Canadian intelligence officer Philip Roy Berikoff contends that the destruction of Serb property in Krajina during Operation Storm was planned in order to prevent the Serbs from coming back. He corroborates his allegation by quoting a high-ranking Croatian police officer who told Berikoff that the objective of the ‘clean-up operation’ was to prevent ‘Chetniks, i.e., all the Serbs, from ever returning to Krajina’

Philip Roy Berikoff , witness in the Gotovina trialPhilip Roy Berikoff , witness in the Gotovina trial

Philip Roy Berikoff, intelligence officer in the Canadian army, came to Krajina in July 1995. He joined the UN troops deployed in Sector South and remained there until early September. In his evidence at the trial of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac he recounted what he had seen in Knin and other places in Krajina during and after Operation Storm.

In the three statements he gave the OTP investigators in 1996 and 1997, Berikoff says that at least 100 civilian buildings were hit in the attack on Knin on 4 and 5 August 1995. According to him, this proves the town was shelled indiscriminately. However, in the fourth statement he gave in 2007, he changed this conclusion. There were some military targets in Knin, he claimed, and the shelling cannot be described as indiscriminate. However, he repeated that the collateral damage was significant and that much of the shelling was unnecessary.

One of the ‘unnecessary’ grenades landed in the afternoon of 5 August 1995 near the UN military base, killing five Serb civilians and a soldier. The witness and other UN staff put their bodies in black bags and placed them by the side of the road. Soon after, Berikoff said, after the Croatian forces passed by, he saw that a body had been taken out of the bag and was riddled with bullets.

Berikoff saw the worst of the looting and burning in the days following 6 August 1995 along the road from Knin to Drnis and in the villages of Kistanje, Cetina and Donji Lapac. There, he saw Croatian soldiers and police officers systematically looting and burning down Serb houses. At the same time, they made sure to leave houses marked as Croatian undamaged. Describing the situation in Donji Lapac, Berikoff said he saw Croatian soldiers going into houses and then the houses going up in flames soon after they got out.

According to the witness, Serb property was destroyed systematically and deliberately, leaving Serbs with no place to come back to. He corroborated his claim by quoting the words of police major Juric. In an encounter near Kistanje, Juric told Berikoff that the objective of the ‘clean-up operation’ was to ‘prevent Chetniks from ever returning to Krajina’. Juric made it clear to him, Berikoff noted, that all Serbs were Chetniks and that Juric made no distinction between soldiers and women, children and other civilians.

Berikoff brought to The Hague his collection of wartime video tapes and 41 photos showing the destruction of Serb houses during and after Operation Storm. This material was tendered into evidence but was not shown in the courtroom.

As the hearing today drew to a close, General Ante Gotovina's counsel began the cross-examination. The evidence of Canadian officer is expected to end tomorrow.