The former artillery chief in the Split Military District Marko Rajic has said he was at the meeting on 31 July 1995 with President Tudjman at Brijuni. The witness has now denied everything that was said or rather recorded in the transcripts whose authenticity is challenged by the defense

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

Despite his claims that he was unaware of the widespread arson and looting in Knin in August 1995, the artillery chief in the Split Military District Marko Rajcic maintained in his cross-examination at the Operation Storm trial that General Ante Gotovina had information about what his soldiers were doing in the town. Brigadier Rajcic bases this conclusion on the fact that on 5 August 1995 Gotovina sent his assistant for security to Knin; after that his chief of staff Rahim Ademi was also sent there. Gotovina, who is now on trial together with generals Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac was the commander of the Split Military District during Operation Storm.

According to what Rajcic said, Gotovina had another source of information on what was going on in the field: he received intelligence from military security officers in all the units in the Military District. The prosecutor showed a report drafted by a Croatian intelligence officer for a period from 8 to 11 August 1995. The report says that ‘after the task has been accomplished the discipline of a large number of HV personnel deteriorated, resulting in excessive alcohol abuse and stealing of property’. The anonymous intelligence officer observed further that after entering the Krajina villages commanders lost control of their soldiers; many took to burning down and looting houses. Rajcic, however, was not sure if Gotovina received that report.

Gotovina’s defense opened its cross-examination of the witness with questions which have so far in this trial been the standard opening lines used by the prosecution. Earlier this year, before he was called to give evidence for the prosecution, Rajcic first gave a statement to the defense investigators. When the defense counsel asked him today if he still stuck to what he had stated then, Rajcic said he did. The defense counsel didn’t dwell on the witness’s statement and the only excerpt from it was read by prosecutor Russo in the re-examination. In it, the witness said that at a meeting with President Tudjman on 31 July 1995 at Brijuni Gotovina had stressed that the objective of Operation Storm was to inflict a military defeat on the enemy.

In an attempt to contest this claim and to prove that the Croatian operation was aimed against the Serb population, the prosecutor showed the witness the Brijuni meeting transcript. There, the Croatian president says that it is important for the civilians to leave so that the enemy soldiers would follow. Gotovina then replies that civilians were already leaving; if the Croatian side continued to press, soon there would be none of them left in Knin. As the meeting continued Franjo Tudjman, his son Miroslav and defense minister Susak discuss whether to use the media or leaflets to notify the Serb civilians that the Croatian Army has left corridors for them to flee Krajina. Although he attended the meeting, Rajcic maintained that he had heard nothing of the sort on that occasion at Brijuni. This could help Gotovina’s defense in its effort to contest the authenticity of the Brijuni transcripts.

Brigadier Rajcic completed his evidence today. Tomorrow the prosecution will call its next witness.