Sky News war correspondent Aernout Van Linden testified at Goran Hadzic’s trial about the ‘neighbors fighting a war’ in Eastern Slavonia and his meeting with Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan and Hadzic, when he was offered ‘exclusive rights’ to film the events in the field. He rejected the offer

Aernout Van Linden, witness at the Goran Hadzic trialAernout Van Linden, witness at the Goran Hadzic trial

As he testified before the Tribunal for the ninth, and probably the last time, Sky News war correspondent Aernout Van Linden described again for the benefit of the judges at Goran Hadzic’s trial the destruction of Vukovar; as he said, Vukovar ‘was in worse shape than Beirut’. He first crossed the border between Serbia and Croatia in late August or early September 1991. In the weeks that followed, he filed dozens of TV reports from Eastern Slavonia.

In the footage shown in court, Van Linden speaks about ‘neighbors fighting a war’, the fierce fighting in the villages around Vukovar, the destruction of religious facilities and burning of houses, and the ‘continued’ shelling. Among the weapons used in artillery attacks were ‘Stalin’s organs’, multiple rocket launchers firing ‘inaccurate projectiles over a long period of time’. The prosecution also showed the footage from a press conference organized by the Guards Brigade on the day when Vukovar was taken. Security chief Veselin Sljivancanin used the opportunity to deliver a message to ‘Ustashas’ to surrender immediately or face ‘destruction in a matter of hours’. Van Linden said that Sljivancanin always used the term ‘Ustasha’ when he spoke about Croats and that this affected him deeply.

The atmosphere in Vukovar was, as Van Linden recounted, ‘weird and scary’. The Serb nationalist songs recalled ‘a bad film’. After the Croatian forces surrendered, the volunteers celebrated their victory ‘running wild’. They were drunk from dawn and out of control, Van Linden said. He described Vukovar as ‘totally destroyed’. Even some of the fighters remarked that they had ‘captured nothing but rubble’.

Van Linden also described a meeting with Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan and Goran Hadzic in the fall of 1992 in Arkan’s patisserie in Belgrade. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes. Arkan told Van Linden that ‘all Serbs must live in one state’. The witness had previously heard Slobodan Milosevic say the same thing. In the cross-examination, Van Linden added that he had seen Hadzic there for the first time. Hadzic could not speak English and did not speak to the witness at all. He only spoke with Arkan. At the meeting, Arkan offered Van Linden exclusive rights to film the fighting in Eastern Slavonia. Van Linden was ‘flabbergasted’. As he said, ‘no Western journalist would ever accept that offer’. As the witness said, Hadzic and Arkan looked like two people ‘working together’, ‘on the same side, in the same war’.

Goran Hadzic’s trial for crimes in Eastern Slavonia and the Republic of Serbian Krajina from June 1991 to the end of 1993 continues tomorrow with a new prosecution witness.