In the cross-examination of Croatian historian Josip Jurcevic, the prosecutor tried to impeach the witness by putting to him that the expert report he drafted for General Praljak’s defence is nothing but another element in his lifework, devoted to ‘downplaying the scale of crimes’ committed by Croats. The witness accuses the Croatian authorities of supplying the Tribunal with forged documents in order to convict ‘selected Croats’

Josip Jurčević, svjedok odbrane Slobodana PraljkaJosip Jurčević, svjedok odbrane Slobodana Praljka

In the cross-examination, the prosecution tried to impeach the Croatian historian Josip Jurcevic who drafted an expert report on the relationship between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1991 and 1995. The expert report by the witness, who is running for president in Croatia, supports the defence argument that there was no joint criminal enterprise headed by Croatian president Tudjman aimed at annexing parts of Bosnia to Croatia, as alleged in the indictment.

Prosecutor Kenneth Scott put it to the witness that his expert report is in effect yet another element in his lifework devoted to ‘playing down the scale of the crimes’ committed in the past by Croats in the former Yugoslavia, since the existence of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The witness’s book The Creation of the Jasenovac Myth, relies, according to the prosecution, on Tudjman’s conclusions about Jasenovac in the book Wasteland of Historical Reality. The prosecutor’s allegation that Tudjman supported the ideas promoted by the NDH had the defence counsel up in arms, and the accused Praljak asked to be allowed to leave the courtroom because he felt ‘sick’. As a parting shot he said that a charge of fascism should now be added to his indictment.

In answer to the prosecutor’s allegations, the witness said it was not his intention to play down the crimes in Jasenovac but to highlight the ‘abuse of victims’ on the part of the communist regime in the former Yugoslavia. As for Tudjman, the fact that he was in the partisans from 1941 to 1945, fighting against the NDH, speaks volumes about the Croatian president, the witness said. The prosecutor then quoted Tudjman’s words from a meeting on 27 January 1994, when he said ‘without radical Croats who advocated the NDH, the war against Serbs and Muslims would not have been won’. ‘That’s what is says here, but I don’t know whether Tudjman really said that,’ Jurcevic replied.

The prosecutor then put it to the witness that he supported all the Croats convicted of war crimes, illustrating his claim by saying Jurcevic had attended the farewell gathering for Tihomir Oreskovic when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against Serbs in Gospic. The trial was held in Croatia. The witness admitted he attended the gathering, but said he was never opposed to criminals being tried and punished. According to him, the problem lies in ‘the corrupt Croatian judiciary’ and the ruling structures: it is ‘not in their interest’ to determine who is responsible, but to sacrifice ‘selected people’ to fit their ‘political interests’.

According to the witness, former Bosnian Croat leader Dario Kordic is also among the ‘victims’ of the ruling structure in Croatia. In 2004, the Hague Tribunal sentenced Kordic to 25 years in prison for crimes against Muslims in the village of Ahmici in April 1993. He was, the witness contended, convicted on the basis of ‘forged documents’ the ‘ruling structures in Croatia’ planted on the prosecution. Jurcevic implied that Croatia is taking part in the effort to convict Gotovina, particularly, as he said, ‘if one takes into account the so-called defence’ which includes state officials and intelligence agents. When the prosecutor asked him if he had recently visited Kordic in Graz, Austria where he is serving his sentence, with his wife and a lady friend, the witness confirmed it.