosnian Croat
22 leadership or that he conceived the campaign of persecution. He was a
23 regional leader and lent himself enthusiastically to the common design of
24 persecution by planning, preparing and ordering those parts of the
25 campaign which fell within his sphere of authority.
1 As already noted, the Trial Chamber finds that Mario Cerkez, as
2 the Commander of the Viteska Brigade, participated in the attacks on
3 Vitez, Stari Vitez, and Veceriska. This was a high point of the campaign
4 of persecution. The accused played his part in that campaign by
5 commanding the troops involved in some of the incidents; as such he was a
7 We turn now to the allegation that the accused are also guilty by
8 reason of their superior responsibility and failure to prevent these
9 crimes and to punish the perpetrators. The Trial Chamber notes that such
10 responsibility may attach to civilians once it is established that the
11 requisite power to prevent and punish exists. However, as already noted,
12 the Trial Chamber finds that Dario Kordic did not possess the authority
13 either to prevent the crimes or to punish the perpetrators and cannot
14 therefore be liable under Article 7(3) of the Statute. On the other hand,
15 Mario Cerkez knew of the impending attacks on Vitez, Stari Vitez, and
16 Veceriska by the troops under his command. He failed to take the
17 necessary measures to prevent those attacks, failed to punish those who
18 were responsible for them, and is therefore liable under Article 7(3) in
19 respect of the offences arising from attacks on those three locations.
20 Finally, the Trial Chamber applies the practice approved by the
21 Appeals Chamber recently in relation to cumulative convictions. As a
22 result, the accused will be acquitted of those Counts for which a
23 cumulative conviction would be inappropriate.
24 The Trial Chamber's findings on the Counts of the Indictment are
25 as follows:
1 Counts 1 and 2: crimes against humanity: persecutions.
2 Count 1: Dario Kordic - guilty
3 Count 2: Mario Cerkez - guilty
4 Counts 3 - 6: violations of the laws or customs of war (unlawful
5 attack on civilians).
6 Counts 3 and 4: Dario Kordic - guilty
7 Counts 5 and 6: Mario Cerkez - guilty
8 Counts 7 - 20: crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the
9 Geneva Conventions, and violations of the laws or customs of war (murder,
10 wilful killing, inhumane acts, wilfully causing great suffering or serious
11 injury, inhuman treatment).
12 Dario Kordic:
13 Counts 7, 8, 10, and 12: - guilty
14 Counts 9, 11, 13: - not guilty
15 Mario Cerkez:
16 Counts 14, 15, 17, and 19: - guilty
17 Counts 16, 18, and 20: - not guilty
18 Counts 21 and 22: a crime against humanity and a grave breach of
19 the Geneva Conventions (imprisonment, unlawful confinement).
20 Dario Kordic - guilty
21 Counts 23 - 28: grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and
22 violations of the laws or customs of war (inhuman treatment, use of human
23 shields, taking of hostages).
24 Dario Kordic, not guilty
25 Counts 29 - 31: a crime against humanity and grave breaches of the
1 Geneva Conventions (imprisonment, unlawful confinement, inhuman
3 Mario Cerkez - guilty
4 Counts 32 - 36: violations of the laws or customs of war and grave
5 breaches of the Geneva Conventions (cruel treatment, taking of hostages,
6 inhuman treatment).
7 Mario Cerkez:
8 Counts 32, 34, and 36: - not guilty
9 Counts 33 and 35: - guilty
10 Counts 37 - 42: grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions;
11 violations of the laws or customs of war (extensive destruction of
12 property, wanton destruction, plunder).
13 Count 37: Dario Kordic - not guilty
14 Counts 38 and 39: Dario Kordic - guilty
15 Count 40: Mario Cerkez - not guilty
16 Counts 41 and 42: Mario Cerkez - guilty
17 Counts 43 and 44: violations of the laws or customs of war
18 (destruction or damage to religious or educational institutions).
19 Count 43: Dario Kordic - guilty
20 Count 44: Mario Cerkez - guilty
21 Turning now to the question of sentence, the Trial Chamber makes
22 some general points. The Trial Chamber will consider the appropriate
23 sentences in the case of the accused, emphasising that the sentences
24 reflect the evidence in this case and the role of these accused as found
25 by this Trial Chamber. Both accused have been convicted of numerous
1 offences. They all arise from the same common design which led to the
2 persecution and the "ethnic cleansing" of the Bosnian Muslims of the Lasva
3 Valley and surroundings. The resulting sustained campaign involved a
4 succession of attacks on villages and towns which were characterised by a
5 ruthlessness and savagery and in which no distinction was made as to the
6 age of its victims: young and old were either murdered or expelled and
7 their houses were burned. The total number of dead may never be known,
8 but it runs into hundreds, with thousands expelled. Offences of this
9 level of barbarity could not be more grave and those who participate in
10 that must expect sentences of commensurate severity to mark the outrage of
11 the international community.
12 Dario Kordic, will you stand.
13 [The accused Kordic stands up]
14 JUDGE MAY: Your role in the offences was an important one. As a
15 regional political leader in Central Bosnia, with particular authority in
16 the Lasva Valley, you were the effective political commander in the area
17 where the majority of the offences were committed. As already noted, the
18 Trial Chamber has not accepted the full extent of the Prosecution case and
19 has not found that you were in the highest echelons of the leadership of
20 the campaign of persecution. Likewise, you have been acquitted of some of
21 the offences arising from individual acts of terror and the massacre at
22 Stupni Do. Therefore, you are not to be sentenced as an architect of the
23 persecution or the prime mover in it. Nonetheless, you enjoyed the
24 campaign enthusiastically and played an instrumental part in the Lasva
25 Valley offensives in 1993, in particular in ordering the attack of Ahmici
1 and the other villages in April 1993. For your part in that dreadful
2 episode, you deserve appropriate punishment. The fact that you were a
3 politician and took no part in the actual execution of the crimes makes no
4 difference; you played your part as surely as the men who fired the guns.
5 Indeed, the fact that you were a leader aggravates the offences. You have
6 offered no mitigation and there is none.
7 The Trial Chamber considers that your overall criminality can best
8 be reflected in a single sentence. Dario Kordic, you are sentenced to 25
9 years' imprisonment.
10 You may sit down.
11 [The accused Kordic sits down]
12 Mario Cerkez, will you stand.
13 [The accused Cerkez stands up]
14 JUDGE MAY: Your position is different from that of your
15 co-accused. You were a soldier and a middle-ranking HVO commander. The
16 Trial Chamber notes that you have no previous experience of command and
17 that nothing in your earlier life could have prepared you for it.
18 However, you were the Commander of the Viteska Brigade during the time of
19 the terrible events in the Lasva Valley and led it in the assaults which
20 resulted in civilian death and destruction. While the Trial Chamber has
21 found that your troops were not involved in the massacre at Ahmici, you
22 played your part in the campaign of persecution, aggravated because of
23 your role as a commander. While there was positive testimony as to your
24 character and personality, none of the matters submitted as mitigating
25 circumstances amount to mitigation of these international crimes.
1 The Trial Chamber considers that your overall criminality can best
2 be reflected in a single sentence. Mario Cerkez, you are sentenced to 15
3 years' imprisonment.
4 You may sit down.
5 [The accused Cerkez sits down]
6 JUDGE MAY: The period of time which the accused have spent in
7 custody of the International Tribunal, that is, the period from 6 October
8 1997 to the date of this Judgement, shall be deducted from the sentences.
9 The Court will rise.
10 --- Whereupon the Judgement adjourned at 2.41 p.m.
13 Blank page inserted to ensure pagination corresponds between the English
14 and French transcripts.