Canadian general Alain Forand, former commander of UN forces in Sector South in Krajina, testifies about protest letters he sent to the two of the three Croatian generals in the dock. He protested against the arson, looting, murders and theft of UN equipment in the wake of Operation Storm

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

‘If you don’t like their reports, take steps to prevent this,’ said Canadian general Alain Forand in response to General Ivan Cermak who accused the UN of drafting reports that contain ‘unsubstantiated allegations and insinuations’ about the crimes committed by Croatian forces after Operation Storm in the summer of 1995. UN human rights teams ‘report on what they see… and what they see is crimes’, Forand said in a letter to Cermak on 7 September 1995.

From 8 July to 10 October 1995, General Forand was the commander of all the UN forces in Sector South in Krajina. He gave four statements to the OTP investigators about the events he witnessed in that period. The statements were admitted into evidence today at the trial of Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladan Markac, charged with crimes in the course of Operation Storm and in its aftermath.

A large number of situation reports for Sector South were also admitted into evidence. Forand’s staff in Knin sent them daily to their superiors in the UN HQ in Zagreb, as was the correspondence, dating from August and September 1995, between Forand and two of the accused, Ante Gotovina, Croatian Army commander in the Split Military District, and Ivan Cermak, ‘military governor of Knin’. Cermak’s official title was ‘garrison commander’, but Forand claims neither Cermak nor anybody else ever corrected him when he addressed Cermak as ‘military governor’.

Operation Storm started with a barrage of artillery fire targeting Knin and other towns; Forand contends the fire was indiscriminate, aimed at causing panic among the population. On the very first day, Forand sent a letter to Gotovina, protesting against ‘the attacks on innocent civilians and UN facilities’. Two days later Forand met with Gotovina, who told him he should contact Cermak in the future, as he was ‘responsible for the Knin area’.

Over the next weeks, Forand testified today, he sent to Cermak a number of letters protesting against the restrictions of freedom of movement of the UN personnel, looting and burning of Serb houses, murder and abuse of civilians, and the theft of vehicles, construction machinery, residential containers and other UN equipment by Croatian Army troops. On some occasions, Forand said today, Cermak would deny the incidents, or blamed them on ‘outlaws’; other times, he would say this was ‘a large area difficult to control. What he never said, Forand claims, was that he was not responsible for the area. Quite the contrary: he promised he would issue orders to put a stop to that.

When the presiding judge asked him ‘who is supposed to stop’ looting, burning and killing, Forand said, ‘I understood this to mean that they, Cermak’s own men, should stop doing that’.

Forand complained about the lawlessness in Sector South to General Gotovina too, at their last meeting on 5 September 1995. Gotovina responded by accusing the UN of ‘harboring war criminals’ in its base in Knin and threatening to kill ‘the spy and agent provocateur’ Alun Roberts, UN public relations officer. General Janvier, UNPROFOR force commander, protested against such threats to General Cervenko, Chief of HV General Staff.

Cermak’s defense counsel started the cross-examination of General Forand on Monday as the hearing drew to a close. It is expected to take until the end of the week.