When the prosecution showed him a document in which Ante Gotovina demands that Drvar, Knin, Obrovac, Benkovac and Gracac be shelled, US expert Geoffrey Corn said that it could be interpreted as an order to launch unlawful attacks on civilians; however, ‘a somewhat more convincing’ explanation would be that the general ordered the shelling of military targets in those towns

Geoffrey Corn, svjedok odbrane Ante GotovineGeoffrey Corn, svjedok odbrane Ante Gotovine

Prosecutor Russo started his cross-examination of US military expert Geoffrey Corn by focusing on the methodology Corn used in drafting his expert report. Yesterday that report was tendered into evidence at the trial of the Croatian generals charged with crimes during and after Operation Storm, in the summer of 1995. In his report, Corn heavily criticized conclusions of Dutch lieutenant-colonel Harry Konings who described, as a prosecution expert, the artillery attack on Knin on 4 August 1995 as an inappropriate and unlawful attack aimed at expelling the civilians from the town.

The prosecutor noted that Corn reached his conclusions about the deployment of Croatian artillery in Operation Storm more on the basis of the information provided in December 2008 by Gotovina’s defense teams and less on documents admitted into evidence at the trial. The witness didn’t deny this, asking the prosecutor to show him the facts he failed to incorporate in his report. The prosecutor proceeded to do just that.

One of the key documents the prosecution intends to use to prove the intent of the Croatian side to use the artillery to attack civilians is the order general Gotovina issued on 2 August 1995, demanding from his subordinates to ‘shell the first enemy defense lines, command posts, liaison centers, artillery firing positions and to launch artillery attacks on the towns of Drvar, Knin, Obrovac, Benkovac and Gracac’. Corn agreed that the order could be interpreted as a demand to shell whole towns. However, there is another explanation, ‘somewhat more convincing’ in Corn’s view: Gotovina’s order may lead to the conclusion that only military targets were to be shelled, the witness explained. This would mean that Drvar and four other Krajina towns are mentioned as centers where command posts, artillery firing positions and other military targets from the order should be targeted.

The order to ‘put entire towns under artillery fire’ was ‘not properly worded’, Corn added. The US Army legal department where he once served would surely act and demand that the commander rephrase it. It is possible that Gotovina’s operations officer actually wrote the order, Corn noted, admitting nevertheless that the responsibility for what was written in the order lies only with the signatory, the accused general.

Before discussing Gotovina’s order, the prosecution noted there is ample testimony of the international observers who claimed that on 4 and 5 August 1995 the HV shelled Knin. According to them, ‘the entire town was a target’. Assuming the manner of a linguistic expert, as he often did yesterday in his examination-in chief, the witness argued that foreign observers didn’t claim that it was a random and unlawful attack on Knin, but that ‘it was their impression’. The impression could have misled them, the witness maintains, as they didn’t know where the military targets were located in the town itself.

As the US military expert cannot be in court tomorrow, his cross-examination will continue on Thursday. Gotovina’s next witness will give evidence tomorrow via video link.