Prosecution witness Hill estimated in his examination-in-chief that ’hundreds and hundreds of shells’ landed on Knin on 4 August 1995. General Ante Gotovina’s defense challenges this estimate, showing him a report by the UN military observers estimating that 350 to 450 shells were fired that day from 5am to 10:40am. The witness thinks this estimate is ’too low’

Gregory Kehoe, defence attorney of Ante GotovinaGregory Kehoe, defence attorney of Ante Gotovina

At the beginning of the cross-examination of Jeffrey Hill, former commander of the UN military police in Sector South in Krajina, the defense counsel of General Gotovina contested the witness’s allegation about ’hundreds and hundreds’ of shells fired on Knin on 4 August 1995 when Operation Storm was launched. He confronted the witness with a report drafted by the UN military observers. According to the report, about 350 to 450 shells hit Knin that day until 10:40 am. Although this could be interpreted as ’hundreds and hundreds’, the witness noted that this estimate was ’too low’.

Hill repeated that he was surprised to see there was less damage than he expected when he visited Knin on 6 August 1995, in light of the ferocity of the shelling on 4 and 5 August. However, he saw some houses that were still on fire. Gotovina’s defense counsel then went on to show a video recording of Knin taken by Croatian Television on 5 August 1995 from the Knin fortress. Neither smoke nor fire can be seen on the footage. The witness agreed that there was no smoke on the recording, but was adamant that a day later he saw houses that were still on fire.

Hill claimed that the bags containing the bodies of Serb civilians killed by shells landing near the UN base in Knin were torn when the Croatian soldiers passed by, that shots were fired on the bodies, which were also urinated on. The defense counsel challenged that claim, showing the witness’s war diary in court. None of the things he had spoken of were mentioned in the diary. On the contrary, in his diary Hill wrote that by 6 August 1995 the bodies were removed from the scenes. In his evidence yesterday, Hill contended that on 8 August 1995 he had seen defiled bodies. Hill also stated that he had no knowledge of an incident in which those bodies were run over by Croatian tanks, as alleged by Andries Dreyer, former security coordinator in the UN base in Knin.

General Cermak’s defense was particularly interested in Hill’s statement to the OTP investigators where he says that ’Cermak’s orders were not implemented in the field’. While the witness confirmed this, the prosecutor noted that this conclusion from the witness statement might be ambiguous – one interpretation is that Cermak was not respected, and the other is that he himself didn’t implement in the field what he promised the UN officials he would do.

The trial of three Croatian generals charged with crimes committed during Operation Storm and in its aftermath will continue tomorrow with the evidence of another prosecution witness.