In its closing address at the Rule 98 bis hearing, the prosecution once again opposed the defense motion for the acquittal of Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac at the ‘half-time’ of the trial for crimes during and after Operation Storm. If the Trial Chamber rejects the motion for the acquittal of the accused, the defense will open its case on 28 May 2009

The prosecution was the last to speak in the four-day hearing on the defense motions for the acquittal of generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac at the ‘half-time’ of the trial; the defense argues the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused.

Responding to the argument Ante Gotovina’s defense counsel put forward yesterday – that the indictment failed to name victims of the artillery attacks launched against Knin on 4 and 5 August 1998 – prosecutor Russo said that it was not necessary to do so according to the current Tribunal’s jurisprudence particularly if the shelling was listed as an element of the crime of persecution. In the first of the nine counts in the indictment for crimes in Krajina in the summer of 1995, the three generals are charged with the persecution of Serbs which was allegedly implemented through the unlawful shelling of civilian targets, among other tactics.

The prosecution emphasized today that the HV Main Staff initially planned to launch an attack against military targets in Knin. However, on 31 July 1995 this changed when President Tudjman met with highest military and police officials, including the generals Gotovina and Markac, at the island of Brijuni. As alleged by the prosecution, the plan for the expulsion of Serbs from Krajina was first broached there. This culminated with Gotovina’s order of 2 August 1995 to shell the towns of Knin, Obrovac, Benkovac and Gracac indiscriminately.

Replying to the defense argument that General Cermak as the commander of the Knin Garrison had a ‘non-operative’ role, prosecutor Margetts said the prosecution never claimed that Cermak commanded military operations. After Operation Storm, according to the prosecution, Cermak had jurisdiction over the army and the military and civilian police. Evidence pointing to Cermak’s relations with the HV Main Staff and his command role over the military police was corroborated by the testimony of Bosko Djolic, commander of the joint military police company from Knin. Cermak’s ties with the civilian police were discussed in closed session.

The prosecution didn’t agree with the arguments put forward by Markac’s defense counsel Tomislav Kuzmanovic. His client took measures to punish perpetrators who were members of the special police under his command, Kuzmanovic claimed. Prosecutor Mahindaratne contends that in the period relevant for the indictment Markac disciplined only one police officer who took part in setting up a prostitution network. In other situations, when he learned that his subordinate police officers committed crimes against Serbs, Markac simply didn’t react; moreover, he assigned units implicated in crimes to new ‘operative tasks’.

The Trial Chamber will rule on the motion for the acquittal of the three generals on all counts in the indictment later. If the judges reject the defense motion, the three defense teams will open their cases. According to the previously arranged schedule, the defense of Ante Gotovina, former commander of the Split Military District, will begin its case first, on 28 May 2009.