At the trial for crimes committed in Operation Storm, the prosecution is trying to prove that the Serb civilians fled Krajina spontaneously, on their own, while the defense of the three Croatian generals contends their exodus was organized, and proceeded according to a previously arranged evacuation plan

Jovan Dopudj, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trialJovan Dopudj, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trial

Jovan Dopudj, former alderman in the Obrovac Municipal Assembly, testified for the prosecution at the trial of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac accused of crimes in the Operation Storm and its aftermath. Dopudj contended that the Serb population had left the town on the first day of the Croatian attack, 4 August 1995. Civilian buildings such as the health center, cafés, the bus station and cultural hall were targeted by the artillery, he said. This scared the inhabitants of Obrovac and made them flee.

Since the beginning of the trial of the three Croatian generals, the prosecution has attempted to prove that Serb civilians had fled Krajina spontaneously, primarily in fear of random shelling of civilian buildings. Contrary to that, the defense claims that their exodus went according to the previously arranged evacuation plan. According to Dopudj’s evidence, on 4 August 1995 when the shelling began, ninety percent of Serbs left Obrovac on their own. At first, early in the morning, they headed for the neighboring villages and then the same evening they continued on towards BH and Serbia.

Challenging the witness’s allegations, Ante Gotovina’s defense counsel put it to him the initial preparations for the evacuation were completed as early as in June 1995, corroborating this with the statement issued by Dragomir Vukcevic, the mayor of Obrovac. Vukcevic told the OTP investigators that the trial runs for the evacuation were done several times. Dopudj replied that this was not true, saying this was the mayor’s wish to ‘give himself some more credit’. The defense counsel then showed him a document from July 1995 where the chief of the Obrovac civil defense asks for the delivery of parts for a raft to be used in ‘the evacuation if the Ustashas attack’. The witness rejected this allegation, saying that somebody in Krajina ‘obviously played war’ doing absurd things.

When the SVK was created, Dopudj was appointed the commander of the 4th Light Brigade, but then in 1993 he asked to be relieved of the duty. When Misetic asked what prompted him to do so, the witness replied that from the beginning of the war he couldn’t see any reason for the war ‘in which everybody was losing’. He then decided not to take part in something that ‘was not his fight’.

As today’s hearing drew to a close, Zdravko Janic was called to give evidence. At the time of Operation Storm, Janic – who is today the commander of the Croatian Special Police – was in command of a key axis of attack launched by the special police and was General Mladen Markac’s immediate subordinate. He was subpoenaed by the Trial Chamber to come to The Hague and testify at the request of the prosecution.