Former CID inspector in the military police Damir Simic today explained why criminal reports were not filed against Croatian soldiers who had looted goods seized from them after Operation Storm. There was not enough physical evidence against the perpetrators because they were caught with looted goods in their possession, but not at the scene as they did the looting, Simic said

Damir Simic, witness in the Gotovina trialDamir Simic, witness in the Gotovina trial

As his examination-in chief continued at the trial of Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac, former CID inspector in the 72nd Military Police Battalion of the Croatian Army Damir Simic said it was to be expected that a large number of criminal reports would be filed against Croatian soldiers after Operation Storm since they would come to the checkpoints with property believed to be stolen and that property was then seized from them. However, according to a report Simic himself drafted, that prosecutor Mahindaratne showed in court today, in August 1995 the CID of the 72nd Battalion filed only one criminal report against a Croatian soldier; this was for a traffic offence.

Explaining why there were no investigations and no charges pressed for looting, the witness said he assumes there was not enough physical evidence; perpetrators were caught with looted goods but not at the scene of the crime while they were actually doing the looting. In his words, soldiers who were caught with stolen property at the check-points, would say ’we found this here and that there’; nobody said ’we stole this’ and there was no further investigation.

When the prosecutor showed him several documents indicating that the members of the military police were arresting not only the Krajina soldiers but also Serb civilians and were transferring them to collection centers at the seaside, the witness said that he knew very little about the reasons for that. In his reply to the question of Gotovina’s defense counsel Luka Misetic the witness said that civilians were not under arrest; they were transferred to safer places when there was fighting in the areas where they lived.

The presiding judge then asked the witness if it was necessary to transfer civilians to a ’safer place’ days after Operation Storm, on 10 August 1995, as indicated in a report with that date on the transfer of civilians to collection centers. ‘I don’t know that, but it’s possible, the witness said.

In his statement to the OTP investigators and in his examination-in chief today, Simic said he was ordered in late October 1995 to stop the investigation into the murder of Serb civilians in the villages of Varivode and Gosici in Krajina. Goran Vunic, HV soldier, was a suspect in that case. As Simic said, Captain Mrkota, commander of the 4th Company, 72nd Military Police Battalion, issued this order and did not provide any further explanation. Simic was not able to tell what happened later with the investigation. Defense counsel Misetic then showed him a judgment of a Croatian court for Varivode case. The contents of the judgment were discussed in closed session. The public heard that Goran Vunic testified at that trial.