Cermak’s defense witness Karolj Dondo contends that the accused general Ivan Cermak issued orders to the military and civilian police after Operation Storm simply because of the overall confusion in the liberated territory about the chain of command. Cermak himself was not aware that he was not authorized to issue orders

Karolj Dondo, svjedok odbrane Ivana ČermakaKarolj Dondo, svjedok odbrane Ivana Čermaka

Continuing the cross-examination of Karolj Dondo, former liaison officer in Knin, prosecutor Mahindaratne referred to what he had said in his statement to the defense: that as the Knin Garrison commander after Operation Storm Cermak didn’t have any power over the military and civilian police. Together with Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac, General Cermak is charged with crimes against Serbs and their property in the summer and fall of 1995.

At the beginning of the cross-examination today the prosecution showed Dondo several documents in which General Cermak issues orders to the military and civilian police, and invited him to comment on them. In an effort to prove that those documents didn’t necessarily imply the accused general had command authority, Dondo said that Cermak’s orders often had no effect in the field. For example, the witness recounted, the HV troops prohibited the repairing of the radio stations on the Promina Mountain near Knin, saying that Cermak’s order was worth nothing without the authorization from the command of the Split Military District. The Split Military District was under Gotovina’s command.

The witness was then showed a transcript of Cermak’s interview with the OTP representatives in 1998 where the general, who was a suspect at the time, said that after Operation Storm he ordered the HV units to give freedom of movement to all international observers in Sector South without consulting superior commanders. Dondo was adamant that Cermak was not authorized to do that. As the witness argued, in situations like that Cermak would tell his collaborators in Knin ‘we will write the order and I will then deal with it later with Gotovina’.

When the prosecution asked the witness if Cermak actually ‘pretended to do things he was not authorized to do’ in Knin, Dondo said that Cermak signed documents with the title he really had. Cermak himself probably didn’t know he was not authorized to issue orders to the military and civilian police, Dondo added. According to him, Cermak’s ‘ignorance’ was the result of the overall confusion about the chain of command in the liberated area. It was ‘quite likely’ that before Cermak came to Knin on 6 August 1995 as the garrison commander, he was not briefed about his duties and powers. Finally the prosecution put it to the witness that in fact he was ignorant about the powers of a garrison commander on paper and that his evidence was based on speculations. ‘Yes, what I’ve said about Cermak’s powers over the military and civilian police in Knin are mere speculations’, Dondo replied.

At the end of his evidence the witness requested permission to shake hands with the accused generals. The presiding judge didn’t let him explaining that it was not customary. Dondo then turned towards the dock and bowed lightly. Cermak’s defense then called its next witness. His statement was admitted into evidence, but a summary was not read out. The only thing the public learned is that the witness’s surname is Dodig and that he will be cross-examined by the prosecution tomorrow.