HERCEG-BOSNA LEADERS DENY ANY GUILT FOR CRIMES
Six former military and political leaders of the HVO and Herceg-Bosna pleaded not guilty today to all 26 counts of their indictment. Prlic: "I was not a warlord as I am being painted in the indictment.”
Jadranko Prlic and Bruno Stojic in the front row and Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic in the back row
Six former military and political leaders of the HVO and Herceg-Bosna pleaded not guilty today to all 26 counts of their indictment; they are charged with crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and violations of the laws and customs of war. The prosecution is charging them with persecutions, murders, detention and the deportation of Bosniaks from the areas declared part of Herceg-Bosna, as well as with the destruction and plunder of property.
“Your Honor, I am not guilty on any of the counts of the indictment. I was not one of the warlords as I am being painted in the indictment," said Jadranko Prlic before Dutch judge Orie interrupted him, explaining that at this point in the proceedings, all he was expected to do was plead guilty or not guilty. Later, when the judge allowed him to continue with his statement, Prlic said that he "sympathizes with all the victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina mentioned in the indictment." He expressed his belief that the Chamber would allow him to "tell the truth about his role in the wartime events in BH" and that "the truth would set him free."
The other five indictees merely pleaded not guilty to the counts in the indictment.
All the accused surrendered to the Tribunal on Monday: the former prime minister of Herceg-Bosna, Jadranko Prlic; former HVO commanders Slobodan Praljak and Milivoj Petkovic; the former defense minister of Herceg-Bosna, Bruno Stojic; former HVO Military Police commander Valentin Coric; and the president of the HVO Commission for the Exchange of Prisoners, Berislav Pusic. The day after their arrival in The Hague, they appeared before Judge Alphonse Orie. They confirmed that they understood the indictment and that they were ready to plead immediately. Praljak specified on two occasions that he "understood the indictment on the level of linguistic logic," while Pusic said that he "understood the language…, but many things were not clear to him" since he was "dealing with humanitarian issues.”
None of the accused had any complaints about conditions in the Detention Unit; Berislav Pusic requested additional medical examinations since he underwent surgery last week in a Ljubljana hospital and was discharged from the hospital in order to surrender to the Tribunal. He is still on crutches.
There was a certain confusion before the pleas were entered caused by the so-called Annex--the addendum to the indictment that the accused and their lawyers had not received before their initial appearance. It contains the list of locations where crimes were committed and the names of the victims, some of whom will be protected. For that reason, the document has not been made public. After a brief break, the problem was solved, with the judge allowing the Annex to be unsealed and given to the accused provided it remain confidential, i.e., that it not be made public.
Because some of the defense lawyers in this case already represent other defendants before the Tribunal, Judge Orie expressed his concerns about a possible conflict of interest. Zeljko Olujic represents General Praljak in this case, while in another case he represents Ivica Rajic (accused for HVO crimes in the Vares area); Zelimir Par represents Prlic in this case and Vinko Martinovic a/k/a Stela in another (Stela has been convicted for crimes in Mostar by a Trial Chamber of the Tribunal); Tomislav Jonjic represents Coric in this case and Pasko Ljubicic in another (Ljubicic is accused of the massacre in Ahmici and other crimes in the Lasva valley). Although the defense lawyers and their clients assured him that there would be no conflict of interest, Judge Orie concluded "that the issue remains open."
The accused General Petkovic is represented by Vesna Alaburic, General Praljak by Kresimir Krsnik (he defended Mladen Naletilic a/k/a Tuta), while Pusic is represented by Marinko Skrobic from Mostar. The prosecution team in this case is led by an American, Kenneth Scott; he represented the prosecution at the trial of Tuta and Stela.
- Case : Prlic et al.
- 2004-04-05 TOP HERCEG-BOSNA LEADERS FACE THE JUDGE TOMORROW
- 2004-04-02 INDICTMENTS AGAINST FOUR HERCEG-BOSNA LEADERS UNSEALED
- 2004-07-19 PRLIC ET AL.: HEARING ON PROVISIONAL RELEASE
- 2004-07-20 CONFLICT OF OPINION ABOUT CONFLICT OF INTEREST
- 2004-09-09 PRLIC ET AL. TO BE PROVISIONALLY RELEASED