TESTIMONY BASED ON A BOOK AND TV FOOTAGE
Did the witness personally saw the conversation between Major Sljivancanin and a "man in white", or did she in fact see it on TV and read about it in the book entitled This is My Country?
"Vukovar three" in the courtroom
In the cross-examination, the defense counsel of the Vukovar Three challenged a part of the testimony offered by protected witness testifying under pseudonym P-013. She claimed that on 20 November 1991, she had heard snatches of the conversation between one of the accused, Major Sljivancanin, with "a man in white". She said he was "probably a representative of the international monitoring mission".
In response to the prosecutor's questions, the witness said yesterday the "man in white" wanted a list of all the wounded people being taken from the hospital to be made, but that Sljivancanin refused to do it, saying, "Sir, this is my country. Sir, there's a war going on here. I am in command here and when I come to your country I will act as you ask me to, and you will therefore do the same here".
As she was cross-examined by defense counsel Momcilo Bulatovic, the witness added today that Sljivancanin had said, "Sir, my soldiers were killed here tonight". This is a sentence recorded in the footage shown on TV of the heated debate between Major Sljivancanin and Nicholas Borsinger, representative of the International Red Cross. The conversation took place on 19 November 1991, at one of the bridges in Vukovar. The footage was showing in court at the beginning of the trial. The defense further claims that details of the conversation are described in the book entitled This is My Country about Major Sljivancanin. In the cross-examination, the witness admitted she had read the book three months before coming to The Hague to testify.
At the end of P-013's testimony, the defense objected to the fact that witnesses often changed their stories. According to the defense counsel, this has "become a practice" of the prosecution. Just before the protected witnesses came to testify, the defense counsel received supplements to the statements they gave to OTP investigators in 1995 or to their testimony at the Slavko Dokmanovic trial. The supplements, the defense counsel claim, "substantially alter the facts", the witnesses are given suggestions about the direction their testimony is to take and the interests of the accused are prejudiced, because the defense has not enough time to prepare for the cross-examination of those witnesses.
The prosecution, however, sees those supplements as an opportunity for witnesses to clarify their statements, in light of the fact that they have not seen them since 1995 or 1998.
Presiding Judge Kevin Parker accepted the defense arguments and ordered the prosecution to give the defense enough time to study the amended statements in the future. If the prosecution fails to do so, the Chamber will be forced to postpone the cross-examination of such witnesses. Judge Parker instructed the defense counsel to highlight all the changes to the previous statements in the cross-examination and to try to challenge the witnesses' credibility. In Judge Parker's opinion, the changes prosecution witnesses testifying so far have made may be ascribed to "normal limitations of human memory, or in one case, to the fact that a witness has read a book" dealing with the events at trial.
The trial of Mile Mrksic, Veselin Sljivancanin and Miroslav Radic will continue tomorrow with the testimony of a new prosecution witness.
- Case : Mrksic et al. - "Vukovar Hospital"
- 2005-11-07 COMRADE MRKSIC IN VUKOVAR HOSPITAL
- 2005-11-03 HOSPITAL RUSES
- 2005-10-28 LOST IN TRANSLATION
- 2005-11-09 SOLDIERS' ROUNDS IN THE VUKOVAR HOSPITAL
- 2005-11-10 DEFENCE: VUKOVAR HOSPITAL WAS LEGITIMATE TARGET
- 2005-11-11 DR NJAVRO: SLJIVANCANIN ISSUED ORDERS, RADIC MALTREATED PEOPLE