Testifying in the defense of police general Mladen Markac, former commander of the Zagreb-based special police unit Zoran Cvrk claims that the buildings in Donji Lapac were set on fire when an HV unit entered the town - the unit was not under Gotovina’s command. Former deputy interior minister Josko Moric was called as Markac’s next witness

Zoran Crvk, svjedok odbrane Mladena MarkačaZoran Crvk, svjedok odbrane Mladena Markača

Former commander of the Zagreb-based special police unit Zoran Cvrk tried to shift the blame for the houses burned in Donji Lapac on the Croatian Army. If the Chamber were to accept his evidence as the truth, Mladen Markac could be acquitted of the charges related to the crimes in Donji Lapac, a town in Lika. It would favor General Gotovina too, because Donji Lapac was under the jurisdiction of the 9th Guards Brigade which was part of the Gospic Military District. Gotovina was the commander of the Split Military District. Generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are charged with the crimes against Serbs and their property during and after Operation Storm in 1995.

The special police entered Donji Lapac on 7 August 1995, the witness said. There was no destruction during the day, but the HV troops entered the town that night and that’s when the problems started, Cvrk said. When the presiding judge asked him what the problems were, the witness said that ‘up to ten businesses were burned down, including the local motel’. He didn’t discuss this with his superiors, generals Markac and Sacic, although he did meet with them in the morning of 8 August.

Presiding judge Orie asked the witness some questions about the photographs taken by Belgian journalists in Gracac on 6 August 1995. Cvrk admitted that some of the photographs do not show the special police ‘in the best of lights’, primarily those showing the police singing and reveling in the streets. When the judge brought his attention to the photographs where a police officer is seen jumpstarting a civilian car, the witness said the policeman might have wanted to move the vehicle somewhere else to prevent any unauthorized use, since fire had been opened from a similar vehicle on the special police some time ago. The police officer shown on the photograph - the prosecution argues that he was stealing the car while the defense maintains he merely wanted to move the vehicle away - has given a statement to the defense and may come to testify.

Prosecutor Mahindaratne noted in her cross-examination that General Markac had authority to order an investigation into any crimes committed by the special police; the witness denied it. A debate ensued about whether the special police personnel were told before each action that they had to comply with the international humanitarian law in their dealings with the civilians. Although there are no warnings to that effect in the written orders Markac issued, Cvrk claims he received them regularly from Markac orally. As for the treatment of civilians, the Croatian special police were taught that as part of their regular training.

As the hearing drew to a close, the defense called another former police official: former deputy interior minister Josko Moric, who was in charge of general-duty police. His name has been coming up in a number of documents admitted into evidence at the trial of the tree Croatian generals. There was just enough time for the two statements - one he gave to the OTP investigators in 2004 and the one he gave to the defense this year - to be admitted into evidence.