Former military police officer Boris Milas has said it is his impression that about 200 houses were burned down in Krajina after Operation Storm. Milas contends that this could in no way be called ‘widespread’ destruction. Soon after Milas nodded his head when the judge asked him if more than a thousand burned houses listed in a report by Croatian Military Police chief Mate Lausic qualified as ‘widespread’ arson

Boris Milas, svjedok odbrane Ante GotovineBoris Milas, svjedok odbrane Ante Gotovine

Boris Milas, former chief of the crime investigation division in the 72nd Military Police Battalion of the HV continues his evidence in the defense of Ante Gotovina. Today he tried to confirm two arguments in the defense case: that the accused general had no jurisdiction over the military police during and after Operation Storm in August 1995 and that looting and burning of abandoned Serb houses were not widespread, contrary to the claims by many international observers who testified for the prosecution. Generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are charged with a number of crimes committed in the course and after the operation.

On 3 August 1995, on the eve of Operation Storm, Milas and other officers in the 72nd Battalion were introduced to two officers from Zagreb, Ivan Juric and Ante Glavan. On the orders of Military Police chief Mate Lausic, the pair in effect took command of the 72nd Battalion. In the chain of command, Milas claimed, the crime investigation division reported to 1st Lieutenant Glavan; the commander was subordinate to Major Juric. All the information went to the Military Police Department which in turn issued all the orders. Milas’s evidence thus directly contradicts the testimony of Mate Lausic, Military Police Department chief. According to Lausic, the military policemen in Krajina after Operation Storm were under Gotovina’s command. In line with that, Lausic stated, he was not responsible for the identification and punishment of the perpetrators in HV ranks.

Continuing his examination, Gotovina’s defense counsel Luka Misetic raised the issue of the destruction of abandoned Serb houses after Operation Storm. Misetic showed a letter from the UN Secretary General’s personal representative Yasushi Akashi. In the letter of 16 August 1995, Akashi says that whole villages, such as Kistanje, Djevrske and Otric were on fire in Krajina. Some 200 houses were set on fire in Sector South, he notes. That number, Milas said, more or less corresponded to what he had seen in Krajina after Operation Storm. It is not true, Milas said, that all the houses were on fire: there would be just a house or two in each of the villages. The witness was adamant that what he had seen could in no way be called ‘widespread and mass arson’ in Krajina; the witness did add that after 16 August 1995 he didn’t spend much time in the liberated territory.

In an effort to prove that most of the Serb houses were burned by civilians, the defense counsel showed a report General Lausic sent to the defense ministry in December 1995, stating that the civilian police had by that time filed more than a thousand criminal reports against the perpetrators, while the military police conducted only 15 investigations. The presiding judge then asked the witness if more than a thousand was a number big enough to meet the ‘widespread arson’ standard. Milas first said that it was ‘a very large number’; when the judge repeated his question, Milas nodded to confirm.

In the second part of the hearing, prosecutor Mahindaratne started cross-examining Boris Milas.