At the very end of the cross-examination of Geoffrey Corn, the prosecution noted that the SVK communications system could have been destroyed in August 1995 by neutralizing targets outside Knin. Ante Gotovina’s defense expert denied this, highlighting the importance of military targets in the town

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

On the last day of the prosecution’s cross-examination of Geoffrey Corn, military expert called by Gotovina’s defense, there was a debate whether the artillery attack on Knin on 4 and 5 August 1995 was justified. The prosecution has been trying to prove that the artillery attack was aimed against civilians and had no military justification. The defense witness defended the findings of his expert report where he argued that the shelling of Knin was a reasonable operational procedure on the part of General Ante Gotovina in Operation Storm. The former commander of the Split Military District is charged together with Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac with crimes committed during and after the operation.

As regards the artillery attack, the witness concluded that a number of communications centers had been located in the town itself: in the Serb Army Main Staff, in the northern barracks and the PTT building. They had to be neutralized. The prosecutor tried to prove that the Croatian military and police leadership had been aware of the fact that the Krajina army communications system could have been neutralized by capturing or destroying targets outside of the town. To corroborate the argument, the prosecutor brought up the transcripts of the meeting between President Tudjman and top Croatian officers and politicians on Brijuni.

At the meeting, General Markac said that the Serbian army communications system would be totally ‘destroyed’ and that general chaos would ensue if the Celavac communications center on a hill outside Knin could be neutralized. According to the Croatian Air Force reports, the site had been neutralized on the first day of Operation Storm on 4 August 1995. Gotovina was not in a position to know if the enemy was able to quickly repair the damaged communications systems, the witness said, adding that 40 percent of military communications used the PTT center in Knin. This, the witness concluded, made it a legitimate military target.

The prosecutor then noted that the Croatian Army could have neutralized the movements of the enemy by train by shelling the railway tracks outside town instead of targeting the railway station located in an area inhabited by civilians. This argument would be correct, Corn replied, only if there had been a single railway track used by the enemy to move its troops; the railway lines are traditionally targeted at junctions, he added.

This ended the four-day testimony of US military expert Geoffrey Corn. Ante Gotovina’s defense will rest its case next week, it indicated. The trial will recommence on Tuesday.