Goran Hadzic’s defense counsel noted that the town commands were in charge of establishing ‘law and order’ in Eastern Slavonia. According to prosecution expert Nilsen, the army tried to prevent unlawful acts together with the civilian authorities that were, at the same time ‘unfortunately, involved in the abuse and expulsion of citizens’

Christian Nielsen, witness at the Goran Hadzic trialChristian Nielsen, witness at the Goran Hadzic trial

After at least one witness was heard in closed session, the trial of Goran Hadzic continued with the cross-examination of expert Christian Nilsen. Nilsen’s cross-examination began in January 2013. Nilsen was asked by the prosecution to write a report on the establishment and operation of the police in former Yugoslavia.

At the beginning of the cross-examination, Hadzic’s defense counsel noted that in late 1991, JNA military commands were in charge of maintaining ‘law, order and security’ in Eastern Slavonia, because civilian authorities did not exist at the time. Nilsen contends that the army was not solely responsible for law and order, because local civilian authorities were being set up. By analyzing a series of military documents, Nilsen concluded that the army tried to prevent unlawful acts together with the local authorities. Ironically, though, ‘the police and the local and regional authorities were involved in the abuse and expulsion of citizens’, he said. There was a sort of a ‘dance’ between the army and Hadzic, Nilsen said. On paper, this dance was based on the purported mutual respect and desire to cooperate. In reality, both sides indirectly implied they didn’t have the same approach to the problem of abandoned property in Eastern Slavonia. At that time, Hadzic was the president of the so-called Serb Autonomous Region of Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srem.

The defense counsel brought up a document produced by the government-run Central Settlement Committee in February 1992 to suggest that Hadzic’s government explicitly prohibited ‘the abuse and eviction of the Croatian population on ethnic grounds’. Nilsen agreed with the suggestion but noted that other documents showed that the same government actively settled Serbs in the abandoned Croat houses.

Nilsen agreed that there were ‘disagreements’ between refugees from Western Slavonia and local Serbs who tried to protect their Croat neighbors. Nilsen explained that, as in Bosnia, the locals showed more tolerance towards their neighbors from other ethnic groups than the radical newcomers who had been expelled from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. Yet, Nilsen added, it was the local population that changed the name of their village to Arkanovo.

Goran Hadzic’s trial continues tomorrow with the evidence of a new prosecution witness.