Ante Gotovina’s defense counsel claims that the reports drafted by the UN observers and soldiers about crimes against Serb civilians in August 1995 were exaggerated. Former commander of the UN troops in Krajina Alain Forand denies this claim three times

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

On the last day of the cross-examination of Alain Forand, former commander of the UN Sector South in Krajina, General Ante Gotovina’s defense tried to prove that the reports on the killing, shelling of civilian targets, looting and burning down of Serb houses during Operation Storm and in its aftermath were ‘exaggerated’. As the defense put it, they exaggerated because they wanted to cause a diplomatic reaction by the international community and ‘buy time’ for the RSK army to consolidate.

Forand denied this allegation, but Gotovina’s defense counsel nevertheless asked the same questions two more times before the end of the hearing today. ‘For the third time, I tell you that we didn’t exaggerate’, the witness replied. The presiding judge then warned the defense counsel not to repeat the same question.

In an effort to prove that the UN troops favoured the RSK army, the defense counsel put it to the witness that there were dozens of wounded Serb soldiers among the patients transferred from the city hospital to the UN Knin base by UNCRO personnel at the beginning of Operation Storm. When asked if the UN had the mandate to care for the soldiers, Forand answered that he couldn’t remember any more if this had been their mandate. He does consider aiding ill and wounded soldiers in the given circumstances as a legitimate humanitarian activity.

In his cross-examination, Mladen Markac’s defense counsel also addressed the topic of purported exaggerations in the reports filed by the UN personnel in the field. He played an audio recording of a broadcast by the Canadian national radio from 2003, where a previous prosecution witnesses and former chief of staff in the UN Sector South Andrew Leslie says that about 10,000 to 25,000 civilians were victims of the shelling of Knin on 4 and 5 August 1995. Forand didn’t want to comment on Leslie’s claim, saying only that something like that was never registered in the situation reports drafted by the Sector South command. When the presiding judge asked him why he didn’t play the audio recording when General Leslie was in the court, defense counsel Kuzmanovic tersely replied ‘I wish I had it in my possession then’.

In his re-examination the prosecutor revisited the argument put forward by General Ivan Cermak's defense the day before yesterday in the cross-examination of the witness. The defense counsel put it to the witness that Croatian officials, together with the accused, diligently issued orders to stop and prevent the looting and burning down of Serb houses. When asked what he would have done in the Croatian generals’ shoes, the witness replied that he would immediately have identified persons responsible for not obeying the orders, removed those officers and replaced them with new ones, capable of implementing the orders. Alain Forand thus completed his evidence after four working days. The trial of Croatian generals charged with crimes against Serbs during Operation Storm and in its aftermath will continue on Monday.