Cermak’s defense witness Petar Pasic has made a number of amendments to the statement he gave to the OTP investigators seven years ago. Before he claimed that Ustasha songs were sung in Knin after Operation Storm in the presence of General Ante Gotovina, now he says that patriotic songs, such as the song Jure and Boban, were sung there

Petar Pašić, svjedok odbrane Ivana ČermakaPetar Pašić, svjedok odbrane Ivana Čermaka

In the cross-examination of Petar Pasic, former Croatian government commissioner for Knin, the prosecution focused on the amendments to the statement the witness gave to the OTP investigators in 2002. Yesterday, the statement the witness gave to the defense was admitted into evidence together with two additional documents containing a number of amendments to the OTP statement. In his interview with the OTP investigators, Pasic accused the Croatian leadership of planning the crimes in Krajina in the summer of 1995. Pasic is testifying as General Ivan Cermak’s defense witness. Cermak is on trial together with Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for crimes against Serbs and their property during and after Operation Storm.

The major changes are contained in a document drafted after the witness arrived in The Hague on 6 October 2009. The witness renounced five paragraphs where he said the Croatian Army and police had done nothing to prevent crimes in Krajina after Operation Storm. In his statement to the OTP investigators in 2002 Pasic said that Serb houses in Krajina were looted and burned down while police ‘couldn’t or didn’t want to’ prevent crimes in Serb villages, while the army ‘could but didn’t want to’ prevent them. When he came to The Hague he called the defense and listed all the inaccuracies from the statement. Pasic and the defense then drafted a new document containing all the amendments. Today Pasic claimed that there were crimes against Serbs after Operation Storm, but that those were ‘isolated incidents’; the accused generals were not responsible for them. In Pasic’s view, the main culprits for the Serbs’ exodus from Krajina were ‘their self-declared leaders’, primarily Milan Babic and Borislav Mikelic.

When asked why he didn’t change his statement earlier, since he had a number of opportunities to do so, Pasic replied that he didn’t read his statement to the OTP investigators carefully until he was called to give evidence. Only then did Pasic realize ‘the weight of my statement’. On the plane from Zagreb to Amsterdam he felt ‘some lack of confidence in my own self’ and this prompted him to change his previous claims. Pasic noted that earlier he changed only claims about General Cermak because he met only with his defense team. Immediately before he left for The Hague, he met with defense representative Zeljko Basic in Sibenik. However, Pasic claims they didn’t discuss his statement or possible changes.

One of the amendments has to do with General Ante Gotovina. Pasic denied his earlier claim that Gotovina was ‘untouchable’ in Knin and that he would see the general on ‘social occasions’ where Ustasha songs such as Jure and Boban were sung. After Pasic came to The Hague, he made a complete U-turn, saying ‘Gotovina was accessible’ and that ‘patriotic’ songs were sung in Gotovina’s presence, not Ustasha songs. Pasic noted that Jure and Boban lyrics ‘may be controversial in some segments’, but not enough to be called Ustasha song. When he was asked if some people may see the song as glorifying the Ustasha movement, Pasic said, ‘Some people perhaps might, but not me’.

The evidence of former Croatian government commissioner for Knin Petar Pasic, one of three Serbs appointed to high-ranking posts in Knin after Operation Storm, continues on Monday.