Elisabeth Rehn completed her evidence at the trial of Croatian generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac, commenting that none of the defense counsel found it appropriate during the two-day cross-examination to ask her about the murder of Serb civilians in the village of Grubori on 25 August 1995 she talked about in her examination-in chief

Elisabeth Rehn, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trialElisabeth Rehn, witness at the Gotovina, Cermak and Markac trial

When Gotovina’s defense counsel insisted, former UN rapporteur for human rights Elisabeth Rehn today clarified her words in the statement she gave to the OTP in 2005. At the time, Rehn had said that she personally saw people in Croatian Army uniforms looting abandoned Serb houses. She admitted today she could not be positive they actually were soldiers, since she knew that sometimes civilians wore military uniforms, adding that she saw military vehicles parked near the looters. This could point to the conclusion that the men she saw looting were not just ‘civilians dressed up as soldiers’.

Apart from looting, Rehn witnessed the burning down of Serbian houses. In her report to the UN Secretary General in December 1995 she mentions an estimate of 5,000 houses destroyed by arson. When asked why the number she lists is significantly lower than the figure of 16,800 burned down houses provided by the UN military observers, the witness explained that she wanted to give a ‘conservative estimate’, making sure not to count the Croatian houses burned down in the years preceding the Operation Storm in the total sum she presented.

In his attempt to prove that Croatian authorities made efforts to prevent the crimes against Serb civilians and their property, General Ivan Cermak’s defense counsel showed a series of internal documents from the Interior Ministry from the summer and fall of 1995. The documents are orders issued to the police administrations specifying a set of measures to prevent the looting and arson. Elisabeth Rehn replied that she was aware that there was some goodwill in the authorities. However, she and her colleagues were less interested in what was on paper, more in what was actually happening in the field.

In the statement she gave to the OTP investigators and in her examination-in-chief, Rehn said she had never gotten the information she sought about the progress of the investigation into the murder of five Serb civilians on 25 August 1995. Despite this, the defense counsel of the three Croatian generals never once brought up that incident during the two days of the cross-examination. The witness herself comment on that fact today, saying that ‘obviously nobody is interested in the Grubori incident’. Her concern was alleviated by the presiding judge who told her that the Trial Chamber had already seen a lot of evidence on the murders. ‘I am glad to hear that’, Elisabeth Rehn replied. Soon after that, she completed her evidence and left the courtroom.