The defense of Ante Gotovina argued that in August 1995 HV general Ivan Juric didn’t speak English. Therefore, when Juric met Canadian observers in the village of Kistanje he could not tell what the aim of the ‘clean-up action’ had been. In his evidence for the prosecution the Canadian intelligence officer claimed that Juric told them that the aim was that ‘Chetniks never again return to Krajina’

Ivan Juric, witness at the Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac trialIvan Juric, witness at the Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac trial

In a brief cross-examination of HV general Ivan Juric, prosecutor Ryan Carrier focused on the jurisdiction over the military police in the liberated parts of Krajina during and after Operation Storm. Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are charged with crimes committed then. At that time, the witness was in Knin on the orders of the chief of the Military Police Administration Mate Lausic. Juric was to coordinate the work of the military police units in the field; those units were in charge of preventing and investigating crimes.

Juric was yesterday examined by the judges who called him to testify in The Hague. Juric said that the commander of the 72nd Military Police Battalion, Major Mihael Budimir reported daily to General Gotovina on his unit’s doings. Today Juric added that the military police in Krajina was subordinated to Gotovina, commander of the Split Military District, in terms of ‘daily operational tasks’. Juric contends that his arrival in Krajina on Lausic’s order didn’t violate the legally established chain of command with Gotovina at the top.

In his cross-examination, Gotovina’s counsel Luka Misetic showed a daily report of the 72nd Military Police Battalion. The report shows that the commander of the Split Military District was just one of ten recipients. The witness confirmed this. The defense went on to note that General Gotovina wasn’t informed about all the developments in the field. For example, Gotovina was not informed that stolen items were seized from Croatian soldiers at check-points. Juric agreed with the claim, noting that he didn’t know why that was the case.

The defense counsel then asked the witness if he spoke English while he was in Krajina and how he communicated with the Canadian Battalion troops. On 9 August 1995, Juric met Canadian observers in the village of Kistanje. Juric said he knew only some fifty English words. Since there was no interpreter, Juric communicated with the Canadians using ‘signs and hands’. The defense used this ‘English pop quiz’ to contest the claims of former Canadian military intelligence officer Philip Roy Berikoff. In his evidence for the prosecution in 2008, Berikoff maintained that when he met Juric in Kistanje, Juric told him that the aim of the ‘clean-up action’ was to ‘prevent Chetniks from ever returning to Krajina’. By Chetniks Juric meant all Serbs.

General Ivan Cermak’s defense lawyer Steven Kay exercised his right to cross-examine the witness. Kay contests the claim that the military police was subordinated to his client. Kay put it to the witness that the orders Cermak issued to the military police after Operation Storm were in fact information summaries they would have dealt with even if they had been sent by a rank-and-file soldier. Juric agreed, adding that Cermak as the commander of the Knin Garrison ‘couldn’t issue orders, but only tasks’ to the military police.

Juric thus completed his evidence. There will be a two-week break at the trial of the Croatian generals, until 19 March 2010, when the next witness of the Trial Chamber is slated to testify.