In his evidence in General Gotovina’s defense, Croatian state prosecutor Mladen Bajic ‘agreed absolutely’ with the prosecutor when she put it to him that looting was acceptable and allowed in the HV during and after Operation Storm. Bajic also agreed that the crimes against Krajina Serbs were not prosecuted vigorously before 2001

Mladen Bajić, svjedok odbrane Ante GotovineMladen Bajić, svjedok odbrane Ante Gotovine

In her cross-examination of the current Croatian state prosecutor Mladen Bajic, prosecutor Katrina Gustafson tried to prove that the small number of criminal reports filed for murder and other crimes against Serbs after Operation Storm was the result of state policy, and not some objective obstacles as the witness claimed yesterday. In his examination in-chief Bajic explained that there were less criminal reports against Croatian soldiers because the military prosecutor’s office and military police were understaffed. The key reason, he said, was lack of access to witnesses.

From 1992 to 1996 Bajic was deputy military prosecutor in Split and knew about the investigations and prosecution of crimes against Krajina Serbs during and after Operation Storm in 1995. Bajic is now testifying before the Tribunal in Gotovina’s defense. Together with generals Cermak and Markac, Gotovina is charged with participation in the joint criminal enterprise headed by President Tudjman and aimed at the permanent expulsion of Serbs from Krajina.

The prosecution showed a report of the Croatian news agency HINA from a conference in 2007 where Bajic says that it was only ‘in 2001 that the Croatian authorities took a more serious approach towards crimes perpetrated by the army and police in Krajina’. The prosecution also tendered into evidence the minutes from a meeting of the Croatian Council for Cooperation with the Tribunal in November 1998. At the meeting, high ranking Croatian officials openly speak about ‘the non-prosecution strategy’ for the crimes against Serbs that was implemented after Operation Storm.

Asked if he agreed that ‘the political leadership was unwilling’ to prosecute crimes against Serbs in Tudjman’s time, Bajic replied that he could not confirm it. However, when he was promoted to state prosecutor in 2002, Bajic saw that ‘things had taken a wrong turn in many respects’ and many of the crimes were not prosecuted. This prompted Bajic to order new investigations and to demand more dedication from the prosecutors collecting evidence against Croatian soldiers and police officers. Bajic claims he doesn’t know the reason why the exhumation of more than hundred bodies of Serbs from the Knin cemetery was not done until 2001. Serbs buried in Knin were mostly shot at close range. The delay significantly slowed down the crime investigations because crucial forensic evidence was lost, Bajic admitted.

Today the prosecution also presented a series of documents from Croatian courts showing that only a small number of perpetrators from the HV ranks were prosecuted, despite the fact that the witnesses and the accused claimed that looting was widespread in Krajina in the summer and fall of 1995. The documents speak of ‘large groups of soldiers loading stolen items onto trucks’ in Knin and items being loaded in the village of Golubic ‘on the orders of the platoon commander’. This lead the prosecutor to put it to the witness that the ‘looting was acceptable and allowed in the HV’.

‘I agree absolutely with your conclusion’, Bajic replied. Despite Bajic’s unequivocal answer, defense counsel Misetic asked for a clarification in his re-examination. Bajic told him that court documents mentioned a large number of lootings committed in the Operation Storm and after it that were not processed.

Mladen Bajic completed his evidence today. The trial will continue next Monday with Gotovina’s defense calling its next witness.