AS IMPRESSIVE AS IT GETS
Gotovina’s defense witness Boris Milas, former chief of the military police CID, was told by the prosecutor that the military police filed just a few criminal reports after Operation Storm for looting and none for the murder and burning of Serb houses. He admitted that it ‘is definitely not an impressive number’, but went on to say that it was impossible to do more than that because there were few reports from the field about the Croatian soldiers committing crimes
Boris Milas, svjedok odbrane Ante Gotovine
Prosecutor Mahindaratne today continued her cross-examination of Boris Milas, former chief of the 72nd Military Police Battalion CID. Noting that war crimes were not investigated and perpetrators not punished after Operation Storm, she presented a table listing all the criminal reports filed against Croatian soldiers from August to the end of 1995. A total of 19 criminal reports were filed in Sector South; a mere handful has to do with the looting and none with the burning down of abandoned Serb houses and the killing of civilians. Only two out of 13 criminal reports filed in the Knin company of the 72nd Battalion concern looting.
‘This is definitely not an impressive number’, Milas said. He was called to testify by Ante Gotovina's defense. Gotovina is charged with generals Cermak and Markac with crimes against Serbs and their property after Operation Storm. As the witness explained, the fact that no investigations were carried out and no criminal reports were filed is due to personnel shortages and other, more important tasks the military police had to do, such as ‘processing’ prisoners of war and investigating deaths of the HV troops. The main reason, Milas said, was lack of reports from the field about crimes committed by Croatian soldiers. This prompted the prosecutor to show him several entries in the Knin company log book indicating that in the summer of 1995 such reports were received. The usual procedure in those situations was to dispatch a patrol to the crime scene. Upon arrival, the patrols would determine that the perpetrators had fled the scene. There were no follow-up investigations or prosecutions. Milas tried to justify this approach saying that some reports indicated there were assumptions that the HV troops or ‘uniformed persons’ were involved; this did not mean they were soldiers.
For General Gotovina to be found responsible for the inertia of the military police – its failure to punish perpetrators – the Trial Chamber should accept the prosecution argument that Gotovina, as the Split Military District commander, had jurisdiction over military police units in Krajina. The witness was adamant in his denial that this was the case. Today he contended that the command over the military police and its crime investigation division was exercised along the ‘professional line’ from the Military Police Department in Zagreb. When asked what prevented Gotovina from ordering the crimes in Sector South to be investigate, Milas said that if Gotovina had gone to the CID, it would have been ‘extremely unusual’, adding that the accused general may have been in a position to issue orders to Mihael Budimir, 72nd Battalion commander.
In an attempt to contest the credibility of the witness, the prosecution showed a report drafted by the Croatian authorities in 2000. The report states that Milas took part in Operation Hague as a member of the Croatian Army’ Security and Information Service. He joined the Service in 1996. The purpose of the operation was to prepare witnesses and conceal documents sought by the Tribunal in the Blaskic and Kordic-Cerkez cases. Milas admitted that on two occasions in 1997 he ‘escorted’ trucks with documents from Herceg Bosna to the Lora naval base near Split. However, Milas claimed that he didn’t know what papers were inside boxes. According to Milas, the Security and Information Service merely dealt with the technical side of the preparation of witnesses. ‘I was not aware I was part of Operation Hague and I had no idea of its purpose’, the witness said.
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