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Croatia: General Tried For War Crimes Charges

The Hague, 24 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The war crimes trial of Croatian General Tihomir Blaskic began in The Hague today.

Blaskic is the highest-ranking soldier to appear before the U.N. tribunal so far. He is charged with crimes against humanity and violations of both the rules of war and the Geneva Convention. Previously only guards and enlisted men have been tried.

Prosecutor Mark Harmon said Blaskic organized the expulsion and murder of hundreds of Muslim civilians in the Lasva valley area of Bosnia between 1992 and 1994. If convicted, he could be jailed for life. The trial is expected to last several months.

The Croatian government handed Blaskic over to the tribunal a year ago. But the trial was delayed with the prosecution accusing Croatia of withholding evidence. Blaskic's defense counsel has accused the prosecution of holding the general in custody illegally with insufficient evidence.