Witness Says No Ethnic Motive to Krajina Looting

Defence witness tells Markac trial that looting after Operation Storm had been indiscriminate.

Witness Says No Ethnic Motive to Krajina Looting

Defence witness tells Markac trial that looting after Operation Storm had been indiscriminate.

Saturday, 12 December, 2009
Former Croatian assistant interior minister Josko Moric told the Hague tribunal this week that widespread looting in the aftermath of Operation Storm had been criminal and had no ethnic motive.

Moric, a defence witness in the trial of former Croatian police chief Mladen Markac, said that the looting during the August 1995 operation had targeted Croatian as well as Serbian property. These acts, he said, “were individual, not organised”.

Markac is accused, along with generals Ante Gotovina and Ivan Cermak, of participating in a joint criminal enterprise to drive the ethnic Serb population from the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995. During Operation Storm in August 1995, Croatian forces recaptured the Krajina region, which had been held by rebel Serbs since 1991.

According to the indictment, Gotovina was overall operational commander of the offensive in the southern portion of the Krajina region, Markac was in charge of special police units, and Cermak commanded the Knin garrison.

Moric testified that, after the interior ministry became aware of looting in the Krajina region, he issued an order on August 18, 1995 for police forces to focus on crime prevention.

His intention, he said, was not to issue an effective amnesty for crimes already committed but to stop new ones being committed.

Prosecutor Prashanti Mahindaratne asked Moric if he had issued any command ordering an investigation into crimes that took place before August 18, 1995.

“It couldn’t be done like that,” responded Moric, who said it was only practical for police to begin investigating crimes once they had gained control over an area.

Mahindaratne showed Moric the testimony of prosecution witness Stjepan Buhin, a former Croatian police coordinator, who claimed he had tried to report an incident in the village Grubori, where, according to indictment, Serbian civilians had been killed by Croatian special police forces.

The prosecution claimed that Markac had tried to cover up the Grubori murders and had sent the alleged perpetrators - who had allegedly committed another crime in the village of Ramljani the day after the Grubori attacks - to Zagreb without disciplining them.

According to Buhin’s 2008 testimony, Moric had personally telephoned to warn him not to interfere in matters that were outside his area of responsibility.

Moric said that Buhin was not responsible for criminal investigations, only for basic police work.

When asked why Buhin had subsequently been removed from the field, Moric said that not only had it been time for Buhin to return from Krajina, but also as his commander he had been dissatisfied that Buhin had intervened in a matter outside his jurisdiction.

Moric said the Croatian police had been facing a wide range of challenges, such as securing the border with Bosnia and Hercegovina, keeping order in the rest of Croatia, and dealing with the remaining Serbian forces in the Krajina.

The prosecutor cited a statement given by the then Croatian minister of defence, Gojko Susak, in which he warned that the situation in Krajina was unacceptable because even Croatian houses were being looted.

“Was the looting of Serbian houses acceptable?” Mahindaratne asked Moric.

Moric replied that, according to his knowledge, looters had targeted both Serbian and Croatian properties.

“Robbers didn’t look for nationality and they didn’t care which house belongs to who,” he said.

Goran Jungvirth is an IWPR-trained reporter in Zagreb.
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