Based on a UN report from September 1995, Ante Gotovina’s defense counsel implies that ‘Croats returning back to Knin after Operation Storm’ might be responsible for the burning down of houses and looting of property. Jan Elleby, former chief of the UN civilian police, replies that ‘the military observers might have gotten this impression, but not the civilian police’

Jan Elleby, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trialJan Elleby, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trial

In the cross-examination of the Danish police officer Jan Elleby, the defense counsel of Ante Gotovina noted the cases where the Croatian authorities tried to establish order in Knin and where Croatian soldiers helped the civilian population ‘despite the chaos’. These cases are mentioned in the reports of the UN civilian police headed by Jan Elleby.

Since the witness described the looting of Knin, burning down of houses and killings in the statements he gave the OTP investigators, the defense counsel put it to him that civilians could have been responsible for those crimes, not members of the Croatian Army. For example, a report drafted on 19 September 1995 says that ‘the general impression is that the Croatian neighbors set fires in Knin’. The witness replied that this was ‘the impression the military observers got’. As far as he could remember, none of the UN civilian police officers ever told him that the crimes were perpetrated by Croats returning to Knin.

The report goes on to say that villages were looted by people in civilian clothes and military uniforms. According to the defense counsel, the people in uniform ‘didn’t necessarily have to be real soldiers’. ‘The fact that somebody looks like a soldier isn’t enough to conclude that this person actually is a soldier’, Elleby confirmed. The defense counsel quoted a part of the statement given by Kari Anttila, a UN military observer, who concluded that ‘looting and arson went on independently from military activities’. ‘I couldn’t reach this conclusion,’ Elleby replied.

The civilian police report notes that villagers from the hamlet of Grubori in Plavno valley were killed by the members of the special units; Mladen Markac’s defense counsel asked the witness what this conclusion was based on. It is possible that the person who drafted this report might have been ‘too hasty in drawing conclusions’, Elleby replied. In the re-examination, the witness told the prosecution that ‘the conclusion of the civilian police officer might have been too hasty, but surely there was reason for it’.

The trial of generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac continued with the evidence of the witness testifying under the pseudonym 56.