On the last day of Harry Konings’ cross-examination, the defense has tried to prove that when Ante Gotovina issued his order to launch Operation Storm, he clearly indicated which military targets in Knin and other towns were to be shelled. However, the Dutch lieutenant-colonel has remained adamant: the vague wording used by the accused general ‘created preconditions’ for the shelling of civilian targets

Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac in the courtroomAnte Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac in the courtroom

Military expert Harry Konings completed his six-day evidence today at the trial of Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac, accused of crimes during and after Operation Storm. Konings drafted an expert report at the behest of the prosecution, where he claimed that Gotovina’s order of 4 August 1995 to shell Knin and other Krajina towns was ‘the worst possible tactics’ because of potentially negligible military effect of the shelling and substantial risk to civilians.

The Dutch lieutenant-colonel was particularly critical of the section in Gotovina’s order where he orders his subordinates to place Knin and other towns ‘under artillery fire’ without any clear identification of military targets. Defense counsel Kehoe today showed a part of that order where it says, verbatim, ‘I order artillery attacks against the enemy forward defense lines, command posts, communication centers, artillery firing positions and the placing of the towns of Drvar, Knin, Obrovac, Benkovac and Gracac under artillery fire’.

This document, the defense alleged, shows that the Split Military District commander ordered the shelling of enemy command posts, communication centers and artillery posts in towns. Disagreeing with this claim, Konings said that the part of the order where it says that towns should be ‘placed under artillery fire’ merely follows up on the previous text; nothing is said about military targets in towns. According to the witness, the commanders thus had leeway to attack civilian targets in towns. ‘I don’t know if it happened, but the document clearly shows that Gotovina’s order created preconditions for something like that’, Konings concluded.

Since the witness’s expert report didn’t concern the participation of special police units in Operation Storm, the defense counsel of Mladen Markac, former commander of the Croatian special troops, asked the witness just a few questions. Harry Konings thus completed his evidence earlier than expected. The Trial Chamber with Judge Orie presiding will not sit tomorrow. The prosecution is expected to call its next witness on Thursday.