Describing the situation in Krajina in the summer of 1995 after Operation Storm, former military police administration chief Mate Lausic has said he ‘personally arrested dozens of HV personnel’. During his visit to Krajina, Lausic has claimed, he could have loaded a bus full of detainees in one hour…if only he had had it at his disposal

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

‘I personally apprehended dozens of HV troops when I was travelling through Krajina in an armored personnel carrier; if I had had a bus I would have filled it with detainees in an hour’, retired HV general Mate Lausic recounted as his cross-examination continued at the trial of Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac. The three accused are charged with crimes committed in and after Operation Storm in August 1995; the crimes include persecution, murder, inhumane treatment, deportation and destruction of property. Lausic allegedly arrested those soldiers for looting Serb houses.

The defense has suggested that the detention of suspects from the HV during and after Operation Storm was indeed Lausic’s responsibility; he was the Military Police Administration chief. In his effort to prove that the military police units were under Lausic’s, not Gotovina’s, command, defense counsel Misetic showed a series of documents from the summer of 1995. In them the witness issues orders to military police units asking them to set up check points at specified locations, to organize patrols and cooperate with the MUP. According to the defense, this means that Lausic personally issued operative orders to the military police. Lausic claims that his orders had to do merely with the ‘choice of operational methods and tactics’ to improve the implementation of Gotovina’s orders.

Lausic’s evidence implied that all Croatian top military people knew about the widespread problem of arson and looting in Krajina after Operation Storm. According to the defense, the reports Lausic sent tell a different story. The defense counsel showed a report sent by the witness to the chief of the HV Main Staff, general Cervenko, on 16 September 1995. In that report Lausic maintains that the military police units ‘have been securing public order and peace, preventing arson and uncontrolled taking of booty’. This means that the situation in the field was under control, the defense contends. The witness, on the other hand, claims that the report refers to ‘the current operations and not the accomplished facts’: the military police was trying to establish law and order. This doesn’t mean that it actually managed to do it.

As in his examination-in-chief the witness claimed Gotovina and other military commanders could have prevent crimes if they had consistently applied disciplinary measures, the defense counsel today pointed out that disciplinary measures and their implementation were within the jurisdiction of the military police. When Lausic disagreed, defense counsel Misetic showed him documents that clearly indicate disciplinary proceedings against perpetrators from the Split Military District units were instituted by the military police. The witness did admit that there were such occurrences, but every report where it is alleged that soldiers breached the discipline made it incumbent upon the commander, in this case General Gotovina, to investigate the allegations and institute proceedings against those responsible.

Defense counsel Misetic said that he would complete his cross-examination on Monday. The witness will then be cross-examined by the defense teams of Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac.