Zeljko Sacic, former chief of the Croatian Special Police Staff and deputy of the accused Mladen Markac today gave evidence in open session for a short time. Sacic described the role and the wartime activities of the special police in Operation Storm. It appears that Sacic’s examination in closed session was much more interesting

Zeljko Sacic, witness at the Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac trialZeljko Sacic, witness at the Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac trial

For two and a half days, the examination-in chief of former chief of the Croatian Special Police Staff Zeljko Sacic proceeded in closed session. This afternoon, the court finally went into open session. Sacic arrived in The Hague as a witness of the Trial Chamber to talk about the actions of the Croatian special police that the judges felt should be addressed after the prosecution and defense teams rested their cases. Generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac are charged with crimes against Serbs during and after Operation Storm in 1995.

Presiding judge Orie first showed the witness some photos taken on 8 August 1995 in Gracac. The photos show uniformed members of the Croatian armed forces hotwiring a civilian car, taking goods out of buildings, loading the goods onto trucks and celebrating the liberation of the town in Lika. Asked if they were members of the Special Police, the witness said that the person trying to hotwire the civilian car was ‘100 percent’ a member of the Special Police. Other persons ‘probably’ or ‘certainly’ belonged to the Special Police units that took part in Operation Storm under the command of the accused Markac, the witness replied.

Continuing the examination, the presiding judge asked the witness about the movements of the special police during Operation Storm, from 4 to 9 August 1995. The witness recounted in detail the wartime activities of the special units, from Mount Velebit to Gracac and then on to Bruvno and Mazin, Gornji Lapac, Donji Lapac and the BH border.

In their evidence at the trial of the Croatian generals, several witnesses mentioned Zeljko Sacic in relation to the cover-up of the crime in the village of Grubori. In late August 1995, five elderly Serbs were killed there. Deputy commander of the Lucko Anti-terrorist Unit Josip Celic claimed that Sacic had ordered him to modify his report in which he wrote that there was no fighting in the village of Grubori. Sacic ordered Celic to write down that there was a clash with the remaining Serb soldiers and that civilians were killed in the cross-fire, Celic claimed. Another commander in the Lucko unit, Josip Turkalj said in his statement to the OTP investigators that in late August 1995 he witnessed a conversation in which Sacic told General Ivan Cermak that the Grubori incident should be presented as an ‘accident’ in which civilians lost their lives in the cross-fire, ‘whether it is true or not’.

In 2008, Celic and Turkalj were called by the prosecution to give evidence. In late 2010, the Croatian judiciary indicted Zeljko Sacic for the attempt to cover up the evidence of the crime in Grubori and arrested him. As the proceedings before the Croatian court has not yet been completed, it is logical to assume that the Grubori case has been discussed in closed sessions.

The judges today completed the examination of the witness. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, the witness will be examined by the prosecution and the defense teams of the three accused.