Former Military Police Administration chief claims that General Gotovina and other commanders could have prevented the looting and arson after Operation Storm if they had ensured basic military discipline in their units down the chain of command. By way of an example, Lausic explained that a potential perpetrator could not commit a crime if he were prevented from taking a military vehicle without proper authorization, as the rules required

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

As his examination-in chief was about to end, former HV Military Police Administration chief Mate Lausic claimed that the looting and burning down of Serb houses after Operation Strom in the summer and fall of 1995 could have been prevented if disciplinary rules had been obeyed strictly in units the perpetrators belonged to. This went also to the Split Military District, which was at the time under General Ante Gotovina’s command. Gotovina is charged together with Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac with crimes against Serbs and their property during and after Operation Storm.

Explaining how Gotovina and other military district commanders could have prevented crimes, the witness used the example of a soldier who takes a vehicle from his unit without proper authorization and goes off to loot some property. If the rules on the use of vehicles had been complied with at the level of that unit, no soldier would have been able to commit crimes, Lausic noted, adding that this is why discipline had to be imposed from the top of the military district down the chain of command; had this been done, there would have been fewer crimes.

When the presiding judge asked if the military district commanders ‘didn’t know or didn’t want to know’ about the large number of crimes in Krajina, Lausic said they had to have been aware of the ‘real situation’ in the field from daily reports they received from the military police and other subordinate units.

In an effort to prove that there was no general awareness of the crimes the troops committed in Krajina, Ante Gotovina’s defense counsel began the cross-examination with two Lausic’s reports from August and September. In those documents Lausic informs the HV Main Staff about the activities of the military police and makes no mention of the widespread looting and arson in Krajina. The witness replied that the Main Staff and the Defense Ministry received such information in daily reports of the Military Police Administration drafted on the basis of reports the military police commanders sent in from the field.

The questions defense counsel Misetic asked at the hearing today clearly indicate that he intends to prove that Lausic himself played a key role exercising command over the military police during and after Operation Storm, not Gotovina, as the witness contended in his examination-in chief. The trial of Gotovina, Cermak and Markac continues tomorrow.