Former chief of artillery in the Split Military District Marko Rajcic said that general Gotovina knew that there was risk of ‘possible probable’ hitting civilian targets in the shelling of Knin. Because of that Rajcic allegedly ordered that artillery mistakes be reduced to a minimum.

Marko Rajčić, svjedok na suđenju Anti Gotovini, Ivanu Čermaku i Mladenu MarkačuMarko Rajčić, svjedok na suđenju Anti Gotovini, Ivanu Čermaku i Mladenu Markaču

HV brigadier Marko Rajcic gave a statement to the investigators from Ante Gotovina’s defense team at the begining of 2009. According to the rules of the Tribunal, witnesses are not the sole property of any one party, the prosecutor decided to examine Rajcic in the course of the prosecution case. The prosecution obviously believes that Rajcic, former artillery chief in the Split Military District – has something to say about the reasons why artillery, and not infantry, attacks were launched on Knin and other Krajina towns in early August 1995 and about the risk of civilian casualties involved in targeting military facilities in residential areas.

General Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are charged with crimes committed by the Croatian Army and police in the course and after Operation Storm in August 1995. The prosecution argues that indiscriminate shelling of Knin, Obrovac, Benkovac, Drnis, Gracac and other towns and villages in Krajina was yet another mean to force the Serbs to flee from Krajina, and was an element of persecution. The defense contends that only military targets in towns were shelled during Operation Storm and that the so-called collateral damage was minimal. The evidence of Brigadier Rajcic holds the middle ground between those two arguments.

Rajcic agreed with the prosecutor who asked him if Ante Gotovina, who commanded the Split Military District, was aware of possible errors in targeting military facilities within residential areas. As Rajcic explained, the accused general was worried about ‘possible probable’ deviations that might result in minor civilian casualties and damage to buildings, in particular around the SVK Main Staff and the liaison center, which were on the target list and located in a civilian area. Rajcic admitted that he, Gotovina and other officers in the Military District knew very well that 130mm cannons and 122mm multiple rocket launchers could not hit just those two targets and miss everything else. According to Rajcic, 130mm cannon might deviate from target for up to 75 meters.

As Rajcic explained, the civilian risk led the Split Military District to draft an analysis of possible ‘collateral damage’. The decision was then made to launch an attack against Knin in early morning hours. It was thought, Rajcic said, that ‘presence of civilians in the streets and buildings’ would be minimal during that period. It was also known then that some people had already been taken out of the town; their exodus was organized by the so-called Republika Srpska Krajina, Rajic said. General Gotovina ordered that the artillery errors during the attack against Knin must be brought to a minimum, the witness contends.

Brigadier Rajcic will continue his evidence tomorrow.