Former UN special envoy Yasushi Akashi has completed his evidence about the situation in Krajina after Operation Storm. Ante Gotovina’s defense has rested his case. The second accused, Ivan Cermak, will start his defense case next week

Yasushi Akashi, svjedoči video linkom u odbranu Ante GotovineYasushi Akashi, svjedoči video linkom u odbranu Ante Gotovine

As the examination-in-chief of former UN special envoy for the former Yugoslavia Yasushi Akashi continued, Ante Gotovina’s defense brought up the alleged discrepancies between the documents produced by the top UN officials and the reports of international observers after Operation Storm in the summer of 1995. A number of crimes were committed against the Krajina Serbs and their property at the time; Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are charged with those crimes.

In a report filed on 13 September 1995, the UN military observers say that ‘more than 18,000 houses are partially or completely destroyed’ in Krajina at the time. That figure, defense counsel Misetic noted, was not contained in any of the numerous telegrams Akashi was sending to New York to the UN Secretary General. At one point, Akashi reports that ‘entire Serb villages have been burned down’, but the figure he gives is just 200 destroyed houses. The witness was unable to explain the discrepancy in the figures, noting that it happened 14 years ago. He ‘might be forgiven for not recalling all the details’.

The defense counsel then noted that on 29 September 1995, the UN Secretary General writes in his report about ‘constant violations of the Serbs’ human rights and the burning and looting of their houses’, but there is no mention of the figure of 18,000 destroyed buildings. Akashi took part in drafting the document. Today he said the document was of ‘a general character’ and its goal was not to present statistical data but to highlight factors that prevented the return of the Serb refugees.

The counsel of the other two accused also cross-examined Akashi. Steven Kay asked the witness a few questions about his meeting with the accused Cermak in Knin on 7 August 1995. Akashi was unable to recall practically any detail from the meeting. He did say that he considered Cermak to be the military commander in charge of Knin and its environs, and to be ‘quite cooperative and efficient’.

Mladen Markac’s defense counsel asked the witness to compare the damage to buildings he saw in Knin after Operation Storm with the damage he saw in Vukovar and Sarajevo after the attacks by Serb forces. Although Akashi stressed he didn’t want to make hasty comparisons, Akashi said that Vukovar had been destroyed ‘beyond the borders of what an ordinary man could imagine’, and that the damage in Sarajevo was greater than it was in Knin.

The first topic addressed by the prosecutor in the cross-examination was whether the Croatian leadership was or was not committed to achieving a peaceful solution for the Krajina problem. To that end, he showed the minutes from the meeting of the Croatian military leadership in Brijuni on 31 July 1995. At the meeting, President Tudjman says that the Croatian side would attend the Geneva peace talks only ‘to counter any arguments from the world that we didn’t want to negotiate’. The Croatian president goes on to say that it is his goal in Geneva to cover op his war plans; the only thing that could hamper his efforts are, as he says, ‘UNCRO guys - Japanese bugs’, and Akashi himself. The witness didn’t comment on those quotes, saying he had not been aware of Tudjman’s words.

In a weekly report from late August 1995, Akashi presented the views of the Croatian president he was aware of. In the document, Akashi claims that Tudjman ‘rejected the complaints about looting and arson of Serb houses as acts of individuals, condemned by the government’. Although he doesn’t recall those claims all that well, Akashi said they reflect the general tone of his talks with the Croatian president.

Ante Gotovina’s defense rested its case with the testimony of the former high-ranking UN official. There will be a hearing on housekeeping matters on Friday and next week, General Cermak’s defense will begin its case.