In the cross-examination of Kari Anttila, former UN military observer in Sector South, the defense teams of the Croatian generals charged with crimes committed in the course of Operation Storm and in its aftermath challenge the reliability of the information on to the destruction of houses in the Knin Krajina contained in the final UN report drafted by the witness

Kari Anttila, witness in the Gotovina trialKari Anttila, witness in the Gotovina trial

The figure of 22,000 totally or partially destroyed houses in Sector South in Krajina quoted in the final report of the UN mission from November 1995 is the grand total covering the four years of conflict in that part of Croatia and not only the events during Operation Storm and its aftermath in the summer of 1995.

Kari Anttila confirmed this today in his cross-examination by the defense teams of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac. Anttila, former UN military observer in Sector South, drafted this final report on the destruction in the Krajina region based on daily reports of military observer patrols, Human Rights Action Team and the UN civilian police. The defense tried to show that the information in these reports was not reliable.

The defense lawyers noted that the reports on specific areas didn’t specify if the damage was caused before Operation Storm or afterwards. The witness confirmed this, adding that some military observer teams failed to register this information in their reports. A statement of Ivan Cermak, the then commander of the Knin Garrison, was quoted in this context. In October 1995, Cermak said that the UN data on the destruction of the houses in Sector South was ‘totally untrue’. As far as he knew, ‘the figure is 2,000 to 3,000 and not 22,000 houses’.

The defense referred to the 1991 census noting that, according to the reports of the military observers, in some villages and hamlets the number of partially or totally destroyed houses was several times higher than the number reported in the 1991 census. The witness wasn’t able to explain this discrepancy, repeating that the information in the final UN report was based on the reports of the UN patrols visiting the zone. He added that the areas of responsibility of UNMO teams didn’t coincide with the municipality borders. The presiding judge expressed his doubt about the comparability of the census data and the information in the UN report urging both sides to try and reach an agreement on this issue.

The defense showed the witness an excerpt from the written statement he had given to the OTP investigators where he says ‘the Croats looted and set Serb houses on fire independent from their military activities’, adding that at times the looting and burning was done both by men in uniform and in civilian clothes. When the witness confirmed this, the defense counsel asked him if it ever happened that the people looting and burning would stop doing what they were doing when they were caught in the act by the UN military observers who confronted them. The witness confirmed that sometimes this had happened. The defense counsel then wanted to know ‘if troops would stop their military operation if the UN military observers team would order them to do so’. The witness agreed that this would not be possible.

The trial of Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac will continue on Tuesday, 13 May 2008.