At first, Zeljko Sacic contended that he hadn’t received any reports on the arson cases in Gracac and Lapac. The former deputy commander of the special police then thanked the prosecutor when she reminded him that he was the recipient of various reports about the cases where abandoned houses were burned down. Sacic admitted that he didn’t launch any investigations and suggested to the prosecutor to ask Markac if he did it. The accused Markac commanded the Croatian special police at the time

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

In the first half of the cross-examination of the Trial Chamber’s witness Zeljko Sacic, prosecutor Mahindaratne probed the allegations about looting and arson in the territory the Croatian special police liberated in early August 1995 in Operation Storm. At the time, Sacic was chief of the Special Police Staff and served as the deputy of the special police commander Mladen Markac. General Markac is on trial together with generals Gotovina and Cermak for crimes against Serb civilians and their property in the summer and fall of 1995.

Sacic and Markac entered Gracac together with the Croatian special police on 5 August 1995. Two days later, they arrived in Donji Lapac. The prosecution is trying to prove that the two towns were burned down and looted after the liberation. The witness at first didn’t agree with this claim. As he put it, the issue was ‘outside the scope of his interest’; he ‘didn’t notice’ any crimes nor was he informed about them.

The prosecutor said that, unlike Sacic, his subordinates in the special police ‘did notice’ the burning of the houses. In their reports drafted after Operation Storm, logistics commander Branislav Bole and Zdravko Jonic, who commanded a unit in the field, said that houses had been set on fire in Donji Lapac on 7 and 8 August 1995.

The witness first contended that he was ‘almost 100 percent sure’ that he didn’t receive any reports mentioning the burning of Donji Lapac, only to thank the prosecutor for ‘refreshing his memory’ when she showed him documents that included Sacic as the addressee. In Jonic’s report, there was a hand-written note that ‘General Markac should be informed about the burning’. Sacic admitted that it was his handwriting. The witness was then asked if anyone from the special police ever launched an investigation into the arson cases in Lapac. ‘I surely didn’t, ask Markac if he did’, the witness responded.

The prosecutor then noted that in the course of the trial, the Chamber had heard evidence that Gracac had been burned down and looted on 8 August 1995, three days after the liberation, once the Special Police Staff had been set up in the town center. The witness said he ‘cannot believe that it could be true’. General Markac ‘explicitly ordered’ everyone not to break the law, Sacic said. The witness was then asked if anyone in the special police had ever been punished for looting and arson. Pressing his forehead with his fingers, Sacic pondered the reply for a moment. ‘I really cannot remember that it happened’, Sacic said. A bit later Sacic remembered that he had heard that an ‘arsonist on a motorbike’ had been arrested. Sacic, however, was not able to tell if that man was a civilian, a policeman or a soldier and when it happened.

One of the prosecution witness said that in Operation Storm up to 90 percent of the houses he saw along the road from Gracac to Donji Lapac had been burned down. The witness rejected this claim. ‘In that case I would probably have gotten burned too’, the witness concluded.

The second half of the hearing today proceeded in closed session.