Rajko Gusa, former member of the Krajina Serb army, disagrees with the Gotovina’s defense’s claim that after Operation Storm Serb houses were destroyed by local Croats returning to their homes, and not by soldiers. His neighbors are ’honorable people’, Gusa says. Crimes were committed by ’some other Croats’

Rajko Gusa, witness in the Gotovina trialRajko Gusa, witness in the Gotovina trial

Rajko Gusa, a Serb from Krajina, was a member of the SVK deployed in the area of his native village of Zemunik Gornji near Zadar from 1991 to the beginning of Operation Storm. In the statements he gave to the OTP investigators in 1997 and 2008, that were summarized today at the trial of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, Gusa recounted how he ended up in Australia, from Zemunik via prisons in Zadar and Split where he was detained after Operation Storm. From there he went to Serbia and finally to Australia.

On the first day of the Croatian attack, on 4 August 1995, Gusa fled to the village of Bukovic. He spent the next day there watching the Croatian Army enter the village. The troops then proceeded to set the houses on fire. He then fled to a nearby forest from which he was able to see the villages of Kistanje and Ervenik; they were on fire as the military vehicles passed through. As he described in his statements, the soldiers were driving trucks full of looted goods and livestock ’openly displaying their cargo’. After two months of hiding, Gusa decided to surrender to the police and was transferred to the Zadar police detention unit where he was beaten up. A couple of days later he was moved to the prison in Split, charged with armed rebellion against the Republic of Croatia. When Gusa was released in October 1996 he went to Belgrade and then on to Prizren. He was granted an entry visa for Australia and today lives there together with his six children.

Apart from reading the summary of his statements, the prosecutor didn’t examine the witness whose evidence thus continued with the cross-examination by the defense counsel of the accused generals. Markac’s lawyer Goran Mikulicic accused the witness of being a member of a group that pressured their Croatian neighbors into leaving the village in 1993. Ante Stura was among those expelled, the defense counsel alleged; Stura beat up the witness out of revenge in the Zadar police detention unit in October 1995. Gusa denied any participation in expulsion of local Croats. As he put it, he was beaten up in Zadar ’just because I am a Serb’.

Since the beginning of the trial, Ante Gotovina’s defense has not denied that Serb houses were looted and set on fire, arguing that this was done by Croats returning to their homes bent on revenge, not by the Croatian Army troops. Defense counsel Luka Misetic therefore first asked Gusa if it was true that Croat houses in Zemunik and its environs were looted from 1991 to 1995. ’Looted and burned down and destroyed, all of them’, the witness replied. Taking his cue from this answer, the defense counsel then asked if the Serb houses were actually destroyed by Croat returnees after Operation Storm. The witness however disagreed. His Croat neighbors were ’honorable people’; they didn’t destroy Serb property although ’everything they owned had been burned down’. Serb houses were burned down by ’some other Croats’, the witness was adamant.

Rajko Gusa ended his evidence today. The trial of Croatian generals continues on Monday because the prosecution didn’t have any more witnesses to call this week.