In his testimony at the trial of generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac, former artillery chief in the Split Military District Marko Rajcic has told the court that the Croatian artillery tried to hit a number of locations where RSK president Milan Martic was on the first day of Operation Storm. This was done, Rajcic admitted, despite the fact that chances of actually hitting him were ‘very small’

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

According to the evidence of the former artillery chief in the Split Military District, the target list of the Croatian artillery for Operation Storm in early August 1995 contained bridges, road and railway junctions and military premises and one name. It was the president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Srpska Krajina, Milan Martic. By eliminating him, Rajcic contends, the Croatian side would have achieved a significant military advantage.

On 4 August 1995, the Croatian artillery shelled two locations using 130 mm cannon, the witness recounted. The objective was to take out Martic. The first was the high-rise building where Martic had an apartment and the other was the Old Hospital. According to the intelligence the Croatian Army had, at one point Martic took refuge there. The chances that Martic would be hit by cannon from a distance of more than 20 km were ‘very small’, Rajcic admitted. Despite that, Rajcic argued that the objective of the shelling was to make the supreme commander of the enemy army ‘feel unsafe’.

The prosecution is trying to prove that Knin was indiscriminately shelled in August 1995 in order to frighten the civilians; today, the prosecutor showed a photo of a densely populated residential block where Martic’s apartment building was. He asked Brigadier Rajcic if he and the other artillerymen in the Split Military District were aware that other civilian apartments were in immediate proximity. The witness was not able to confirm that the building in the picture was actually Martic’s building; he added that he and other officers in the Split Military District knew that other civilians had their apartments in immediate vicinity of the president’s apartment. The day before yesterday, at the beginning of his examination-in chief Rajcic said that 120mm cannon could make deviate up to 75 meters from their target.

Milan Martic was not hit in the shelling of Knin. Immediately before Operation Storm was launched Martic was charged with the shelling of Zagreb in May 1995. The indictment was later extended to cover numerous crimes the RSK military, paramilitary and police units committed against Croat civilians from 1991 to 1995. In October 2008 Martic was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

As the hearing went on, the prosecutor asked the witness some questions about what Ante Gotovina, Split Military District commander, was like as an officer. Rajcic described him as ‘strict and fair, a top professional who was highly respected among the soldiers’. In the summer of 1995 it was ‘very dangerous not to obey General Gotovina’s orders, the witness added.

The evidence of Marko Rajcic at the trial of generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac is expected to be completed on Monday.