In the closing argument at the trial for the shelling of Dubrovnik in 1991, prosecutors stated that General Pavle Strugar's guilt had been proven beyond reasonable doubt and sought 13 to 15 years in prison for him

Pavle Strugar in the courtroomPavle Strugar in the courtroom

Civilian casualties and the destruction of UNESCO-protected cultural heritage in the attack on Dubrovnik on 6 December 1991 were consequences of "serious errors in the exercise of command in the JNA 2nd Operational Group," headed by the accused General Pavle Strugar, said prosecutor Susan Somers in her closing arguments.

The trial that began last December should end this week with the closing arguments of the prosecution and the defense. Prosecutor Somers said that the prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the accused, as the commander of the JNA 2nd Operational Group, "created an atmosphere of command that was characterized by tolerance for disciplinary infractions and criminal acts of his subordinates." This atmosphere spread to subordinate units where personnel knew that "the orders prohibiting attacks on the Old Town of Dubrovnik were just demagogy," the prosecutor claims.

As she said, the accused was aware on 6 December that he did not have command and control over the subordinate units, yet "he left the heavy weapons in their hands, knowing that they had abused it in the past." He knew that "the same circumstances yielded the same result", Somers said, reminding the Chamber of the previous attacks on Dubrovnik in October and November 1991 that "the accused had to have been aware of."

“He knew what consequences the attack on the city on 6 December could have, yet he did nothing to stop or prevent such an attack," Somers stated. She pointed out to the judges that the defense "changed its strategy" at the very end of its case, shifting all the blame on Admiral Miodrag Jokic, sentenced to 7 years in prison after his guilty plea. He testified at the trial of his former superior officer as a prosecution witness. "Admiral Jokic accepted his responsibility and he never tried to run away from it or to show any disrespect towards the accused," Somers noted.

Posecutors David Re and Phillip Weiner stressed that the prosecution evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Old Town of Dubrovnik had not been used for military purposes and that the JNA had shelled it deliberately. The defense argument that the Old Town had "lost its immunity as a city protected by UNESCO because fire was opened from it on JNA positions," was countered with the prosecution argument that "the JNA should have notified UN representatives of any alleged incidents in which fire was opened from the Old Town to have its immunity rescinded, but this was never done."

The prosecution evidence, prosecutor Weiner contends, proved conclusively that there was no military target in Dubrovnik which would justify the JNA attacks. The alleged positions of a mortar and another artillery weapons on several locations around and in the vicinity of the Old Town were mentioned by only one defense witness. He called upon the Chamber to give their trust to the prosecution witness who commanded the artillery in the defense of Dubrovnik and who described in detail the positions of the Croatian forces.

Noting that it was the view of the prosecution that the "accused was guilty on all counts of the indictment”, Susan Somers asked for 13 to 15 years in prison for General Pavle Strugar.

The defence will present its closing argument next. The Presiding Judge Kevin Parker indicated that the "field report of the Trial Chamber" will also become part of the record, including notes, audio recordings and photographs. The three judges visited Dubrovnik from 1 to 4 September.