Prosecution witness contends that Krajina fell in Croatian hands without a fight after only two days; the shelling of villages and towns was not necessary. The defense wants to prove that the Serb resistance was ‘strong’, and the fighting ‘fierce’. The trial of Gotovina, Cermak and Markac is adjourned until 25 August 2008

Many prosecution witnesses have claimed that the Croatian forces liberated Krajina on 4 and 5 August 2008 basically without a fight and that the shelling of towns and villages was not justified by military necessity. General Ante Gotovina’s defense is intent on proving that there was heavy fighting with the Serb forces and that the artillery attacks were necessary. In his examination-in chief, former British liaison officer Roland Dangerfield said that the Krajina Serb army didn’t offer any resistance. However, in a newspaper article in mid-August 1995, Dangerfield says that the Serb resistance ‘was strong’. When defense counsel Kehoe showed the witness this text, he replied that he merely relied on the conclusions of some UN observers, not his own.

The defense counsel went on to challenge the witness claim that the shelling of Knin was unnecessary, alleging that RSK army units were moving around the town when the attack was launched; those units were legitimate military targets. The witness confirmed that military convoys could be targeted in combat, but ‘only if the risk of collateral damage is reduced to a minimum’; in his view, this was not the case in Knin.

Dangerfield claimed that the Croatian Army 7th Brigade, also known as the Puma Brigade, was the first to enter Knin. According to him, the brigade members immediately started looting and burning down the abandoned Serb houses but Dangerfield was not able to describe their uniforms and insignia. Nevertheless, he said, at that time he knew very well that it was this unit of the Croatian Army. In his examination-in chief yesterday the witness also said that the special police prevented him from entering the burned down Serb villages, but was again unable to identify the villages or describe how the special police were dressed.

Since the beginning of the trial the defense teams have contested the allegations of the prosecution witnesses, mostly former members of the UN mission, that five elderly Serb civilians were deliberately killed in the village of Grubori on 25 August 1995. The defense’s argument is that General Ivan Cermak was right when he said on Croatian TV a few days after the incident that those civilians had been killed when they were caught in cross-fire between the Croatian special police and ‘remnants of Serb terrorists’.

What definitely does not play into the defense hand is something that all the witnesses who visited Grubori immediately after the incident agree on, Dangerfield included: one of the old men had his throat slit and this could not have been the result of cross-fire. The defense counsel of Mladen Markac, former commander of the special police, implied that his throat might have been torn by a bullet and not cut by a knife. Dangerfield countered that, saying that he saw the old man close up and was able to see the line where the skin of this throat was split and the bleeding from the cut.

The British officer completed his evidence today and the trial of three generals, Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac, will continue on 25 August 2008 after the Tribunal’s summer reccess.