The 3rd Corps commander did not have reliable information about the crimes in Dusina and Maline, defense witness Dzemal Merdan claimed today. Despite the fact that the 3rd Corps did not have the requisite jurisdiction to investigate the crimes committed by foreigners, it tried to solve the problem of their activities in its area of responsibility

Dzemo Merdan, defense witness for HadzihasanovicDzemo Merdan, defense witness for Hadzihasanovic

General Enver Hadzihasanovic did not have reliable information about the war crimes committed against Croat prisoners in Dusina and Maline, while the crime in Miletici, of which he was aware, was committed by forces not under his command. That was the testimony of Dzemal Merdan, formerly Hadzihasanovic’s deputy while he was the corps commander. The defense is trying to prove that Hadzihasanovic – charged on the basis of command responsibility with the failure to prevent or punish the perpetrators of the crimes – should not be held criminally responsible for the three most serious crimes committed in his area of responsibility.

The prosecutor presented evidence to the effect that in Dusina the perpetrators had been regular troops of Hadzihasanovic's 3rd Corps, while in the villages of Miletici and Maline the crimes had been committed by the mujahedin, who were under the control of the accused, as the prosecutor contended.

Immediately after the BH Army action in the Dusina area in January 1993, Merdan heard from the HVO commander, Tihomir Blaskic, allegations that a crime had been committed. He relayed the information to his superior, Hadzihasanovic, who “took them seriously.” However, niether the reports filed by the subordinate units, ordered by Hadzihasanovic, nor the subsequent forensic investigation indicated that HVO members had been killed after combat, the witness states. He adds that Hadzihasanovic did report the allegations on Dusina to his superior command.

Merdan testified further that in April 1993 problems with foreigners, the so-called mujahedin, began – first with the kidnappings of HVO officers and later that month with the killing of a group of Croats in Miletici, a hamlet in the mountains north of Travnik. Former Hadzihasanovic’s deputy, who had personally participated in the on-site investigation in Miletici, states that the “3rd Corps did not have an obligation to investigate the crime because it was not committed by the BH Army; nor was it committed in the combat zone.”

As regards the killing of a large group of Croat prisoners from Maline on 8 June 1993, Merdan states that in early August that year he heard allegations about the killings from the representatives of the international community. He immediately went to the scene, accompanied by an ECMM monitor and Brother Stipan Radic. A local BH Army soldier took them to two graves in the vicinity of Maline and merely said that this was “where the people who had been found in the clean-up of the battlefield were buried.” When the BH Army Supreme Command sent a request for information later, the 3rd Corps again asked for a report from the local forces, but the conclusions remained the same. “My information was that during the fighting there had been casualties on both sides,” Merdan said.

At any rate, the 3rd Corps was aware, as the witness states, that the problem with the mujahedin was “a major one” and “difficult to solve”. Since the “3rd Corps did not have either the forces or the resources” to solve it, the corps addressed the Supreme Command. “It was not easy” to take the decision to disarm the mujahedin, Merdan says, because the 3rd Corps was not sure that it was “strong enough to stand against them and those who were on their side.” The foreigners did not want to negotiate with the 3rd Corps about the proposal of the Supreme Command to deploy them to the Igman mountain, the witness says. The Supreme Command then decided to set up a foreigners detachment, called El Mujahid, and to make it part of the 3rd Corps. “We tried to put them in the chain of command, so that they would fight the way we ordered them to,” but by early 1994, when Hadzihasanovic ceased to be the 3rd Corps commander, the problems were still unsolved, Merdan says.

His testimony will continue for several more days, when he will be cross-examined by the prosecutor.