In his cross-examination of Zarko Puhovski, professor from Zagreb, defense counsel Luka Misetic made effort to prove that members of the BH Army and the SVK were responsible for a number of Serb civilian victims, and not the Croatian Army

Žarko Puhovski, svjedok na suđenju Anti Gotovini, Ivanu Čermaku i Mladenu MarkačuŽarko Puhovski, svjedok na suđenju Anti Gotovini, Ivanu Čermaku i Mladenu Markaču

In the cross-examination of Zagreb professor Zarko Puhovski, General Ante Gotovina’s defense argued that the Croatian Army was not responsible for the deaths of at least some of the civilians on the list of 410 Serb victims published in the Croatian Helsinki Committee report. Until 2007, Puhovski served as chairman of the Croatian Helsinki Committee. According to defense counsel Luka Misetic, some people on the list were not killed: some committed suicide and some killings were perpetrated by the BH Army and the SVK. Gotovina, former Split Military District commander is on trial with generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac for murder, persecution and deportation of Serb civilians and looting and destruction of their property during and after Operation Storm.

Proving that the SVK might be responsible for the death of at least some of the victims, the defense counsel played footage showing the massacre of civilians from a refugee column broadcasted immediately after Operation Storm on Croatian TV’s Frame on Frame. The report stated that Serb soldiers were responsible for the massacre as they ran the refugees over in tanks fleeing from their positions. Puhovski said that he had heard of this case from his colleagues from the Republika Srpska Helsinki Committee. According to them, more than 80 civilians were killed in the incident. At that time, Puhovski added, the Croatian Helsinki Committee had information that Serb airplanes bombed the refugee columns on one occasion and that Serb soldiers killed each other in quarrels as they retreated.

Defense counsel Misetic then showed a series of police reports with statements of relatives of the Serbs who had been killed, identifying the BH Army 5th Corps troops as possible perpetrators of the crime. The witness made it clear that the HHO objective was to make a list of civilian victims of Operation Storm and not to establish who is responsible for their deaths. When the defense commented that some Serbs who are listed as victims on the HHO list had in fact committed suicide, the witness replied that immediately after Operation Storm the Croatian police refused to provide data to the Helsinki Committee. This is why he and his colleagues didn’t have access to investigation results. Puhovski allowed the possibility that the HHO report was wrong ‘on some occasions’, emphasizing nevertheless that the victims were put on the list only if at least two sources described the circumstances of their death.

In his attempt to prove that Serb civilians, or at least some of them, left Krajina on their own will and not by force, the defense counsel asked Puhovski if he knew that 25 percent of Serbs left Eastern Slavonia despite the fact that the territory was integrated into Croatia without a single bullet being fired. The professor from Zagreb replied that he was aware of that; in his opinion they did it because they didn’t want to live in Croatia for a number of reasons. Misetic then asked the witness if he knew that Serbs left other territories under similar circumstances, such as Kosovo or Ilidza municipality in Sarajevo. Puhovski said he knew that Serbs left Kosovo in 1999 because they considered NATO an enemy. He didn’t want to comment on why Serbs left Ilidza because he knew nothing about it.

Puhovski will continue his evidence tomorrow. In the first part of today’s hearing, French pathologist Eric Baccard completed the testimony that had begun earlier.