Former European monitor Lennart Leschly noted in his report in August 1995 that Operation Storm resulted in the expulsion of 200,000 Serbs from Krajina. Croatia thus ‘gained what it wanted – land without people’. Gotovina’s defense counsel stressed that ‘land without people’ was an expression the witness heard from Milan Martic and then used. This claim made the witness laugh out loud

Lennart Leschly, witness in the Gotovina caseLennart Leschly, witness in the Gotovina case

When Operation Storm was launched, Danish officer Lennart Leschly was the head of the European Community Monitoring Mission Regional Center in Zagreb. In his office, he received field reports from other European monitors and he used them to draft his weekly report on the situation in Krajina. Leschly’s 2007 statement to the OTP investigators and several of his weekly reports drafted after Operation Storm were tendered into evidence at the trial of Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac today.

In his report for the week from 6 to 12 August 1995, the Danish officer notes that Operation Storm has resulted in the expulsion of 200, 000 Serbs from Krajina; Croatia thus ‘got what it wanted, land without people’. Leschly’s report went on to say that the Croatian Army, like every other army in the Balkans, showed it was prone to ‘unnecessary looting and violence’. Leschly concluded in his report that the HV conducted ‘the biggest campaign of ethnic cleansing’ in the former Yugoslavia. Today Leschly added that even before Operation Storm he knew that Croats didn’t want Serbs in their country, just as Serbs didn’t want to live in Croatia – preferring the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina instead.

In the cross-examination, Gotovina’s defense counsel put it to the witness that the expression ‘land without people’ used in his weekly situation report from Krajina, was actually first used by another Danish monitor by the name of Jensen. As the defense alleges, Jensen was strongly pro-Serb. Leschly didn’t rule out the possibility that he might have heard the expression from his Danish colleague. However, when the defense counsel went on to say that Jensen himself had taken that expression from RSK president Milan Martic, the witness laughed out loud. In an effort to prove Jensen’s bias, defense counsel Kehoe said that Jensen had close ties with the Krajina Serb intelligence service. This service allegedly provided Jensen with a girlfriend, a car and police protection for the house he lived in. Leschly denied any knowledge of that.

Describing a meeting with Ante Gotovina in September 1995 the witness noted that the accused general first dismissed all allegations about killings, looting and arson in Krajina, saying that such things happened in every war. The European monitors went on to report that Gotovina said the looting and burning of houses was a normal human reaction on the part of those who had been expelled and whose property had been destroyed. The general however did promise the perpetrators would be prosecuted.

The trial of Croatian generals continues on Monday with the evidence of a protected witness testifying under the pseudonym 167.