In his reply to the defense claim that he cooperated well with Ivan Cermak, Alain Forand, former commander of the UN forces in Krajina, confirmed that the Croatian general was ’cordial and civilized’ but nevertheless didn’t do anything to prevent the arson and looting of the houses belonging to Serbs who fled, in spite of numerous warnings by UN representatives

Alain Forand, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trialAlain Forand, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trial

General Ivan Cermak’s defense claims that the accused didn’t contest the claim that Serb houses in Krajina were burned down and looted during Operation Storm and in its aftermath. He failed to prevent this crime not because he did not want to but because he didn’t have the authority to do it. In his cross-examination of Alain Forand, former UN Sector South commander, the defense counsel Steven Kay today noted that Cermak was eager to meet the demands of international representatives and did everything to ensure the safe return home to all the refugees who took shelter in the UN base in Knin during Operation Storm. The refugees could leave for Serbia, if they wanted to.

In his examination-in chief, General Forand claimed that Cermak denied looting and burning down of Serb houses the UN command in Sector South repeatedly warned him of. Cermak’s reply was, ’it’s all a Chetnik set up to blame the Croats’, the witness alleged. Defense counsel Kay then showed him the minutes from a meeting held on 18 August 1995. On that meeting, Cermak ‘expresses his concern’ with the crimes in Krajina, assuring the UN representatives that he would do everything to constrain ‘bandits in military uniforms’ and ’civilians who burn and loot in revenge’. Forand replied that perhaps he should not have said that Cermak denied crimes, but he was adamant that the Croatian general failed to do anything although he promised he would.

Pointing that Cermak’s authority to deal with the perpetrators was limited despite his best efforts, the defense counsel showed Forand an order issued on 5 August 1992 in which Croatian president Franjo Tudjman appointed Cermak ‘commander of the Knin garrison’. Cermak was not appointed ’military governor’, which was the title Forand used. The witness agreed that Cermak signed letters he sent to the UN Sector South command as ‘garrison commander’. However, when Forand wrote back to Cermak, he addressed him as ’military governor’ and Cermak never corrected it.

Among dozens of documents, the defense showed several reports in which Forand says how pleased he was with the cooperation with Cermak. ’Yes, he was very cordial and civilized, yet he failed to do anything to solve the problems we noted’, Canadian general clarified.

As today’s hearing drew to a close, the defense counsel showed Cermak’s order that all displaced persons from the UN Knin base who wanted to leave for Serbia should be given clothes, food and drink and be allowed to move through Croatian territory unimpeded. As this was in the second half of September 1995, Forand said, a few days before his return to Canada he could only say what he heard later, that everything was all right while the refugees were in Knin, but when they left town they ’had problems’.

The cross-examination of General Forand will continue tomorrow.