In the opening statement, General Rasim Delic’s says that it intends to ‘clarify all the dilemmas’ about the role of the former commander of the BH Army General Staff in the times relevant for the indictment. The first defense witness is Haso Ribo, former commander of the Territorial Defense in Travnik

Haso Ribo, defense witness for Rasim DelicHaso Ribo, defense witness for Rasim Delic

General Rasim Delic's defense believes that the prosecutor didn’t ‘get into the core of the problem’ and failed to call enough evidence to lead to the conviction of the former commander of the BH Army General Staff. ‘If the judgment were to be delivered now, we believe that General Delic would be acquitted on all counts, said co-counsel Nicholas Robson it the opening statement of the defense.

Through its evidence, the prosecution painted ‘superficial story ’of “difficult and complex problems the BH political and military leadership had to face at the beginning of the conflict and in its course. The defense announced it intended to ‘clarify all the dilemmas’ about the role General Delic played at the time when the crimes alleged in the indictment were committed. The defense plans to present evidence on ‘the real situation’ at the time.

The defense will call twenty-four witnesses, and the first to give evidence was Haso Ribo, former commander of the Territorial Defense in Travnik. At the beginning of his testimony Ribo confirmed the defense allegation that the Travnik local authorities and the local Muslim dignitaries saw regular BH troops as ‘a communist creation’ and considered the troops as ‘Muslims inferior to them’. According to Ribo, at the beginning of the conflict they set up the Muslim Armed Forces (MOS) to parallel the Croatian Armed Forces (HOS). The chief ideologue in the MOS was a man by the name of Zihnija Aganovic who supported the Mujahideen, according to Ribo.

The witness claims that the Travnik MOS and other pure-Muslim armed formations, such as the Patriot League and the Green Berets were never part of the Territorial Defense system and the BH Army. Quite the contrary, he said, they were a great problem because in their effort to win over as many people as possible they planted rumors that the MOS was the only protector of the Muslim population.

Noting that the local civilian authority exerted a lot of influence over the regular BH armed forced, the witness said that he had been appointed the commander of the Territorial Defense by the then president of the Travnik municipality. In his words, this was not according to the usual military rules.

The defense described the serious humanitarian situation and the large number of refugees in Travnik quoting from a book by British journalist Ed Vulliamy, Seasons in Hell. In the spring of 1993, Vulliamy met the witness and interviewed him. The Guardian journalist described Travnik as ‘the crossroads where all the fear, misery, violence, prudence and courage’ of the BH war met. The situation was even worse than that, the witness noted.

Haso Ribo will continue his evidence tomorrow.