Describing the situation in Krajina after Operation Storm, former military police administration chief Mate Lausic says that the military line of command was not functioning at the time. There were many men in uniform in the field, prone to crime, Lausic says. ‘Wretched is the army that must be disciplined by the military police, like a parent whose child is disciplined by the police’

Mate Laušić, svjedok na suđenju Gotovini, Čermaku i MarkačuMate Laušić, svjedok na suđenju Gotovini, Čermaku i Markaču

As his examination-in chief at the Operation Storm trial continued today, former chief of the HV military police administration Mate Lausic maintained that he was not in command of the military police at that time: it was General Ante Gotovina. According to the military police operational manual, the administration chief was in charge only of supervision, training and personnel. ‘Regular tasks’ were in the purview of the commander of the military district where the military police troops were deployed. Gotovina is charged with the crimes committed in Operation Storm, in August 1995, together with generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac.

Today the prosecutor showed a document issued on 2 August 1995 in which Lausic orders that the military police battalion commanders are to be subordinated to the military district commanders ‘with respect to day-to-day operative command’ ‘for the purposes of the upcoming operations’. According to the order, the 72nd Military Police Battalion was subordinated to General Gotovina. As Lausic contends, from that time onwards, there was a double system of reporting, one leading to him and the other to Gotovina.

On 8 August, based on the reports from the field, Lausic drafted a document informing defense minister Susak, chief of the HV Main Staff Cervenko and other officials about the ‘disorganized gathering of war booty and burning of edifices’ in areas where there ‘was a strong HV presence, with troops not substantially influenced by the chain of command’; this was a big problem, according to Lausic. The witness confirmed that he had asked his superiors to ‘prevent undisciplined behavior’ through the chain of command. The prosecutor showed a few other minutes from the meetings of the HV and police high officers where the problem of constant looting and burning down of abandoned houses was discussed.

HV troops ‘who were not substantially influenced by the chain of command’, Lausic clarified, served in the Home Guard units made up of the Croats from the villages and towns in Krajina; they had been expelled from there by the Serb forces. ‘Wretched is the army that must be disciplined by the military police, just as a parent whose child is disciplined by the police’, Mate Lausic described metaphorically the situation in the Split Military District.

According to the prosecutor, a document dated 18 August 1995 shows the way in which problems were solved. In the document, assistant interior minister Josko Moric says that crimes were mainly committed by the Croatian Army troops. Moric proposes that the cases of looting and arson ‘that occur from now on’ be investigated; those that had happened until that time should be ignored. Lausic didn’t want to comment on Moric’s order because he had not seen it at the time; he saw it for the first time a few days ago.

Mate Lausic’s examination-in chief will be completed tomorrow. In the next four of five days Lausic will be cross-examined by the defense teams of the three accused.