After a month and a half, the defense of the former Knin Garrison commander rested its case. The last witness, military expert Jack Deverell, contends that the accused general was appointed after Operation Storm to a post he ‘didn’t understand’. Consequently, Cermak assumed ‘the responsibility that wasn’t his’, ‘with the best of intentions’. Despite earlier announcements, Mesic, Sarinic and Blazevic were not called to testify

Jack Deverell, svjedok odbrane Ivana ČermakaJack Deverell, svjedok odbrane Ivana Čermaka

As the cross-examination of defense military expert Jack Deverell continued, the prosecution tried to prove that General Ivan Cermak had command authority over the military police. The prosecution showed several orders, some issued in August 1995, in which the accused called for the involvement of the military police in the search for the vehicles from the UN mission. The prosecution holds Cermak responsible, among other things, because he didn’t use his influence over the military police to prevent and investigate crimes against Serbs in Krajina after Operation Storm. Cermak limited his influence to helping the international observers. Ivan Cermak is indicted for taking part in the joint criminal enterprise aimed at expelling the Serb population from Krajina in the summer of 1995. He is now on trial together with generals Gotovina and Markac.

‘Indeed it appears that Cermak had authority over the military police’, Deverell said when he was shown orders of the accused general, but then he went on to explain why it didn’t mean it was actually the case. The accused was a successful man from the business and political circle, who had influence, the witness explained; now he was appointed to a post ‘he didn’t understand’ and he assumed ‘responsibility that wasn’t his’ ‘with the best of intentions’. The fact that somebody wrote an order doesn’t necessarily mean that he was authorized to do it, Deverell noted.

Noting that the crimes after Operation Storm were widespread and that Cermak was aware of them, the prosecutor showed the witness a transcript of an interview the accused had given to the investigators from The Hague. In the interview, Cermak described his conflict with the Defense Ministry spokesman General Ivan Tolj in the summer of 1995. Cermak objected to the claims Tolj had made to the Slobodna Dalmacija daily, that the crimes in Krajina were committed by civilians dressed in military uniforms, not by Croatian soldiers. Cermak allegedly called Tolj on the phone warning him that such claims were bad, because ‘covering up and lying is in no one’s interest’, Cermak said to Tolj. ‘Don’t get angry, you know that there are people above me’, Tolj allegedly replied to Cermak.

In the interview with the prosecutors Cermak drew their attention to an interview he gave to the same newspaper, in which he said that those responsible for the crimes ‘should be sought among Croatian soldiers and the HV commanders should be charged accordingly’. Although the witness had gone through the transcript for the purpose of his report, the witness said he couldn’t locate the quote. When asked if Cermak who was in Knin had more reliable information that Tolj who was in Zagreb, Deverell said that it was not necessarily so. Sometimes, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, somebody sitting ‘at the top’ may have better and more comprehensive information that somebody the field, Deverell said.

Ivan Cermak’s defense then rested its case, opened on 22 September 2009. Despite previous announcements, public figures such as Stjepan Mesic, Hrvoje Sarinic and Miroslav Ciro Blazevic were not called to testify. It is unclear if they were deleted from the witness list by the defense or if the prosecution decided not to cross-examine them, in which case their statements were simply admitted into evidence. Cermak’s defense counsel did indicate they had decided not to call two of their original witnesses, identified only as IC-32 and IC-34.

The trial of the Croatian generals will be adjourned until Monday. The defense of Mladen Markac, the third accused who is a former commander of the Croatian special police, will then start its case.