The Role of Military Police and Special Purpose Units

For the commanders of both the HVO's OZCB and the ABiH's III Corps, the most significant and direct challenge to their exercise of effective command and control was the presence in their area of responsibility of military police and special purpose units under the control of national-level authorities and thus not obliged to answer through the local chain of command. Moreover, the III Corps commander was also forced to deal with a number of quasiprivate military forces, such as the Muslim Armed Forces, the Patriotic League, the Green Berets, the "Sosna," and the various mujahideen units operating in central Bosnia. The command and control problems in this case were especially critical because extremist groups on both sides were often accused of war crimes, and their leaders often were not under the jurisdiction of the HVO or ABiH commander in whose area they operated.

The HVO special purpose units (PPN) and military police (VP) posed special command and control problems for the commander of the Central Bosnia Operative Zone. Elements of these forces were often placed under the OZ commander's operational control (OPCON), however, they remained under the HVO Department of Defense for administration and military justice.10 That is to say, Colonel Blaskic, the OZCB commander, could in theory assign operational tasks to OPCON VP and PPN units, but he could not dismiss or discipline their commanders. In practice, the OZ commander's powers to task OPCON PPN, VP, and Security Information Service units were even more limited, and it was usually necessary to negotiate the assignment with their commanders before formally assigning tasks to their units. At the same time, the HVO Department of Defense could (and often did) task such units directly—with or without notifying the OZ commander in whose area of responsibility they might operate.

The UNPROFOR intelligence officer based in the Lasva Valley acknowledged that the HVO special purpose units were "not effectively under Blas-kic's command," and ECMM monitors likewise admitted that the HVO military police were not under tight control.11 Lower-level HVO commanders had similar problems. For example, in May, 1992, Borivoje Malbasic, commander of the Bobovac Brigade in Vares, stated that although he was the superior of Zvonko Duznovic, a radical and the commander of the local element of the HVO Military Police, he was unable to give him any orders.12 Even HVO Defense Department headquarters in Mostar had great difficulty in controlling the actions of the PPN and Military Police units in the field.13 An HVO special purpose unit known as the "Vitezovi" ("Knights") was formed on September 10, 1992, and on September 19 stationed at the elementary school in Dubravica-Krizancevo near Vitez.14 The unit was composed of some 120 men from the municipalities of Vitez, Zenica, and Travnik. It later received refugees from those municipalities into its ranks, bringing its strength to 140-180 men. Commanded by Darko Kraljevic, the Vitezovi reported directly to the HVO Department of Defense in Mostar and had the whole of central Bosnia and Herzegovina as its area of operations. The principal tasks assigned to the unit were the retaking of lost positions, breaking through enemy lines, deep reconnaissance and raids behind the enemy lines, and similar commando-type operations. It was first employed in the Jajce area on September 22, and continued operations until November, 1993. From time to time in late 1992 and early 1993, the other two official HVO special purpose units (PPN "Ante Bruno Busic" and PPN "Ludvig Pavlovic") also operated in the OZCB.15 The Vitezovi and the other PPN units responded to orders from Minister of Defense Bruno Stojic in Mostar, but the OZCB commander could do nothing other than request they participate in operations at certain times and places.16

The HVO's more than three thousand military policemen were organized in four (later eight) battalions, each of which had companies specializing in antiterrorist and assault operations, guarding headquarters and other key installations, traffic control, and investigating crimes committed by or upon military personnel.17 Given their status as a quasi-national police force and their direct participation in operations as assault troops, HVO VPs were more like the Italian carabinieri than U.S. Army military policemen in both organization and function.18 The HVO VP units reported directly to the VP office at the HVO Department of Defense headquarters in Mostar. Military Police units were normally placed under the operational control of the

Operative Zone commander, who could direct their operations but had no administrative or military justice powers over them. The 4th (later 7th) Military Police Battalion, organized as shown in Figure 3-1, was OPCON to the OZCB for most of the period under consideration, but in mid-August, 1993, the OZCB commander was given full authority over the battalion and those military policemen attached to HVO brigades in the OZCB answered to his brigade commanders.19

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment