1 Friday, 27 October 2006
2 [Open session]
3 [The accused entered court]
4 [The witness entered court]
5 --- Upon commencing at 9.01 a.m.
6 JUDGE MOLOTO: Good morning, everybody. Unfortunately today Judge
7 Nosworthy is indisposed and we would suggest that we sit in terms of 15
8 bis today. Okay.
9 Good morning, Mr. Lakic.
10 THE WITNESS: Good morning, Your Honour.
11 JUDGE MOLOTO: Mr. Lakic, at the beginning of your testimony you
12 made a declaration to tell the truth and nothing else but the truth. I
13 warn you that you are still bound by that declaration to tell the truth,
14 the whole truth, and nothing else but the truth. Okay.
15 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, Your Honour.
16 JUDGE MOLOTO: Mr. Milovancevic.
17 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.
18 WITNESS: ZORAN LAKIC [Resumed]
19 [Witness answered through interpreter]
20 Examination by Mr. Milovancevic: [Continued]
21 Q. Good morning, Mr. Lakic.
22 A. Good morning, sir.
23 Q. Before I start putting questions to you, I wish to remind you
24 again that we have to be mindful of making a pause between question and
1 Yesterday you mentioned the events in Skabrnja on the 18th and
2 19th of November, 1991. Do you know how many people on the Croatian side
3 took part in the clashes in Skabrnja?
4 A. At the end of the action we - and I mean the officers, the
5 commanding officers on the Serb side - arrived at the information whereby
6 the Croatian armed forces engaged in Skabrnja, had set up a unit at the
7 strength of battalion. In the combat operations on the 18th, in our
8 estimate, the Croatian forces had around 150 to 200 men. The entire unit
9 which had 500 to 600 men was not present in Skabrnja to the full strength,
10 in the full strength.
11 Q. In your answer you explained where fire was opened from upon
12 Skabrnja. Do you have any information about the combat activities in
13 Skabrnja itself, where the units from Skabrnja were positioned?
14 A. These were mixed forces, not only did they use infantry weapons of
15 all calibres they had at their disposal, they also used mortars, hand-held
16 rocket-launchers, anti-tank mines were also laid, some of which exploded,
17 others didn't. They employed all the forces they had. In our view, they
18 had prepared themselves fully and they tried to provoke the conflict. And
19 it was because of that that the JNA unit involved was well equipped and
20 well prepared for what in fact happened.
21 Q. As far as the buildings inhabited by the civilians in Skabrnja,
22 where would you say their combat positions were located in relation to
23 these buildings?
24 A. The positions were placed around the village of Skabrnja. They
25 occupied very important geographical features in particular. They also
1 chose certain buildings which were prepared by their engineers, fortified,
2 and consolidated for defence. As for the main road along which the JNA
3 unit arrived in Skabrnja, they prepared their anti-armour weapons well.
4 And it was only because of the preparedness of our forces that the JNA
5 unit was able to enter Skabrnja. At this end, they also prepared
6 themselves for infantry positions, and I mean the Croatian side had
7 positions of their infantry there, next to the houses on the left- and the
8 right-hand side of the road.
9 Q. Thank you. When you say that certain houses were prepared by
10 their engineers and that the road was also prepared, what does that
11 specifically mean? Can you describe it for the Chamber.
12 A. All the culverts on -- along the road leading to the village were
13 laid with mines, all of them. As far as the houses were concerned, they
14 made parapets out of soil, boulders, whatever they had at hand, and that's
15 what I meant when I said that they had prepared themselves.
16 Q. Thank you. Who fired, and I'm referring to all of those involved
17 in the Skabrnja action?
18 A. Their units that were there prepared for combat started firing.
19 Subsequently we analysed the operation and we arrived at the conclusion
20 that even a woman fired at a soldier of ours. This was something that one
21 of the JNA soldiers noticed. And he -- later on we were able to see his
22 shirt that was bullet-ridden. She had a hunting rifle, it was a shotgun
23 in fact, and you could see the impact of the pellets on the shirt.
24 Otherwise, of course, it was the members of the Croatian army who opened
25 fire on the JNA unit. The fiercest fire came from the houses that were
1 consolidated and from the positions along the road.
2 Q. You said that it was on the 18th of November, 1991, in the evening
3 hours that you came into Skabrnja. Did you go there at a later date as
5 A. No. I went there on that evening, and the sole purpose of my
6 being there was to establish whether there were any civilians there still
7 because the members of the Territorial Defence were concerned only with
8 the evacuation of civilians, as I stated earlier. And my concern was how
9 to secure accommodation for them and how to take care of them.
10 Q. Thank you. On that date, on the 18th of November, 1991, as you
11 entered Skabrnja in the evening hours, you said that at -- by that point
12 all the combat activities had ceased. Did you have occasion to see and
13 observe any damage on the houses? What were the consequences of the -- of
14 combat on the village?
15 A. Well, the houses themselves were still standing and they were
16 intact, whereas those houses that were used as positions and from which
17 fire was opened were damaged to a certain extent.
18 Q. The civilian population from Skabrnja that was evacuated was put
19 up in a kindergarten, a place --
20 THE INTERPRETER: The interpreter didn't hear the name of the
22 JUDGE MOLOTO: Sorry, Mr. Milovancevic, but why do you testify?
23 Why do you tell the witness that the people were put in a kindergarten?
24 Why don't you ask him?
25 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, the witness stated
1 this yesterday, and I didn't wish to put the same question twice.
2 JUDGE MOLOTO: Why tell it to him again then? Why not get to the
3 next question? Why go to the kindergarten? Or at least why don't you
4 tell him: Okay, you told us yesterday they were put in a kindergarten if
5 you want to look at the question. If you put it like that, it looks like
6 a leading question. Anyway, go ahead, I accept your explanation.
7 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] I will rephrase the question.
8 Thank you, Your Honour.
9 Q. I wanted to ask you what the make-up of the evacuated population
10 was in terms of their age and gender.
11 A. They were mostly women and children and some elderly. I think
12 that there were about 15 per cent of the elderly among them. That was why
13 we used that building, the kindergarten or nursery school, for the
14 children to relax because of course they had gone through terrible fear
15 and ordeal.
16 Q. Do you know whether after these combat activities in Nadin and
17 Skabrnja any civilian population was still to be found there?
18 A. On the following day, on the 19th, or rather, as early as the
19 19th, with the assistance of the civilian protection and members of the
20 JNA, at that time the TO members who had been evacuating them were also
21 there, they set out to see whether there were any civilians and they
22 didn't come across any of them anymore. After the action, on the 19th of
23 November, 1991, all the buildings were inspected from Nadin all the way to
24 Skabrnja, and in Nadin there were about ten elderly people who were
25 provided for in the subsequent days by the medical staff from the Benkovac
1 health centre, by the medical corps, and the quarter-masters of my unit
2 who gave them food supplies and so on and so forth.
3 Q. Thank you.
4 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, the Defence has
5 completed its examination-in-chief.
6 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much, Mr. Milovancevic.
7 Mr. Black.
8 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
9 Cross-examination by Mr. Black:
10 Q. Mr. Lakic, my name is Mr. Black. I'm one of the Prosecutors who
11 works on this case and now it's my turn to ask you questions now, but
12 before I do so I need to send a quick e-mail to the Defence, documents.
13 Sir, yesterday you were asked if you saw any casualties as you
14 entered Skabrnja on the 18th of November, 1991, around 1700 hours. And
15 your reply was that you saw a couple of dead fighters. Are we to
16 understand that you didn't see any dead civilians at that time?
17 A. Mr. Prosecutor, I went into Skabrnja on a combat-armoured vehicle
18 that was driven by members of the JNA. My line of sight was limited from
19 inside the armoured vehicle - that's the sort of vehicle it is. As we
20 reached the centre of Skabrnja, I observed two or three corpses and these
21 were soldiers because they had those ammunition belts, they had patches
22 signifying their affiliation with the unit, and I didn't see a single
23 civilian there.
24 Q. Okay. Well, you told us that you went there specifically to look
25 for civilians. So you were actively on the lookout for civilians when you
2 A. I was the commander of the TO. It was not my place to go around
3 looking for anyone. There were members of the Yugoslav People's Army
4 there, soldiers, who were deployed along the length of the attack. They
5 collected civilians and took them into the centre. I didn't go from home
6 to home. First of all, I was physically unable to because there was
7 soldiers there going through the settlements and because it wasn't my
8 business to do that. They directed civilians to go to the main road where
9 they were received and evacuated. This is why I inquired as to whether
10 they seen any civilians because it was our task to evacuate them. I
11 didn't see anyone.
12 Q. Okay. Well, just you know, about ten minutes ago you said: "The
13 sole purpose of my being there was to establish whether there were any
14 civilians there still because members of the Territorial Defence were
15 concerned only with the evacuation of civilians."
16 Now, do you want to change that or clarify that answer, that your
17 sole purpose for being there was to establish whether there were any
18 civilians there still?
19 A. The one and only task that I was performing as a member of the TO
20 was to take care of the civilians who were left behind after these events
21 there. I didn't have any other powers. I was to make sure that nobody
22 got hurt, nobody stepped on a land-mine. All manner of things can happen
23 during combat activities. My wish was to help civilians and take care of
24 them. I stayed there for perhaps 15 minutes. I put two civilians on to
25 the combat vehicle, two men, into the combat vehicle and took them out of
2 Q. Okay. So your grand contribution to this effort of rescuing
3 civilians was you were there for 15 minutes? Is that now what you're
5 A. Well, I wouldn't say that it was a grand contribution. I'd be
6 happy to never have seen the tragedy happen, but I was there with a number
7 of people that I engaged for that purpose. And none of us found it a
8 rewarding experience to be there.
9 Q. Okay. Well, let me make this a little bit concrete.
10 MR. BLACK: If we could look at Exhibit 270 on the e-court,
11 please. And if we could turn to the third page, actually. It has -- 7831
12 are the last numbers at the top. And, Your Honours, just so -- this is
13 mostly photographs, so the English translation is -- it's very scant.
14 Mostly we will be focusing on the photographs.
15 Q. Mr. Lakic, as you can see, this is documentation collected by the
16 Benkovac police on the 21st of November, 1991. Do you see that?
17 A. Yes, I do.
18 MR. BLACK: If we could skip ahead to the page that ends 7835 and
19 look there at -- the photographs will be F2 and F2A. That's -- the
20 photograph you see there is photograph F2.
21 Q. Sir, did you see those people when you were driving through or
22 going through Skabrnja --
23 MR. BLACK: Oh, there we go, that's F2.
24 Q. Did you see those people when you were in Skabrnja on the 18th of
1 A. No, I don't remember. The ones I saw were lying on the grass, on
2 the ground. This is somebody's yard. I didn't go into yards. I was
3 moving along the main road in a combat vehicle. I didn't see this.
4 Q. Okay. According to eye-witnesses, these people were taken out of
5 the basement, where they were hiding with some elderly people and
6 children, and they were shot in the head by Serb fighters. Did you hear
7 anything about an incident like that?
8 A. No, no. I didn't see a single such incident.
9 Q. Okay.
10 MR. BLACK: If we could --
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Look, on the basis of the material
12 from the trial in Zadar I heard that this was the case. We received some
13 unconfirmed information from the JNA units in Benkovac. I believe it was
14 the chief of police Ernest Radjen who produced this document which, in its
15 preliminary form, spoke of such crimes against civilians. And these were
16 materials that I was able to read later on from this trial in Zadar.
17 MR. BLACK:
18 Q. Okay. But before that trial in Zadar, you had no information
19 about civilians being killed; is that what you're telling us, just so that
20 I understand you correctly?
21 A. Yes -- no, no, I knew that there had been civilians killed, but I
22 didn't know the way in which they were killed or how this came about. I
23 didn't have a source to learn it from.
24 Q. Okay. What did you know about civilians being killed in Skabrnja?
25 Before this trial in Zadar, what did you know?
1 A. After an analysis of the events was carried out by the brigade
2 command of the JNA, I had information to the effect that some civilians
3 were killed as a result of the shelling of the houses, out of which
4 gun-fire came because the Croatian forces were shooting out of the houses
5 and then the houses were shelled and that was how the civilians got
6 killed. That was the sort of information I had after these events.
7 Q. Okay. But other than civilians being killed by shelling, you
8 didn't hear about any other civilian casualties in Skabrnja? You didn't
9 know about that until later?
10 A. Yes, yes. I knew. If you will allow me.
11 Q. Please, please, if you knew about other civilian casualties before
12 the Zadar trial, please tell us what you knew.
13 A. I remember one piece of information about a corpse that was
14 uncovered several months after the operations. It was found in a field to
15 the south of the village of Skabrnja. The investigating bodies, with the
16 help of the police, established that the body was that of a civilian.
17 There were some personal belongings with the body, but the person was a
18 civilian and it was a younger person. Because normally the other persons
19 who got killed were middle-aged or elderly people.
20 Q. Okay. Let me ask -- thank you for the explanation. Is there --
21 are there any other -- is there any other information you have or that you
22 had at that time about civilians being killed in Skabrnja?
23 A. Well, that was all.
24 Q. Okay.
25 A. What I've told you. I didn't have any other information.
1 Q. Okay. Thank you. Just --
2 MR. BLACK: I would like to look now at another photograph from
3 this same document. It's actually two pages ahead of the one that ends
4 with the number 7837. Just look at that quickly, please. And that will
5 be photographs F3A and F3B.
6 Q. Sir, you talked about being along the road and that you'd seen
7 people by the road. Are these the people that you saw? Did you see these
8 people in Skabrnja on the 18th of November, 1991?
9 A. No, I can't confirm that. The dead bodies I saw were not
10 clustered, they were far apart, and I had never seen this photograph. I
11 can't tell you anything about what I see here. The bodies I saw were some
12 100 metres apart.
13 Q. Okay. Well, the evidence suggests that the body of this woman was
14 actually run over by a tank there on the road, and you would confirm to me
15 based on this photograph it appears that she, at least, was certainly a
16 civilian, whether or not we can say anything about the other people next
17 to the road. Do you agree?
18 A. Listen, I was being driven in a combat-armoured vehicle, and the
19 openings out of that vehicle are so tiny that you could barely fit a
20 cigarette there or a pack of cigarettes. And I wasn't in a position to
21 see either what was in front or behind the vehicle.
22 Q. Okay. Thank you. And I should have explained to you, when I ask
23 you a question and you just don't know one way or the other, it's
24 perfectly okay to say that you don't know or you don't know anything about
25 the document or the photograph, just so you know that.
1 MR. BLACK: I think we're done with this document for the time
2 being. And if we could look as well briefly at Exhibit 272 on the
3 e-court, please. And if we could go ahead and turn to the second page --
4 or actually even the third page which ends with the numbers 7800.
5 Q. Mr. Lakic, these are photos from Skabrnja. Did you see this kind
6 of destruction on the 18th of November, 1991, when you entered the
7 village? You have explained how it was hard to see out of the vehicle you
8 were in, but did you see anything like this?
9 A. On the 18th and 19th of November, 1991, nothing like this occurred
10 in Skabrnja at all. There might have been holes in the wall from a shell,
11 there might have been some tiles missing from the roofs, but there were no
12 devastated and destroyed buildings like this, certainly not up until what
13 happened in 1993. So I assume that these were the buildings destroyed in
14 1993 when the Croatian army launched its aggression against the airport
15 and the villages lying to the west.
16 Q. Sir --
17 A. This must be damage after 1993.
18 Q. Sir, you weren't even in Skabrnja and Nadin on the 19th of
19 November, so you can't tell us anything about what happened then, can you?
20 A. On the 19th of November, I was not in Nadin or Skabrnja; I was in
21 the Biljana area touring the villages there, touring the TO Benkovac area
22 and what I saw I saw.
23 JUDGE MOLOTO: Were you in Skabrnja in 1993, sir, and did you see
24 this devastation being caused in 1993?
25 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I was in Skabrnja in 1992 as well --
1 JUDGE MOLOTO: No, no, no --
2 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] And in 1992 --
3 JUDGE MOLOTO: I beg your pardon. Listen to my question. You've
4 just said to the Prosecutor now, in 1991 there was no such devastation.
5 This devastation must have taken place in 1993. I'm asking you a very
6 simple question. Were you there in 1993 when this devastation took place?
7 Did you witness this devastation taking place in 1993?
8 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] In 1993, I saw the consequences --
9 JUDGE MOLOTO: No, no --
10 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] -- of the combat in --
11 JUDGE MOLOTO: Listen to my question --
12 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, Your Honour.
13 JUDGE MOLOTO: According to you, did this take place in 1993? Is
14 that your testimony? Did you see it happen and did it happen in 1993,
15 according to you?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] It is my conviction that this
17 happened in 1993 after January 1993 --
18 JUDGE MOLOTO: Now, let me --
19 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] -- that is to say, after the action
20 that went on.
21 JUDGE MOLOTO: Let me remind you -- I reminded you at the
22 beginning of the day today that you have taken the -- made the declaration
23 to tell the truth and nothing else but the truth. Now, don't tell us your
24 convictions; tell us what you know as a fact. Okay. You don't -- we are
25 not interested in your convictions, unless they are asked for. Okay.
1 Thank you very much. So don't -- if you don't know when this took place,
2 don't try to give it a date when it took place; just say: I don't know
3 when it took place. That's all. The question that was put to you was
4 whether you admit or deny that this was like that in 1991. If you deny
5 it, deny it; if you admit it, admit it. If you don't know, you don't
6 know. It's as simple as all that. Okay. Thank you.
7 Yes, Mr. Black.
8 MR. BLACK: Thank you very much, Your Honour.
9 Q. Sir, just so that we're clear, are you saying that you don't
10 know -- that you did not see this kind of destruction and you don't know
11 when it occurred but you think it was later. Is that right? Am I to
12 understand you correctly?
13 A. Yes, you've understood it correctly.
14 Q. Okay. And your assumption is that it was actually the Croatian
15 side that destroyed Skabrnja in 1993 not the Serb side, right?
16 A. That's not what I said. I wasn't thinking that.
17 Q. Okay. So you -- when you said that it was probably destroyed in
18 1993, you weren't thinking -- even though you said it was when the
19 Croatian side attacked the area, you weren't -- you weren't speculating
20 about which side destroyed the village, right?
21 A. No.
22 Q. Okay.
23 MR. BLACK: We can -- we're done with this document for the time
24 being. Thanks.
25 Q. And, sir, focusing I guess less on the destruction sense, you were
1 not aware of that at the time, and more on the civilian casualties, you
2 testified both yesterday and today at how you tried to protect civilians
3 in Skabrnja. Is it fair to say that if that indeed was your intention,
4 you obviously failed?
5 A. That was not my intention. It was my order and my intention,
6 following orders, having been issued orders by my superior command to
7 engage in the evacuation plan for the civilian population. The entire
8 civilian population, after the JNA units had passed through parts of the
9 village of Skabrnja which stayed behind, all the civilians who stayed
10 behind were evacuated by us, that is to say the members of my unit, the
11 medical corps, the military, the police, the JNA, and so on. Every single
12 man that stayed on was evacuated, and I think that I succeeded in that
13 part of my assignment.
14 Q. Okay. You're an experienced military officer, sir, and you know,
15 don't you, that if soldiers under your command committed crimes, for
16 instance killed civilians, and you knew about it but failed to prevent or
17 punish it, then you could be held responsible for the killings. You know
18 that, don't you, from your military training?
19 A. I am trained as an army man and was qualified to perform the work
20 I did in the TO and other units, otherwise I wouldn't have had the post I
21 did, leading thousands of people. At that time in Skabrnja, I was not
22 engaged in combat, not a single unit of mine or members of my unit were
23 engaged in anything like that.
24 Q. My question was slightly different, it was about what you knew --
25 about what you know right now based on your military training. You know
1 that if -- I know you say it didn't happen and we'll continue to talk
2 about that, but if soldiers under your command commit a crime and you knew
3 about it and failed to prevent or punish it, you knew you could be held
4 responsible for those crimes, don't you?
5 A. I was aware of my responsibility in all potential situations that
6 can arise in wartime. And I still claim -- I don't claim, it's a fact.
7 My soldiers did not take part there and I performed my duty in Skabrnja
8 with respect to the evacuation of the people; that was my sole assignment.
9 Q. Sir, I understand that, and I'm not asking you about that -- about
10 this right now.
11 MR. BLACK: Sorry, Your Honour.
12 JUDGE MOLOTO: You know, sir, can you please listen to the
13 question and answer the question directly. You are being -- you are not
14 being asked about what you did on that day or what you were performing in
15 Skabrnja; you are being asked what you know as a trained military person.
16 Do you understand the difference? Don't try and anticipate questions.
17 You're just being asked a simple thing. Tell us what you know. When you
18 were told when you were being trained as a military person that -- yes,
19 Mr. Milovancevic.
20 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour --
21 THE INTERPRETER: Could the microphone be adjusted, please.
22 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] -- I did not make an objection.
23 Yes, I apologise. I did not make an objection because I considered that
24 my learned colleague has every right to ask the question; it's a
25 hypothetical, of course. The witness said that he did not take part in
1 combat activity, and the same question is being repeated. If your
2 soldiers committed crimes, do you know that you are responsible for that?
3 The witness is saying that for the third time and I feel that this is
4 pressure being exerted against the witness. Are they trying to instill
5 fear in the witness? The witness is a responsible person; he explained
6 what he knows as an officer, what his rights and duties are. He took the
7 solemn declaration, and he says that his men did not take part in any
8 combat activity at all.
9 JUDGE MOLOTO: The objection is overruled.
10 Sir, I was asking you a question. I was saying the Prosecutor is
11 asking you a question of what you know as a trained person -- as a trained
12 military person. And the question is simply this that: Did you -- do you
13 know as a military person, that if your unit committed crimes and you are
14 aware of the crimes and you fail to prevent the crime or to punish the
15 crime, then you could be held responsible for those crimes. Now your
16 answer should either be: Yes, I know that; no, I don't know that, one of
17 the two. What's your answer?
18 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I became employed in the Territorial
19 Defence five years before the war --
20 JUDGE MOLOTO: Sorry, I beg your pardon. You are not answering my
21 question. I don't want to know when you were employed; I just want to
22 know if you know that as a military person or you don't know that.
23 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I know what the responsibility of an
24 officer means in wartime --
25 JUDGE MOLOTO: No, no, I'm not asking you about the responsibility
1 of an officer in wartime; I'm asking you a very specific type of
2 responsibility. Do you know this specific type of responsibilities I'm
3 putting to you, that you could be held responsible for crimes committed by
4 your unit if you were aware of them, failed to stop them or punish your
5 unit. You either know or you don't know, sir. It's a very simple
7 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I know that I am responsible for
8 everything that my unit does.
9 JUDGE MOLOTO: I am not asking for everything. Just listen to my
10 question. My question is simple and straightforward. I'm asking you one
11 point; I'm not asking you everything. Do you know that one point? Your
12 answer should either be: Yes, I know; or: No, I don't know. And if you
13 don't want to answer, say you don't want to answer.
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Well, could you ask your question in
15 brief terms now because you've asked me a lot of things and I'm not quite
16 clear what it is exactly that you want me to answer. So could you put the
17 question again shortly, please.
18 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'll ask you one thing and I'm going to repeat it
19 for the very last time. Do you know as a military person that if members
20 of your unit committed a crime of which you were aware, you failed to stop
21 the crime or to punish the crime, you could be held responsible for that
22 crime, even though you personally did not commit it? Do you know --
23 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I did know that. Yes, I knew that I
24 was responsible.
25 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much. Now, why does it take us a
1 whole 15 minutes to get an answer to that question, simple question?
2 Thank you, Mr. Black.
3 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
4 Q. Mr. Lakic, changing topics a little bit now. You said yesterday
5 that the Benkovac TO had members of both Croat and Serb ethnicity, and
6 that was at transcript pages 46, 47. What time-period were you referring
7 to there? What time was it that the Benkovac TO had boat Croats and
9 A. Both in peacetime and in wartime.
10 Q. Actually --
11 A. In peacetime it had --
12 Q. Sorry to interrupt. What I mean is up until what date or do you
13 say that that was always the case even up through 1991?
14 A. There were cases, but to a lesser degree, that the Croats were
15 in -- during wartime in November 1992 they were deployed. There were some
16 commanders, officers, and soldiers who were Croats.
17 Q. So you're saying that even in November 1991, the time-period of
18 the attack on Skabrnja --
19 JUDGE HOEPFEL: The witness said "1992" or it was translated this
21 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour. That's correct. And I
22 understood him to mean up through that time.
23 Q. But, Mr. Lakic, specifically about November 1991, so there's no
24 confusion, at that time are you saying that there were Croats in the
25 Benkovac TO?
1 A. Yes.
2 MR. BLACK: Let's look, please, at Exhibit 30 in evidence, if we
3 could see that on the e-court, please.
4 Q. Sir, you can look at this with me, and you see that this is a
5 document from -- it's actually a report on the work of the Benkovac TO
6 staff and it's from the TO staff.
7 MR. BLACK: Could we look at the last page of the document,
8 please. And to the -- if that's the last page, could we go to the bottom.
9 Thank you.
10 Q. And that's your signature there, isn't it?
11 A. Yes, it is.
12 Q. Okay.
13 MR. BLACK: So if we could go back to the first page.
14 Q. You'll see that this document signed by you, this report on the
15 work of the Benkovac TO staff, is dated the 25th of November, 1991.
16 MR. BLACK: And if we could scroll down just a little -- just
17 slightly and to that first paragraph is where I'm focused -- thank you.
19 Q. Follow along with me, sir. It says: "Following a decision by the
20 government of Krajina SAO of 15 July 1991, the Benkovac municipality TO
21 staff began forming and arming the TO units of Benkovac municipality on 17
22 July 1991. There were many reasons why we could not depend on the old TO
23 structure; one of the reasons was that the existing formations were
24 partially manned by Croatians." And then it goes on to tell the other
25 reasons which you say were purely military in nature.
1 This means that you didn't want any Croats in the Benkovac TO,
2 doesn't it, after July of 1991; that's what this means?
3 A. I wanted it, but the Croats mostly left through the territory of
4 Benkovac. And I am going to give you the names of the people who were in
5 the Territorial Defence and the Army of Republika Srpska Krajina who were
6 Croats, officers --
7 Q. Sir, sir --
8 A. I can name them.
9 Q. Well, if you want to give me the names of the Croat officers that
10 you say were in the Benkovac TO in November of 1991, I'm happy to hear
11 about them, but please don't tell me about the SVK or other formations at
12 this time. Okay. Go ahead if you have some names to give us.
13 A. Well, in the units of the Serbian army there was Darko Miljatovic
14 who was a commander --
15 Q. I'm focused on the Benkovac TO, just that, not the Serbian army or
16 anything like that, just the Benkovac TO. Were there any Croat officers
17 in November 1991?
18 A. Well, I gave you one name, Darko Miljatovic, a captain. He was
19 the commander of the anti-sabotage unit of the TO within my composition.
20 Q. Okay. And you say that was true even in November 1991, just so
21 that we're clear?
22 A. Yes, yes, yes.
23 Q. Okay. While I have --
24 JUDGE MOLOTO: May I understand one thing?
25 MR. BLACK: Please, Your Honour.
1 JUDGE MOLOTO: The Serbian army is mentioned at line 14. Is it
2 the same thing as a TO?
3 MR. BLACK: Your Honour, that's precisely why I stopped him, and I
4 think he explained at line 19 and 20 that that person was actually in the
5 TO. But I'll ask him.
6 Q. Sir, when you -- when you first said that Mr. Miljatovic was a
7 member of the Serbian army, did -- were you equating Serbian army with the
8 Benkovac TO, those things meant the same to you?
9 A. Well, it means the same because the Serbian army of Krajina was
10 later on made up of combatants from the TO which had been disbanded. So
11 it means the same.
12 Q. Okay. While we have this document on the screen, I'd like you to
13 look at that second paragraph?
14 MR. BLACK: It's actually on the second page in the English, Your
16 Q. And just before the underlined part, sir, it says: "Through
17 constant reformation, arming, multiplication of units, and development of
18 the command and control system, we have made it possible to use our units
19 for both defensive and offensive combat activities." And that's correct,
20 isn't it, that the TO was used for both defensive and offensive combat
21 activities in 1991?
22 A. I didn't specify which units were concerned, but the units that
23 were on the territory of Benkovac municipality were exclusively charged
24 with providing security for the area. They were defensive. The units who
25 were in the area and had to fight against sabotage groups were both
1 defensive and offensive, as the need arose.
2 Q. Okay. Well, you've distinguished between units, but I'm focused
3 on these units that were offensive and defensive, they were units of the
4 Benkovac TO; correct? The Benkovac TO did have units that were engaged in
5 both defensive and offensive combat activities, right?
6 A. Yes, pursuant to the wartime formations of the Republic of Croatia
7 because that's the law I worked -- that's the law that I worked with.
8 Q. Okay.
9 MR. BLACK: If we can turn to the next page in B/C/S, please, and
10 it's at the bottom of the page in English. I think we'll have to scroll
11 up to the top a bit -- oh -- yeah, that's fine.
12 Q. Sir, you see there's a paragraph there that begins: "In early
13 November ..."
14 And please read along with me. Read a couple of lines. It
15 says: "In early November the Krajina SAO TO staff issued an order to form
16 a TO brigade from the manpower and material resources of Benkovac TO. By
17 5 November 1991, it was staffed by men in line with formation, had
18 professional leadership, and through a constant supply of materiel and
19 manpower was fully prepared to carry out the assignments ordered by the
20 Krajina SAO TO staff and the 9th Corps command."
21 And just to confirm, that's also correct, isn't it, that by the
22 5th of November, 1991, the TO was fully staffed, supplied, and prepared to
23 carry out its assignments?
24 A. Yes, that's right. The Territorial Defence was prepared, it was
25 organised pursuant to formation, according to peacetime formations, but
1 for wartime as well, yes.
2 Q. Okay. Thank you. The next paragraph down it says: "To create
3 the military organs" --
4 MR. BLACK: And it's actually on the next page in English, Your
5 Honours, page 3 in English.
6 Q. It says: "To create the military organisation and defence system
7 under the jurisdiction of this staff, we kept up constant cooperation with
8 the other factors of ONO, All People's Defence, JNA commands, the Benkovac
9 public security station, and other factors of the socio-political
11 That's also accurate, isn't it, that there was close and constant
12 cooperation with the police among other entities?
13 A. Cooperation had to exist exclusively in conformity with the law,
14 and it was based on that principle and implemented on that principle.
15 Q. Thank you. It's the next paragraph down, and I believe still on
16 the -- yeah, still on the same page in B/C/S and also in English. There
17 it says -- and this is again a document signed by you from November 1991.
18 It says: "The considerable presence of crime at all levels and the
19 failure to prevent it also had a negative effect on the morale of the
20 units." Then there's another sentence about the political situation. In
21 the final sentence of the paragraph says: "Because the legal system is
22 not functioning, there is reason to fear the above and the creation of
23 many political and private paramilitary formations."
24 So you were fully aware in November of 1991 of the presence of
25 crime at all levels and the failure to prevent it, is that right, in the
1 context of the work of the Territorial Defence?
2 A. The Territorial Defence was not formed to fight crime, but
3 logistically speaking and in every other respect except for the armed
4 aspect, it helped the various structures fight crime. In every war, as in
5 the war that took place in our country, you had various allegedly
6 well-intentioned people whose prime aim was to engage in crime on
7 territory engulfed by war. Of course we helped fight this. We helped the
8 SAO police to fight crime and to fight these criminals. But there was so
9 much incidents of that nature on a daily basis that the police, in
10 addition to its regular work, wasn't able to deal with the brazen
11 criminals that were rampant in the area, but the police did fight crime,
12 they did do a lot to prevent these unlawful acts or crimes.
13 Q. Okay. When you talk about supposedly well-intentioned people
14 whose primary aim was to engage in crime, unfortunately that included some
15 people in the TO, didn't it?
16 A. No. If there were any such incidents, they involved, or rather,
17 they took place in times of peace and then they -- and then of course if
18 they were members of the TO, then they were under our competence. But the
19 persons I was referring to were those outside the TO and they came under
20 the competence of the police. This particular assessment here was made by
21 the civilian authorities and on the basis of the reports coming from all
22 the different bodies dealing with this matter. I wish to say that the
23 assessment contained here relied on varied reliable sources.
24 Q. Okay. And so -- and you adopted that assessment into your report.
25 Is that correct, so I understand you?
1 A. Of course. I was able not to include them into my report, but I
2 agreed with the assessment given.
3 Q. Okay. Sir, you don't need to make any inquiries of Defence
4 counsel or anyone on that side. So just focus on my questions. Okay.
5 A. I apologise.
6 Q. Just one more passage from this document, it's the last one there.
7 And it says -- it's the last paragraph, excuse me. And it says: "This
8 staff in its current form shall remain here and continue to work for the
9 general interests of the Serbian people in this area, regardless of the
10 political and other influences it may be exposed to."
11 A. Regardless.
12 Q. "We believe that only united by bringing together all the
13 manpower, materiel, and military resources in our territory will we will
14 able to break the enemy and make it possible for our people to live freely
15 on their land."
16 You saw your work as commander of the TO staff as working for the
17 interests of the Serbian people; correct?
18 A. If you mean solely and exclusively of the Serbian people, then I
19 have to tell you that never in my life have I been a nationalist or a
20 chauvinist. And even today when I live -- I live in Serbia, and when I
21 say "Serbian people," I don't mean only the Serbs, I mean everyone living
22 in Serbia. And everyone in Benkovac greeted me, all sides alike, because
23 I was an honourable person. Should I have put here the Serbian people and
24 the 150 Croats who were left behind? It would have been ridiculous.
25 Q. Okay. Well, I'm just following on from your language. Okay.
1 It's not my language; it's your language that I'm asking you about. And
2 my question was: In your work as TO commander, you considered your
3 mission to protect the interests of the Serbian people; correct? Isn't
4 that right? That's what it says here. Do you confirm that or this -- or
5 are you saying that this document isn't accurate?
6 A. The Serbian people and all other citizens who happened to be in
7 Krajina at the time alike. I did not single out anyone. This is an
8 expression, an expression that is used even now by politicians. In
9 Montenegro they would say the Montenegrins, the Montenegrin people,
10 although there are Albanians and others there. But the majority of the
11 people in Krajina were Serbs. I think there was 95 per cent of them.
12 What you're saying is adding to it, the nationalist or chauvinist
14 Q. Okay. I'd like you also to help me understand the last sentence,
15 because at least in the English translation it's not particularly clear,
16 so I just want you to help us understand it. At the very end it
17 says: "We will be able to break the enemy and make it possible for our
18 people to live freely on their land."
19 And I just wonder whose land do you mean? Are you saying make it
20 possible for the Serb people to live freely on Croats' land, or are you
21 just saying for the Serb people to live freely on the Serb land or is
22 there some other thing there? Because just grammatically I don't
23 understand what you're saying in this sentence.
24 A. I didn't say that it was either the Croatian or Serb land because
25 at that point in time Croatian land was also Serb land because the Serbs
1 lived there. To this day I considered this country to be my country,
2 regardless of whether it's Croatia or not. And we had been living in that
3 part of the country for centuries, and we didn't even mind it -- the fact
4 that it should be called Croatia or something else. My ancestors lived
5 there for centuries in peace, and I would even wish to live there today
6 peacefully and to be able to look these people into their eyes. That was
7 the wish of many politicians of ours. Had my wish been solely to live on
8 Serbian land, I would never have become involved and become a commander.
9 And if I may be allowed --
10 Q. Well, if it's in response to the question. Briefly, go ahead,
12 A. I only wanted to make one point. When I was elected commander of
13 the TO in 1990, the assemblymen in the Benkovac Municipal Assembly were
14 Croats and Serbs alike. And I was given support also by the Croats
15 because they knew that if I was appointed TO commander, there would be no
16 clashes, as had been previously in the territory of Krajina. Even today I
17 can look into everybody's eyes because I was the first official
18 representative negotiating with the generals of the Croatian army in
19 Zadar, and I can speak about these events. I wanted the situation to calm
20 down. We wanted to have an autonomy. We were struggling for cultural
21 autonomy, and we could have lived in Croatia without any problems.
22 Q. Okay. I let you give your explanation and I think it went beyond
23 what I was asking you about. But let's just try to focus on my questions,
25 Yesterday another thing you said was that you said no one could be
1 deployed with the TO who is not an inhabitant of Benkovac, and this was at
2 page 48 of yesterday's transcript. In practice, however, people from
3 outside of Benkovac did fight alongside and under the command of the
4 Benkovac TO. Isn't that right? Specifically in 1991, at least, is when
5 I'm referring to.
6 A. No, no. And I know what you mean and that's why I'll explain it
7 to you if you'll allow me. Well, a person could not become a member of
8 the TO because he wanted to and he happened to come from Bosnia, no.
9 First of all, he -- the person had to be in records and then had to be
10 taken out of those record and listed here. The person had to be issued
11 with documentation, with equipment, with weapons. They had to know the
12 code of conduct in the TO. Before the war, there was training that we had
13 to go through to become members of the TO. In the specific case you
14 mentioned, there had to be a legal basis for a person to become a member
15 of the TO, and I know what you mean but we can discuss this also later on.
16 Q. Okay. Well, I'm surprised you know what I mean. What I was
17 actually thinking about was in the attack on Skabrnja --
18 A. I presume.
19 Q. It's probably better if you don't presume what I mean and just
20 focus on my questions, but that's okay. In the attack on Skabrnja a
21 number of volunteers from Serbia, and perhaps elsewhere, fought under TO
22 command. Is that right or is that not right?
23 A. That's not right.
24 Q. Okay. Maybe we'll come back to that issue later. One small
25 clarification, again from yesterday's testimony, and this was at pages 55
1 to 57, you testified about when the JNA took control of the TO weapons.
2 And you said that that happened in June 1991. Isn't it correct that that
3 actually happened in May or June of 1990 not 1991, when you think about --
4 you know, think back and put it in the context of was it before or after
5 Plitvice, before or after the barricades. Think about those things and
6 tell me if it's not correct that that happened in 1990 rather than in
8 A. Not involving the TO. I'm certain that the events I mentioned
9 happened in June of 1991. I don't know what happened with the police --
10 Q. Okay.
11 A. -- in -- it may have been the case for the police. But I know
12 that the JNA moved the TO weapons, took them under their control, in June
13 of 1991 when there were barricades already and there was the imminent
14 threat present.
15 Q. Okay. I don't want to focus on this for too long.
16 MR. BLACK: But could we see Exhibit 409 on the screen, please.
17 Thank you.
18 Q. And, Mr. Lakic, if you could just look at this with me briefly.
19 This is from the Federal Secretariat for National Defence, the Main Staff
20 of the SFRY armed forces. It's actually signed by the chief of the Main
21 Staff Blagoje Adzic and you see the date there at the top is the 14th of
22 May, 1990. And if we could go down to the paragraph numbered 1, a little
23 further down. Thanks.
24 Look at that with me, sir, and you'll see that there it talks
25 about the TO staffs of the socialist republics and the socialist
1 autonomous provinces shall organise the take-over, storage, and
2 safe-keeping of the complete stock of the TO weapons and ammunition in the
3 JNA supply dumps and depots. Now, this was an order issued in May of
4 1990. Does that change your opinion about when these things happened, or
5 are you still sure that it was 1991?
6 A. We had information to the effect that in some parts of Yugoslavia
7 where there had been a threat of casualties even earlier or in Slovenia or
8 perhaps elsewhere, I don't remember, in some municipalities the weapons
9 were not only stored in barracks but also under the care of the police and
10 the TO. Therefore, not all the TO weapons were stored in the barracks,
11 and where this was not the case, the JNA wanted to store them in the
12 barracks. So, for instance, in Benkovac, Zadar, and Split, in Dalmatia in
13 general, the weapons were stored in the barracks; but elsewhere, it was
14 under the control of the police.
15 Q. Sir --
16 A. Therefore, this order which made sure that the weapons stored
17 outside the barracks were taken under the control of the JNA.
18 Q. Right. And my only question was: Based on the date of this
19 order, does that change your opinion as to the date of when this actually
20 happened in Benkovac? Does this make you think that it might have
21 happened in 1990 or are you still sure that it happened in 1991? That's
22 my only question, just the date; that's what I'm focused on.
23 A. Look, as a TO commander in 1990 and 1991, in almost a year, I had
24 training activities and I had live ammunition used for training. However,
25 this had to be approved by the command in Split.
1 Q. Okay just -- are you saying you're sure it happened in 1991,
2 despite seeing this order. That's the only --
3 A. Yes.
4 Q. Okay.
5 MR. BLACK: Your Honour, I see we're at the time to take the
7 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much. We'll take the break and come
8 back at quarter to 11.00.
9 Court adjourned.
10 --- Recess taken at 10.15 a.m.
11 --- On resuming at 10.44 a.m.
12 JUDGE MOLOTO: Mr. Black.
13 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
14 Q. Mr. Lakic, yesterday you testified a little bit about barricades
15 that had been erected by Serbs. And my first question for you is that in
16 1991 such barricades were manned in part by SAO Krajina policemen. Is
17 that correct?
18 A. The SAO Krajina police officers were tasked with controlling
19 traffic in the territory, and it is the truth that they were supposed to
20 deal with the barricades as well, wherever they were erected by the local
21 people. I know because I spoke to them. They were not the ones who
22 erected the barricades. They had their regular duties in terms of
23 controlling traffic, ensuring that roads were trafficable, which included
24 in some cases removing the barricades that people had erected.
25 Q. Okay. But in any event they were sometimes present at the
1 barricades; correct?
2 A. They were present, but solely with the purpose of regulating
3 traffic and solving problems.
4 Q. Okay. Those barricades made it difficult, sometimes impossible,
5 for Croats from Skabrnja and probably also from Nadin to get to Zadar for
6 their jobs or for other reasons. Isn't that right?
7 A. That's not right. Nadin and Skabrnja were connected with Zadar by
8 a road that was always passable. It may have been the case that they
9 erected barricades, but this was not the case towards Zadar. This was the
10 same municipality, and they had tied with Zadar unless they placed
11 obstacles that impeded them in the end.
12 Q. And so according to you there were no barricades or obstacles on
13 the road between Skabrnja and Zadar, for instance, around Zemunik Donji,
14 in that area in 1991; or if you don't know, that's also a fine answer.
15 A. Listen, I know about Zemunik because later on it fell within
16 Benkovac municipality. But Skabrnja had a direct link with the main road
17 to Zadar, and along this road there wasn't a single Serb village. And let
18 me tell you, Croats themselves erected barricades within the Benkovac
19 municipality wherever there were Croat villages, and they wanted to
20 protect themselves against the Serbs. You can't say that this was
21 something that the Serbs invented.
22 Q. Okay.
23 A. Barricades arose out of dire need for citizens to protect
24 themselves, and this went for Serbs and Croats alike.
25 Q. Okay. Sir, stop there, please --
1 A. For instance, at the rear end of their villages, they would erect
2 barricades to protect themselves against the Serb villages that were lying
3 further afield.
4 Q. Sorry to interrupt you but I think you've explained this already
5 and we don't need to go into it further. But you would accept though --
6 focusing for a second on the Serb barricades, you would accept that that
7 caused anxiety and sometimes fear among the Croat population in the area
8 or do you not accept that and think that's true, just focusing on the Serb
9 barricades for the moment?
10 A. The amount of fear on the Serb side matched that on the Croat
11 side. It wasn't a happy solution for either side, and I believe that
12 every reasonable Croat, just as every reasonable Serb, feared the
13 implications of such manifestations. And I'm sure that there was fear on
14 both sides.
15 Q. Okay. Thank you. So the answer is yes that there was fear on the
16 Croat side?
17 A. Fear, yes, definitely.
18 Q. Okay. Thank you. You testified a bit yesterday about fighting in
19 Polaca in May of 1991. Polaca is about 10 kilometres as the crow flies
20 from Skabrnja, correct, approximately?
21 A. Thereabouts, perhaps a little less, 7, 8, 9.
22 Q. Okay. Thanks.
23 MR. BLACK: And, Your Honours, it's on page 30 of the atlas if
24 you're interested in looking at it. I'm not going to focus more on the
1 Q. Sir, you testified Polaca and I would say much like Skabrnja was a
2 Croat village which was surrounded mostly by Serb villages; correct?
3 JUDGE HOEPFEL: Excuse me, do you really think you can see that
4 village on the map of page 30?
5 MR. BLACK: Yes, Your Honour, I apologise. It's page 30 between
6 1A and 1B right at the top left-hand corner.
7 JUDGE HOEPFEL: Oh, Polaca, yeah, sorry. I just didn't see it.
8 It's not in the same road but it's --
9 MR. BLACK: Correct, it's --
10 JUDGE HOEPFEL: South, yeah --
11 MR. BLACK: South and a little bit --
12 JUDGE HOEPFEL: Thank you.
13 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
14 Q. Sir, my question was: You testified that Polaca was a mostly
15 Croat village mostly surrounded by Serb villages; correct?
16 A. Polaca was a mixed village but 80 per cent of the inhabitants were
17 Croats, let's put it that way.
18 Q. Okay. And you testified, and this was at page 58 of yesterday's
19 transcript, that the villagers of Polaca did not accept the SAO Krajina
20 police from Benkovac as their police, and subsequently the Croatian MUP
21 established a police presence in Polaca. Do I understand you correctly
23 A. No. With its additional paramilitary formations of redarstvenici,
24 police force, Croatia wanted at all costs to control the territories where
25 Serb villages were concentrated. I do believe that in fact they did not
1 ask the Polaca inhabitants whether they were happy with the Benkovac
2 police station, but rather they imposed their presence on the residents in
3 Polaca, caused incidents, which led to clashes. There had never been a
4 police station in Polaca before.
5 Q. Okay. I guess maybe I combined two things in my question.
6 Yesterday you said -- and this was -- I see that the page number has been
7 updated so now it's at page 10138. And you said, talking about the
8 villagers of Polaca, you said: "They no longer honoured, let me put it
9 this way, or did not consider as theirs the police force that was present
10 in the Benkovac police station."
11 Now, do you stand by that testimony today or would you like to
12 change it?
13 A. No, I didn't know what was in the minds of the residents, whether
14 they accepted the Benkovac police station or not. This was a solution
15 that was imposed overnight. The police force from Zadar showed up in
16 Polaca, and of course the Serbian people in the villages surrounding
17 Polaca applied to the Benkovac police station for assistance. Because it
18 was the Benkovac SUP and the Benkovac police force that had competence
19 over the area and not the Zadar police station. They showed up in Polaca,
20 and this was contrary to all the police regulations at the time.
21 Q. Okay. And when you said yesterday that "the villagers of Polaca
22 did not consider as theirs the police force from Benkovac," why did you
23 say that? You were correct yesterday -- you were incorrect yesterday or
24 why is it that you're changing now what you said yesterday?
25 A. I haven't changed anything. There was this general rule, as it
1 were, that a free Croatian citizen who wasn't interested in politics, the
2 information media, the political parties, perhaps even the church, I'm not
3 sure, imposed on the public opinion the position that they should not
4 approach or apply to such Croatian agencies as employed Serbs. It's not
5 that they themselves, the ordinary people, didn't accept them; it was
6 simply something that they were told. This was the message that was sent
7 across to them.
8 Q. Okay. I think you're getting away from what I asked you about.
9 I'm just -- I'm not talking about Croatian agencies that employed Serbs;
10 I'm talking about the SAO Krajina police. It was -- I guess maybe I
11 should make -- let's be clear. At this time, in 1991, the police in
12 Benkovac was SAO Krajina police; correct?
13 A. Yes, that's correct. But the SAO Krajina police force in Benkovac
14 employed Croats alongside Serbs. Of course they reflected the percentage
15 of the Croatian population in the area, and that was the state of affairs
16 at that point in time.
17 Q. Well, certainly not in May of 1991; the Benkovac police was almost
18 exclusively Serb at that time, wasn't it?
19 A. No. It wasn't exclusively Serb. There were Croats, too.
20 Q. The commander was Bosko Drazic, right?
21 A. Bosko Drazic emerged as commander in the month of April, I believe
22 it was, but don't hold me to that.
23 Q. Okay.
24 A. But yes, he was the commander, or rather, the chief of police.
25 Q. Okay. By that time, the SAO Krajina police had essentially
1 rejected the authority of the Croatian MUP; correct? And in fact, there
2 had already been armed conflict between the SAO Krajina police and the
3 Croatian MUP in Plitvice at the end of March. Isn't that right?
4 A. Yes. There had been that incident in Plitvice, but let me tell
5 you what this was about.
6 Q. Let --
7 A. Quite a few Croats remained in Benkovac that had lived there
8 before; they were residents of Benkovac.
9 Q. Okay. Sorry to interrupt you. But it's correct that the SAO
10 Krajina police, including the police in Benkovac, were -- had rejected the
11 authority of the Croatian MUP by May of 1991; correct? Or if you don't
12 know, you can say you don't know.
13 A. Had they rejected it or had they simply relied or tied up with
14 the -- with the Knin police. It is true that at that point in time the
15 Benkovac police that had mostly Serbs on the police force, although there
16 were Croats, was under the command of the SAO Krajina police headquarters;
17 that's true.
18 Q. Okay. Thanks. Let me focus our attention now I guess for just a
19 second on the actual fighting in Polaca. You testified that the SAO
20 Krajina police from Benkovac took control of the high ground, and I assume
21 that's the high ground around Polaca, and that for three or four days
22 there was sporadic shooting and life was basically disrupted in the area.
23 Is that correct? Have I understood your testimony from yesterday
25 MR. BLACK: This is pages 60 to 61 of yesterday's transcript.
1 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Partly. Let me explain this in
2 detail. Above Polaca, the Croatian police force first emerged and took up
3 positions. As they appeared, they started carrying out traffic control
4 there and started mistreating passengers. Then the Benkovac police force
5 came and took up the areas of Jagodnja Gornja and Jagodnja Donja, the Serb
6 villages there. So it wasn't in Polaca, it was 2 to 3 kilometres beyond
7 on the hill. But first it was the Croatian police force that emerged on
8 the hills above Polaca; they were the first ones there.
9 MR. BLACK:
10 Q. Well, yesterday you explained it slightly differently. What you
11 said was and this is at page 10140 of the updated page numbering. You
12 said -- you were asked what happened there, how was the whole affair
13 settled. And you said: "From the Croatian side there were the Croatian
14 forces. The Serb side had its own forces. The Benkovac police and the
15 other police, they took control of the hills, elevation points. And in
16 the course of those three or four days up until the 5th or 6th of May,
17 there was an exchange of sporadic gun-fire and life came to a stand-still
18 in the area."
19 Sir, you didn't mention anything about the Croatian MUP taking up
20 positions first. What you said was that the Benkovac police and the other
21 police took control of the elevation points; and that's the way it
22 happened, wasn't it?
23 A. What you're mentioning is the other police force. I meant the MUP
24 police, the Croatian police force, they were the ones controlling the
25 hills on their side; and then the Serbs controlled the hills on their
1 side. And this is a fact. And I can show it to you, who took control of
2 which area. I can show you the -- the actual state of affairs on the
4 Q. Sir, isn't what really happened in Polaca that -- in response to
5 the presence of Croatian police in Polaca, the SAO Krajina police took up
6 combat positions and basically tried to drive that -- those Croatian
7 police out by force. That's, in essence, what happened, right?
8 A. The Croatian police wanted to expel the Serb police by force, the
9 police from Benkovac, because Polaca is Benkovac municipality and it was
10 in charge of that paramilitary Croatian unit, or rather, it was its task
11 to push them out. And it is the public security station of Benkovac who
12 has authority over that area.
13 Q. But there had been no -- there was no Serb police station in
14 Polaca, right? You said yourself there wasn't -- hadn't been a police
15 station there before, right?
16 A. No, not in Polaca or the surrounding Serb villages. There wasn't
17 any need for it. Life went on as normal. You had patrol cars going up
18 and down, police cars, but there was no need to have the police there.
19 Q. Okay. And it was a mostly Croat village; and then when the Croat
20 MUP established a police force there, then it was the Serb police that
21 came in and took up combat positions, which led to the fighting, right?
22 A. I have to say again that Polaca is a village on Benkovac
23 municipality and it is the police of Benkovac that has the authority
24 there. It was the S-U-P, the SUP, which was equal to the Zadar SUP. So
25 the policemen from Zadar came to Benkovac municipality. They had no
1 reason to go there. There was absolutely no reason for them to come to
2 Benkovac municipality because at that time we were still working in
3 compliance with the laws of the Republic of Croatia.
4 Q. Come now, sir, at that time the SAO Krajina police was hardly
5 working within -- in compliance with the laws of the Republic of Croatia;
6 they completely rejected the Croatian MUP. Isn't that right? I think you
7 agreed with me on this already. And then the Croatian MUP, if they came
8 into Polaca, that was still part of Croatia, right, they had every right
9 to be there, the Croatian MUP to be in Polaca, or do you disagree with
10 what I just said?
11 JUDGE MOLOTO: May I suggest that you take your questions one at a
12 time, Mr. Black --
13 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
14 JUDGE MOLOTO: -- so that we know exactly what it is that is
15 agreed to and what it is he is disputing.
16 MR. BLACK: I appreciate that, Your Honour. Thanks.
17 Q. First of all, do you agree with me, sir, that at this time, in May
18 of 1991, the SAO Krajina police had completely rejected the authority of
19 the Croatian MUP over them? Do you agree?
20 A. I do believe that that was the case.
21 Q. Okay. And do you agree with me that Polaca was still -- was part
22 of Croatia; that was Croatian territory in May of 1991?
23 A. Well, we were Croatian territory and they wanted to expel us from
24 that Croatian territory. We accepted Croatia as a normal state.
25 Q. Polaca was part of Croatian territory, wasn't it? Just focus on
1 that. Do you agree or do you not agree?
2 A. Well, yes, I agree that it belonged -- the Croatian people
3 belonged there and the Serb people who lived there belonged there; they
4 all lived in the same village.
5 Q. Okay. But that's not what I asked you about. I asked you if
6 Polaca was on Croatian territory.
7 A. I'm not a lawyer for me to be able to tell you whether --
8 Q. Sir?
9 A. -- it was in legal terms one thing or another.
10 Q. You don't have to be a lawyer to know whether or not Polaca was in
11 Croatia. It was in Croatia before, it was Croatia then, and it's still in
12 Croatia, right? It's on Croatian territory, isn't it?
13 A. Geographically now, yes. Now, yes.
14 Q. And then as well; correct?
15 A. Since the Serb people in Polaca declared themselves in favour of
16 SAO Krajina, then the Serb authorities of the day who were being organised
17 had authority -- the authority to protect the Serb people in that village,
18 Polaca. They came out in favour of SAO Krajina.
19 Q. So according to you, because no more than 20 per cent, just the
20 Serbs of a village say they prefer the SAO Krajina, then Polaca ceased to
21 be part of Croatia; is that what you're saying?
22 A. I don't think the percentage is important at all. What had to be
23 done was to protect each and every citizen, and if there was a third
24 ethnic group, then that would apply to them, too. Everybody had to be
25 protected, and the inhabitants asked for protection from the people they
1 believed in.
2 Q. The Serb inhabitants asked for protection from the SAO Krajina
3 police, right?
4 A. Certainly, 100 per cent, yes.
5 Q. Well, let me move on from this topic. I think I've taken this as
6 far as I can.
7 In mid-September 1991, Serb forces shelled the village of Nadin,
8 correct? Do you know about that?
9 A. I know that there was some action, whether it was mid-September,
10 October, or whatever other month I don't know, but it was in the autumn
11 that there was action in the area. Now, the date when this was going on,
12 most of the combat took place around Nadin on the 2nd of October up to the
13 4th of October, maybe.
14 Q. Okay. Right. In fact, around Skabrnja, Zemunik, and Nadin, those
15 places were all attacked in the very early part of October 1991, using
16 shelling and I believe even some infantry attack. Isn't that right?
17 A. Since the attacks on the roads intensified and the Serb villages
18 around Nadinska Gradina and especially transport that we were talking
19 about yesterday, the need arose for --
20 Q. Sir, sorry to interrupt you, don't go into a big, lengthy
21 explanation. Just tell me, is it not correct that Skabrnja, Zemunik, and
22 Nadin were attacked using shelling and perhaps even infantry in the first
23 days of October 1991. Is that correct or is that not correct?
24 A. What is correct is that there were constant mutual conflict and
25 clashes. Whether there were shells or not, I don't remember.
1 Q. Sir, do you remember -- please focus on my question, okay. You've
2 got to listen to my questions and try to answer those questions rather
3 than putting your own questions and your own answers. Okay.
4 Do you remember that there was shelling and other fighting,
5 attacks in fact, against Skabrnja, Zemunik, and Nadin in the first days of
6 October 1991?
7 A. As to attacks, well it came as a result of those constant clashes
8 on Skabrnja, but not Nadin because they weren't on that territory.
9 Q. Sir, you keep trying to give explanations without answering my
10 question. Do -- is it true that those three villages were attacked in
11 early October or not? Or is it -- or are you saying just Skabrnja was
12 attacked but not Nadin? Do you remember that those three villages were
13 attacked in early October 1991?
14 A. No, no, not those three villages together.
15 Q. Okay.
16 A. Not those three villages.
17 Q. Were any of those three villages attacked according to your
18 recollection in the first days of October 1991?
19 A. They wanted to -- the JNA wanted to deblock Nadinska Gradina, and
20 this deblocking operation was not successful.
21 Q. Is that answer supposed to mean "yes"?
22 A. Well, there was a conflict where both sides took part, and the JNA
23 wanted to lift the blockade of Nadinska Gradina and to allow the convoys
24 to -- the transport to go through. The JNA attack was not successful, and
25 that was on the 2nd of October.
1 Q. Okay. And that attack was directed at Skabrnja and Nadinska
2 Gradina, right?
3 A. No, not at all.
4 Q. Do you deny that Skabrnja was attacked on the 2nd -- on the 1st or
5 2nd of October, 1991? And by "attacked" I mean shelled or infantry.
6 A. Skabrnja, not at all. Not at all, no.
7 Q. Okay. So you deny that three villagers were killed during the
8 attack on the 2nd of October, 1991, in Skabrnja? That couldn't have
9 happened because there was no attack.
10 A. In which village?
11 Q. Skabrnja.
12 A. Well, I don't know about that. It's not Benkovac municipality. I
13 really don't know about that --
14 Q. No, wait a second.
15 A. I didn't know then and I don't know now.
16 Q. You just told us that Skabrnja was not attacked: "No, not at
17 all." Do you know about Skabrnja or do you not know about Skabrnja being
18 attacked on 2nd of October, 1991?
19 A. Sir, I was the commander of the TO of Benkovac, and I say with
20 full responsibility that the attack was in the region of Nadina, but I
21 have no information about Skabrnja and I don't think there was any action
22 going on there. I don't think there was any shooting there. I don't
23 think the JNA was involved or engaged either -- well, not think, I know.
24 It certainly wasn't.
25 Q. Did you know that Zadar was shelled by Serb forces between the
1 30th of September and the 7th of October, 1991, during which various
2 historic buildings were damaged, or do you deny that or do you not know
3 anything about it?
4 A. The Yugoslav People's Army had as its goal to deblock the barracks
5 in Zadar, to lift the siege there. And of course there was certain
6 artillery fire which was targeted with that in mind. And probably those
7 shells wreaked damage. I wasn't in Zadar. I didn't have any information
8 or reports, but I do know that that happened.
9 Q. Sir, in light of these various instants of fighting all the way
10 from Polaca through September and up until-- especially at the beginning
11 of October 1991, isn't it clear that the forces in Skabrnja and Nadin were
12 defensive forces, they were set up to protect those villages? That was
13 their primary function, wasn't it, defence?
14 A. I didn't know what the intention was or whether they were
15 established according to the laws which would normally regulate this. I
16 don't know. I haven't got an answer to that question. They were Croatian
17 forces. I really can't say.
18 Q. Okay. That's fine. If you don't know, it's always okay to say
19 you don't know. It's correct, isn't it, that in November of 1991, at that
20 time there weren't any Croatian MUP in Skabrnja. It's just the force
21 which you referred to as the Skabrnja Battalion; correct? That's who
22 was -- that was the only group in Skabrnja in November of 1991?
23 A. I don't know what happened in Skabrnja November 1991. I don't
24 know the structure there or anything else.
25 Q. Okay. You made reference in your testimony yesterday to an
1 agreement by which the JNA would withdraw peacefully from its barracks and
2 other facilities in Zadar. And that agreement was also at the -- sort of
3 the first half of October 1991. Is that right?
4 A. I don't know exactly when it was. All I know is that the
5 commanders of the units of the Yugoslav People's Army referred to the
6 agreement, and they called upon the Croatian side to comply. I don't know
7 when it actually took place.
8 Q. Okay. I understand -- thanks, I understand. Let me show you a
9 document that may clarify this; it's ERN 04143612 to 3613.
10 MR. BLACK: I actually have the English on the main screen now
11 instead of the B/C/S. There we go. If we could just scroll up just a
12 little bit so we can see the top.
13 Q. Sir, you'll see that this is an urgent document from the command
14 of the 9th Corps dated the 9th of October, 1991 --
15 JUDGE MOLOTO: Sorry, Mr. Black. You said where is the English?
16 I've got both B/C/S on both screens.
17 MR. BLACK: Oh, really, okay. Hopefully that --
18 JUDGE MOLOTO: Maybe it's my mistake. Let me try again. Okay.
19 I'm with you now.
20 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
21 Q. And, sir, the -- actually, if you just read that first kind of a
22 heading there. It says that this is -- refers to the agreement on
23 absolute cease-fire and cessation of combat operations, raising of the
24 blockade of the town of Zadar, and military facilities in the town of
25 Zadar and pull out of the JNA troops, materiel, and technical and combat
1 equipment. This is the cease-fire agreement that you were talking about,
3 A. General Adzic, who I mentioned yesterday and who I had occasion to
4 hear talks, spoke about the agreement between the representatives of the
5 authorities of the Republic of Croatia and the then-Presidency of the SFRY
6 in Belgrade. Most probably that agreement was the basis for this kind of
7 agreement, probably. I don't know about that.
8 Q. Okay.
9 MR. BLACK: Actually, if we could just turn to the last page
10 really quickly.
11 Q. At the bottom you'll see, sir, that this one is signed by
12 Commander Major-General Vukovic, and it's approved by the Chief of Staff
13 Major-General Ratko Mladic. And I can just tell you, sir, that some of
14 the provisions here are an absolute cease-fire, ensure safe relocation of
15 all JNA materiel and technical and combat equipment and private property
16 of persons moving out of Zadar. That's paragraph 8. Paragraph 11: While
17 raising the blockade of military facilities, simultaneously raise the
18 blockade of Zadar in all directions.
19 So this agreement from the 9th of October, that appears to be
20 consistent with the agreement that you talked about, right?
21 A. I do believe it does. I haven't read it, but that's what was done
22 in the field.
23 Q. Okay. Thanks very much.
24 MR. BLACK: Your Honour, could this be admitted into evidence,
1 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Thank you, too.
2 JUDGE MOLOTO: The document is admitted into evidence. May it
3 please be given an exhibit number.
4 THE REGISTRAR: Your Honours, this becomes Exhibit Number 990.
5 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much.
6 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour. And if we could see one more
7 document on the screen. It's the ERN 0363-4635 up to 4636.
8 Q. Mr. Lakic, you'll see this is another document from the 9th Corps
9 command of the JNA. It's dated a few days later, the 14th of October,
11 MR. BLACK: And if we could scroll down, please, on the B/C/S
12 version. There in paragraph 2, which appears on the second page in
13 English -- in fact, the second sentence.
14 Q. It says: "The focus of the work was on the evacuation of the
15 Zadar garrison, which is in progress. The evacuation is going according
16 to plan, and by 1800 hours 239 empty motor vehicles entered Zadar, while
17 264 motor vehicles loaded with materiel and technical equipment drove out
18 of Zadar. So far we've not had any major difficulties in connection with
19 the evacuation of the Zadar garrison."
20 That's accurate, isn't it, sir? This refers to implementation of
21 the cease-fire agreement which we just saw. Is that right?
22 A. Well, I can't say whether it's accurate or not. I didn't take
23 part in that. I had no role to play in that at all. I've never seen the
24 document, but that this situation existed, it did. I can't give you a
25 date. I can't tell you who took part. I can't tell you what vehicles
1 were involved. I can't give you any of the details, but generally
2 speaking, I know that it was deblocked sometime around that date,
3 14th/15th of October, whatever.
4 Q. Thank you. I'm grateful.
5 MR. BLACK: Could this also be admitted into evidence, Your
7 JUDGE MOLOTO: The document is admitted into evidence. May it
8 please be given an exhibit number.
9 THE REGISTRAR: Your Honours, this becomes Exhibit Number 991.
10 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much.
11 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
12 Q. Mr. Lakic, I'll move on then. You testified about shooting - and
13 this is after this agreement - you testified about shooting that you say
14 was coming from -- and actually, I'll quote you because it said at
15 paragraph 69: "Skabrnja and Nadin, or rather, the Nadinska Gradina
17 Where was it that the shooting was coming from that you talk about
18 shooting against planes and against convoys? Where precisely was it
19 coming from, if you could tell us?
20 A. What the Territorial Defence knew about and that I was informed of
21 was that most of the shooting came from fortifications at Nadinska Gradina
22 on Benkovac territory, the administrative territory of Benkovac
24 Q. Thank you. And Nadinska Gradina is a hill or a high ground on the
25 other side of Nadin from Skabrnja, not the Skabrnja side, but just on the
1 other side of Nadin. Is that right?
2 A. It is an elevation from the eastern reaches of Nadin and is on
3 Benkovac municipality looking towards the village of Ostevici, and it is a
4 dominant feature of the area.
5 Q. Okay. Thank you. Sir, isn't it true that notwithstanding the
6 fire that you said came from this area, the JNA was still able to make
7 flights out of the Zemunik airport; correct?
8 A. I'm not an expert for anti-aircraft artillery or planes at all,
9 but all I know is that we were informed at the JNA command on a daily
10 basis that planes were damaged. And there were guns, anti-aircraft guns,
11 that we found, that the JNA units found, after that particular operation
12 of a certain calibre who were able to -- which were able to target
13 problems without any problems and that's what they did.
14 Q. But I think you told us -- you referred yesterday to information
15 that planes that had been landing in Belgrade had been damaged, and I
16 assume those were planes that went from Zemunik to Belgrade and reached --
17 that was their destination; correct? I understand you're not an expert on
18 this, and I just want to see if you can answer my question. If you can't,
19 that's fine.
20 A. What I know is that you can see planes taking off from Benkovac
21 territory. I knew that I could see them take off, but where they landed,
22 I don't know. How would I know that, whether they went to Belgrade,
23 Kragujevac, Skopje, wherever, I have absolutely no idea, none at all.
24 Q. Okay. Very well. You also described a route that the JNA used to
25 get from Benkovac to Zadar that went through Smiljcic village; correct?
1 A. Yes.
2 Q. And I think you -- I think you said that that route was also fired
3 upon, but nevertheless the JNA did continue to use that route, didn't it?
4 A. It did because it was a little further away and wasn't as exposed
5 to fire as elsewhere, but it was fired at constantly as well.
6 Q. Okay. By the way, the village of Skabrnja, it isn't actually on
7 the Benkovac-Zadar road. You have to turn off of the road in Ambar to get
8 into Skabrnja village, correct, it's a little ways off of the road?
9 A. No, it's not off the road. It's that the road passes through the
10 western part of Skabrnja. Skabrnja is on the left and on the right is the
11 main road towards Donji Zemunik. On the right you have Ambar and on the
12 left you have the center of Skabrnja, but it's also part of Skabrnja
13 proper, both on the left and right side of the road, as far as I know. I
14 know that's how it was. Perhaps it isn't anymore, but before it was.
15 Q. Okay. And in Nadin you have to drive through Skabrnja to get to
16 Nadin from the Benkovac-Zadar road. Isn't that right? It's a little ways
17 further back.
18 A. No, no, no. No. The Benkovac-Zadar road, the main road, doesn't
19 pass through Nadin at all. It just passes through a path of Skabrnja,
20 Biljana Donji, and goes to the north of Nadin, higher up. It doesn't pass
21 through Nadin and there are no houses along the road.
22 Q. Okay. Thank you. Sir, even if there were these incidents of
23 shooting at planes or at vehicles, which you've talked about, even if they
24 occurred as you say they did, it hardly seems like a sufficient reason to
25 basically wipe out the two villages of Skabrnja and Nadin, does it? It
1 doesn't seem like that's cause for such a violent action.
2 A. First, whether something can be the cause of something else, that
3 has to be qualified, first of all. I didn't have reports about damage,
4 but there were people killed in these convoys and that's a fact. And
5 somebody in the JNA from the General Staff down the chain of command knew
6 what it meant. I, myself, personally didn't. The very action that was
7 carried out did not have as its goal violence. The aim was to solve it on
8 the basis of the agreement with peaceful means.
9 Q. Okay. Well, I'll ask you about that in a little bit. So are you
10 saying that -- that you don't know the reasons why Skabrnja might be
11 attacked? You say: "Someone in the JNA from the General Staff down the
12 chain of command knew. I, myself, personally didn't." So are you saying
13 you don't really know what the reasons were for the operation against
15 A. The action was launched against Skabrnja with the sole aim of
16 convincing the Croatian forces with peaceful means to allow the pull-out
17 of the technical -- of the military technical equipment smoothly, and that
18 was the sole reason behind the action. The pull-out of the military
19 equipment. This was the way it was read out to me and this is how it was
21 Q. Well, first of all, sir, doesn't it seem odd to you that you would
22 take tanks and APCs and all these armed men to -- to convince the Croats
23 through peaceful means to allow pull-out? Doesn't that seem like an odd
24 way to go about negotiations?
25 A. I agree with you, Mr. Prosecutor, that it wasn't a peacekeeping
1 conference; this was a war. We knew how many men the Croatian forces had
2 and the extent of the equipment there; however, first of all, it had to be
3 shown that both sides had something to wage a war with if war was going to
4 be opted for. However, the aim was to solve the situation peacefully.
5 This can be assessed by the experts. Since Skabrnja had been prepared by
6 engineers - and I mean the positions - this goes to show that the Croatian
7 forces were no weaker than the JNA.
8 Q. Okay. Well, we'll come back to that, too. But for the time
9 being, let me put this to you for your comment, sir: Isn't it true that
10 the attack on Skabrnja was planned ahead of time and its goal was always
11 to take Skabrnja by force. The real purpose was never to negotiate or to
12 try to find a peaceful solution; it was just to take that village over.
13 A. I state with full responsibility, and I know this, when it comes
14 to Skabrnja, nobody ever mentioned an armed attack against Skabrnja,
15 nobody ever on the side of the JNA and the Serbian political structures.
16 I state with full responsibility that there were -- was no design for a --
17 an armed attack to take place against Skabrnja and for the things that
18 happened to actually happen.
19 Q. So you're saying that all those tanks and APCs and armed soldiers
20 went there, but there was really no design for what was going to take
21 place and the things that actually happened?
22 A. Precisely.
23 Q. Sir, there were -- there were several reasons besides the convoys
24 to take-over Skabrnja and Nadin, weren't there? And I'll put a couple of
25 them to you. First, by taking Skabrnja and Nadin, the Serb forces
1 essentially consolidated their control over that entire area there on the
2 border between Benkovac and Zadar, didn't they?
3 A. I can't agree that these were the Serb forces; however, the JNA
4 made sure that it could carry on with the convoys, to evacuate the
5 military equipment. But I can tell you that this was not the goal of the
6 Serbian authorities in Benkovac, Knin, or elsewhere. This was the action
7 carried out by the JNA which had to take care of its manpower and
8 equipment. The Serb people had nothing to do with it. They shared the
9 tragedy of the Croat people. I believe that any ordinary Serb citizen
10 felt that way about it.
11 Q. Okay. Well, putting aside what the ordinary citizens felt about
12 it, certainly the TO and the police, the SAO Krajina police and the
13 Benkovac TO, which you earlier referred to as Serbian army, so those Serb
14 forces did have something to do with this. It wasn't just the JNA alone
15 in this attack on Skabrnja, was it?
16 A. Now, whether some of the TO members, individuals, entertained such
17 thoughts, I don't know. But officially, the Serb and Croat citizens of
18 Benkovac, the TO I had under my command, and the SAO Krajina police in
19 Benkovac definitely did not have this as their goal and they would never
20 accept such solutions to the problems in Krajina, never.
21 Q. Okay. We will -- let me go even one step further. You mentioned
22 that Skabrnja was the most affluent village in that area, and certainly it
23 was the most affluent Croat village, wasn't it, in that area?
24 A. I said that the village was sizeable and affluent, economically
25 speaking, and I described it as a village which figured prominently in the
1 local economy. It was important economically both for Zadar and Benkovac
2 municipalities, and that was the only reason why I mentioned this.
3 Q. Okay. Might I suggest another reason for the attack on Skabrnja,
4 to make Skabrnja an example and to send messages to other Croat villages
5 and their inhabitants, that even Skabrnja wasn't safe and that Croats
6 should leave the area for their own safety? Wasn't that another reason
7 for attacking Skabrnja?
8 A. I didn't know what the reason behind the attack on Skabrnja was, I
9 didn't look for one, and I didn't attack it. Now, when it all ended,
10 that's quite a different matter. I don't know what reasons were
11 entertained, but I can tell you that there were no reasons whatsoever in
12 the TO and the police.
13 Q. Okay. Well, how can you speak for the police? You can tell us
14 that there were no reasons whatsoever in the TO, but why is it -- do you
15 purport to speak for the police?
16 A. Only because you asked me about the police concerning Polaca, so I
17 thought, you know -- well, mine was a stronger armed force than the
18 police, and we both came under the command in Knin and I was explaining
19 what the intentions were in these structures. Since you asked me about
20 the police in Polaca, I thought that I should answer the same way in this
21 case, too.
22 JUDGE MOLOTO: Under whose command in Knin did the police and the
23 TO come?
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] The TO Knin was always under the
25 operations staff for Dalmatia, which was in Knin. And the police had
1 their ministry and minister. And, first of all, their secretary because
2 first we had the Secretariat for the Interior in Benkovac and of course
3 there was the secretary.
4 JUDGE MOLOTO: And the -- what was the -- what was the name of the
5 minister and the name of the secretary at that time?
6 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, can you please specify
7 the time-frame; and if I know, I will give you the answer.
8 JUDGE MOLOTO: The time that you say that the TO and the police of
9 Benkovac came under the came in Knin. You tell me the time. You've been
10 talking about this time.
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] In the autumn of 1991, I believe the
12 minister was the person accused in this case, Mr. Milan Martic.
13 JUDGE MOLOTO: And the secretary --
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] And then there were others after
15 him, but I don't know who they were. I can't tell you who the secretary
16 was. I don't know. I really don't know.
17 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you.
18 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
19 Q. Mr. Lakic, in a second I'm going to move to some specific
20 questions about the attack on the 18th of November, but before I do that,
21 I want to put another thing to you for your comment. Okay. I suggest to
22 you that the attack on Skabrnja was an example of the Serb side provoking
23 an isolated Croat village with shelling and other small-scale aggressions
24 until the Croat village responded by arming itself or some other
25 resistance, and then the Serb side used that response as a justification
1 for a military assault. Is that what -- isn't that really what happened
2 in Skabrnja? What's your comment on what I've just put to you?
3 A. Mr. Prosecutor, this is what you're stating. I lived in the
4 territory of Benkovac municipality throughout the war and before that all
5 my life. This is your statement, and I disagree with your statement.
6 Besides, the village of Skabrnja was not isolated, as you put it. It
7 wasn't isolated in any way. What you stated isn't true. The situation on
8 the ground was precisely as I've described it.
9 Q. Okay. I understand you stated you disagreed, and that's fine. We
10 don't need to go more into it. Maybe I wasn't clear. What I meant by
11 isolated, Skabrnja was surrounded by mostly Serb villages, isn't that
12 correct, with the obvious exception of Nadin. Otherwise, most of the
13 villages around it were either Serb villages or by November 1991 they were
14 controlled by the JNA, TO, and other Serb forces, correct? That's what I
15 meant to say by "isolated," and that's accurate, isn't it?
16 A. It wasn't isolated geographically either, as you put it now. The
17 Serb villages were in front of it to the north-east and to the north
18 toward the Benkovac municipality, and all the other villages, Nadin,
19 Prkos, Galovac, Tin were all Croat villages in the hinterland in the
20 general area of Skabrnja. Zemunik and --
21 THE INTERPRETER: The other village the interpreter didn't hear.
22 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] -- were in a pocket. If the depth
23 of the territory is less than the length, then you can't be in a pocket
24 because the width was 15 kilometres and the depth was some -- a couple of
25 kilometres. You have a pocket if you have a stretch of territory which is
1 very long in depth. This, of course, is something that is thus defined in
2 military terms and in general.
3 JUDGE MOLOTO: Sorry, there you referred to -- you just referred
4 to Zemunik and another village. The interpreter didn't hear you. You're
5 saying Zemunik and which village?
6 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Zemunik and Smokovic, they were in
7 the area of the Zemunik airport.
8 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much.
9 Yes, Mr. Black.
10 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour. I'll move on.
11 Q. Mr. Lakic -- now I'm going to ask you questions more specifically
12 about the 18th of November, 1991. First of all, you would agree with me,
13 wouldn't you, that the operation on the 18th of November, 1991, was an
14 offensive operation, it was not a defensive operation; correct. It can't
15 reasonably be described as defensive?
16 A. Well, it was by no means offensive. Now, whether it was a
17 defensive operation which had a prominent peacemaking objective, that is
18 certain, because the aim was to force the other side, the Croatian side,
19 to cease hostilities. There was a war on and of course it is quite
20 natural that each side use a certain dosage of force to bring about a
21 peaceful solution. This is the, if you want, the position for
23 Q. So you're saying that an operation that at least resulted in the
24 occupation of two villages and the take-over of two villages, you're
25 saying that was not offensive, that was defensive? That sounds a little
1 strange to me. Maybe you can explain that.
2 A. The two villages were not take-over because there was limited life
3 in these villages afterwards. What was the -- what was taken were the
4 military features which obstructed the passage of military convoys. And
5 this -- the residents of Skabrnja were pulled out, and this was a
6 secondary consequence of the attack. Now, the attack, or rather, the
7 resources used by the JNA against the Croatian side were exclusively
8 military personnel, and it was the JNA that was active in combat in that
9 area and that entered and took up the area.
10 Q. Before I go on to, you know, who was in the area and those things,
11 just so that I'm clear, are you -- are you insisting that this attack or
12 the resources used against the Croatian side, if you want to use that kind
13 of euphemism, that that was exclusively defensive, that that had no
14 offensive characteristics? I just want to be clear about it. If that's
15 your position, you can say so, but just so the record's clear.
16 A. Since the objective was to discuss this problem, then my statement
17 is that the -- it had a defensive character.
18 Q. Okay. You testified that you learned about the operation on the
19 previous evening, on the 17th of November, 1991, along with Bosko Drazic
20 of the police; correct?
21 A. Correct.
22 Q. One point of clarification just before I move on. At paragraph --
23 excuse me, at page 75 of yesterday's transcript, you referred to village
24 guards in Biljana Donji and a few other villages. Just so we're clear,
25 those were Serb villages who had established their own village guards. Is
1 that right?
2 A. People referred to them as village guards. These were TO units of
3 the local communes, therefore, of these villages. Armed soldiers aged
4 above 40; therefore, these were slightly older people aged between 40 and
5 60 whose task was to protect their village and the vital features of the
6 village such as a post office, health centre, or whatever the village had.
7 Q. Okay. Thanks for that explanation. You referred yesterday to the
8 death of a JNA officer by the name of Stefanovic. And I noticed in your
9 testimony yesterday, and it's -- it was at transcript page -- actually, it
10 was 10161 of the updated pagination --
11 MR. BLACK: And I apologise, Your Honours, for going back and
12 forth, but it was updated I think at the end of my preparations.
13 Q. You said: "According to the information that I had." And then
14 you told the story about how Stefanovic went with a megaphone asking the
15 Croats to surrender and he was shot dead. I take it you did not see this
16 for yourself because you were not present in the village at the time,
17 right, this episode with Stefanovic?
18 A. No, I was 3 kilometres away from Stefanovic. Let me tell you what
19 this was about. Fire was opened upon the column by the Croatian forces,
20 and many soldiers jumped on to the APCs. There was several versions of
21 Lieutenant Stefanovic's death. The military command in Benkovac arrived
22 at a final version of sorts which was as I described it to you. Thanks to
23 the final report of the military command of the 180th Brigade and the men
24 from that brigade, I was able to tell you what I heard from them and that
25 was the official description of his death.
1 Q. Okay. Thank you for that explanation as well. Do you accept the
2 possibility that he was killed during the course of fighting and not in
3 this way that you describe with the megaphone, et cetera, et cetera? Do
4 you accept that possibility?
5 A. I do not accept that possibility because there was no combat at
6 the time. There may have been first exchanges of infantry fire within
7 those couple of minutes. The man came out of the vehicle in order to call
8 on those people there to negotiate with him, because he was killed quite
9 early on in the whole process, within five minutes of the arrival of the
10 column at the junction, as he tried to approach the members of the
11 Croatian army, and that's the official version.
12 Q. You also testified yesterday, and this is at transcript page
13 10165, that there was no artillery fire before the JNA entered Skabrnja,
14 and you were quite sure of this. When do you say that the artillery fire
15 began? Or is it that you deny that there was any artillery fire at all?
16 A. The use of artillery fire from the tanks that were in the column
17 and from artillery support was opened after the initiative for
18 negotiations fell through, after Stefanovic's death. I was on my way from
19 Smiljcici to Biljane at the time, and I wasn't informed by anyone that
20 anybody had fired any shots or that anything had happened. At the time
21 when Stefanovic died, I was in Biljane Donje, and up until that point
22 there had been no fire. Whether there had been any sporadic fire, I don't
23 know. I had to pass the distance of some 6 kilometres. I was in the
24 official vehicle, and nobody informed me to that effect. In all the JNA
25 reports it was claimed that there had been no fire up to that point.
1 Q. Okay. Do you accept that the shelling from the tanks and
2 artillery which you referred to, that that had begun by about 7.30 a.m.?
3 Does that sound like the right time? Do you accept that time-frame?
4 A. I apologise, Mr. Prosecutor. Are you referring to the 18th?
5 Q. Yes, to the 18th of November, 1991.
6 A. Artillery joined in 10 to 15 minutes after the Croatian side
7 launched an organised attack on the column, whether it was 7.30, 8.00, or
8 7.00, I'm not sure. At any rate, it was some 10 minutes after
9 Stefanovic's death. And may I just say that I believe that it was only
10 the tanks from the column that opened fire. I don't think the artillery
11 got involved at that point; it got involved later on.
12 Q. Okay. Doesn't the use of tank fire and eventually artillery fire,
13 whether it happened at 7.30 or later when you say it happened, doesn't
14 that indicate that this attack was planned ahead of time and that the real
15 objective was never to negotiate, it was to take the village by force?
16 A. The artillery present in the area of Benkovac municipality wasn't
17 there because of a possible attack on Skabrnja; it was there to bring
18 about the lifting of the siege of the barracks in Zadar and to provide
19 combat support for others. It wasn't there because of Skabrnja. That
20 was, in fact, why it got involved in the action at a later stage because
21 it didn't have the basic elements for its use. It may have joined in the
22 fire an hour later and fired as the need arose, whereas the artillery fire
23 came from the tanks in the column. The howitzers and mortars had been
24 there from before, and they were there because of the Zadar barracks that
25 had to be deblocked.
1 MR. BLACK: Your Honour, I believe it is time for the break.
2 JUDGE MOLOTO: It is, indeed. We'll take a break and come back at
3 half past 12.00.
4 Court adjourned.
5 --- Recess taken at 11.59 a.m.
6 --- On resuming at 12.30 p.m.
7 JUDGE MOLOTO: Mr. Black.
8 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
9 Q. Mr. Lakic, we've been discussing the planning a little bit of the
10 Skabrnja operation. I'd like you to look at a document, it's Exhibit 107.
11 MR. BLACK: If we could see that on our screens, please. If we
12 could zoom out just a bit on the B/C/S and rotate it clockwise a little
13 bit so that it's right side up. I think then you have to rotate all the
14 back around. Right. Perfect. Thank you.
15 Q. Mr. Lakic, you'll see that this is an officer's notebook, and if
16 we go to the second page you'll see that this is the officer's notebook of
17 JNA Lieutenant-Colonel Momcilo Bogunovic. That's a name you're familiar
18 with, right, sir?
19 A. Yes, yes.
20 MR. BLACK: Okay. If we could skip ahead to the page that bears
21 the ERN 6875 is the last part of the ERN. It's on page 1 of the English
22 translation, Your Honours. Thank you.
23 Q. And you'll see there, sir, that's an entry for the 17th of
24 November, 1991, on the right side of the page. The first thing there --
25 and see if you can read along with me. It's handwritten so sometimes it
1 can be a little hard to decipher, but see if you can follow along. It
2 says that: "General Vukovic says preparations are to be made and villages
3 of Skabrnja and Nadin should be mopped-up in the course of 18 November
5 Do you that there at the top of the page on the right?
6 A. I do. I see that, yeah.
7 Q. It doesn't say anything there about negotiations or talks or a
8 peaceful solution; it simply says: "Skabrnja and Nadin should be
9 mopped-up on the 18th of November." And that, in fact, was the plan all
10 along, to mop-up those villages, right?
11 A. Well, it says mopping-up or clearing; it's not a military term at
12 all, ciscenje. Regardless of the fact that this is a lieutenant-colonel
13 of the JNA that we're talking about, but nevertheless this term means to
14 neutralise the strongholds and points held by an enemy's forces,
15 exclusively the military therefore. This is not something that stood in
16 the official document of the plan. This isn't an official document. This
17 is simply a note made by Lieutenant-Colonel Bogunovic, where he presented
18 his understanding or view of the task. Were he alive, he'd be able to
19 tell you more about it. I'm sure that this is not how the plan was
21 Q. Okay. Well, just so that we're clear. What he's -- what's
22 written here is not purported to be Mr. Bogunovic's view, but he - how do
23 I say that? - he's saying what General Vukovic said; correct?
24 A. I met General Vukovic. He had this one way of proceeding. He
25 wasn't the one drafting the plan, it was the staff. He was given to
1 uttering sometimes bombastic statements whilst trying to explain what it
2 was that he wanted us to do.
3 JUDGE MOLOTO: Let's try and get quickly to the point. The
4 question is he is not expressing his own view; he is saying what is said
5 by General Vukovic. Is that correct or is that not correct?
6 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] It is stated or it is written here
7 that General Vukovic stated that, and this was written by
8 Lieutenant-Colonel Bogunovic. So it's a term used by them, but it's not a
9 military term. I, myself, for instance wouldn't know what to do if
10 somebody told me to carry out ciscenje, I as a soldier.
11 JUDGE MOLOTO: Sir, sir, Lieutenant-Colonel Bogunovic is writing
12 here what he was told by General Vukovic. Is that correct? According to
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Well, it's probably correct if this
15 is what the text reads.
16 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you.
17 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
18 Q. This word "ciscenje," this is one that you've undoubtedly seen
19 before also in the context of operations, isn't it?
20 A. This is a jargon word which means a lot and nothing all at the
21 same time. I've never used that word ever in my career. I've never
22 uttered it or written it.
23 Q. Okay. This may be a difficult question for me to -- for you and I
24 to resolve because it has to do with language. So if you don't understand
25 my question, please let me know. But this word "ciscenje," has been
1 interpreted in English as mopping-up, but it can also be translated as
2 cleaning or cleansing. It is the same word that's used in another phrase
3 which is ethnic cleansing. It's the same word that's used "ciscenje";
5 A. I'm certain about this particular case because I knew the two
6 persons involved. Ethnic cleansing wasn't involved --
7 JUDGE MOLOTO: Sir, again, I'm sorry --
8 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] This term is something I know to be
9 used by soldiers.
10 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'm sorry. I must intervene. Just listen to the
11 question. The question is that this word has various meanings, amongst
12 them cleansing or cleaning up. Do you agree with that or don't you agree
13 with that, in addition to mopping-up?
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I can't answer this question. I
15 don't know what it refers to because I don't know all the different
16 meanings in English.
17 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you. Thank you very much. If you don't know
18 the meaning, if you can't answer, that's fine. That's perfectly fine.
19 Mr. Black.
20 JUDGE HOEPFEL: We didn't ask for the English words.
21 JUDGE MOLOTO: No, we didn't ask for English words.
22 JUDGE HOEPFEL: The different meanings in English, that's not your
23 job, so to say, but that's what the interpreters tell us and --
24 JUDGE MOLOTO: Yes, Mr. Milovancevic.
25 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, in response to the
1 Prosecutor's question as to whether the witness was aware that this word
2 can mean mopping up and ethnic cleansing in English, the witness said: I
3 know both men and I'm sure that this word in Serbian does not mean ethnic
4 cleansing. He gave a direct answer to that question. We're not
5 discussing language issues here, but the meaning of the word written in
6 Bogunovic's notes. The witness said: I know both General Vukovic and
7 Lieutenant-Colonel Bogunovic, and they certainly didn't use these -- the
8 word to mean ethnic cleansing. That's what he said.
9 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Of course.
10 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] We are now moving on to dealing
11 with purely linguistic issues.
12 JUDGE MOLOTO: Mr. Milovancevic, the witness was not being asked
13 about his knowledge of Mr. Bogunovic; he was being asked about the word.
14 And I rule that objection out of order, and in any case the witness has
15 answered, whether to the satisfaction of the Prosecutor, I don't know.
16 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour. It was simply that he had
17 drawn my attention to that word is why I asked, but I'll move on. And in
18 fact, I'm done with this document for the time being although we will come
19 back to it.
20 Q. Mr. Lakic, you testified yesterday about tanks and APCs and the
21 number of men fighting on the Serb side, by which I mean the JNA and
22 whatever other forces were fighting with them. It's also true that planes
23 and helicopters were used in the attack. Isn't that right?
24 A. I, myself, didn't see any planes or helicopters. They were not
25 active; that's not true.
1 Q. Okay. You also said that only two JNA members were killed in the
2 fighting and there were no TO casualties. Compared to those numbers, the
3 number of Croat fighters and villagers killed was substantially larger
4 than that, wasn't it? There were many more casualties on the Croat side
5 than there were on the Serb side if we can use those terms.
6 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I apologise. The
7 witness spoke of the JNA action in his evidence. In view of that, can you
8 please direct the Prosecutor not to change the constitutional role of the
9 armed forces. The Prosecution expert witness Theunens said that the JNA
10 was a regular armed force. Can the Prosecutor put his question in the
11 proper manner, because he always states that the JNA represents the Serb
12 forces. This is not true, either in constitutional, legal, or factual
13 terms. And the witness has been pointing to that as well.
14 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'm trying to look, Mr. Milovancevic. I don't know
15 whether you are objecting to the question that was just asked before you
16 rose up or the question before, because there's no mention of the
17 constitutional position of the JNA in the question immediately before.
18 What are you objecting to?
19 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I object to the
20 last sentence on page 69, lines 11 and 12, that's the Prosecution question
21 where it is stated that there were many more casualties on the Croat side
22 than there were on the Serb side. Which Serb side in an action launched
23 by the JNA. That is the gist of the objection.
24 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you, Mr. Milovancevic.
25 Any response, Mr. Black?
1 MR. BLACK: Yes, Your Honour. First, I think it's crystal clear
2 which sides I'm talking about, and I'm just trying to distinguish between
3 the two sides. I do not share counsel's view of the evidence about the
4 role of the JNA in November 1991. The Prosecution has a very different
5 view about what that role was and we have led evidence on that. And I
6 also do not accept that there was just the JNA involved in that. So I'm
7 not going to phrase my questions in a way that adopts Defence counsel's
8 view of the evidence. I think I can put my questions to the witness; if
9 the witness disagrees, he can say so. By referring to the Serb side and
10 the Croat side, I'm just simply trying to identify the two different sides
11 in a conflict. I'm surprised that this is that controversial, Your
13 JUDGE MOLOTO: I suppose that -- yes, Mr. Milovancevic. Yes, Mr.
15 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, my learned friend
16 said that on the JNA side there were two persons killed and many more on
17 the Croat side, and he continues his question by saying: What would you
18 say the ratio of the Croatian -- of the Croat and Serb casualties or
19 forces were? Before that, he referred to the JNA members, and plus the
20 soldier next to Lieutenant Stefanovic who got killed was not a Serb at
21 all. And this is something that the witness stated. We cannot push a
22 legal -- push the case of one side to the party through questions and put
23 them in this way to the witness. The Prosecutor can establish facts, and
24 then on the basis of these facts, the Prosecution can infer their legal
25 positions and put their cases forth. But this cannot be done through the
1 examination of the witness.
2 JUDGE MOLOTO: Okay. It looks like the two of you are a little
3 bit at cross-purposes. Let me try to say what I understand Mr.
4 Milovancevic to be saying. I think he's saying that the JNA was a
5 Yugoslav People's Army composed of both Croats and Serbs; therefore, to
6 talk of a Croat side and a Serb side is anomalous given the legal
7 constitution of the JNA at the time. I don't know whether you have any
8 other terms that you would like to use to make that distinction of the two
9 forces without using ethnic terms. But having said that, I think if by
10 the use of ethnic terms the witness understands you to be mislabelling,
11 it's for him to say you are mislabelling.
12 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour. And specifically what I said
13 was, at page 69, line 3 and 4, I said: "The Serb side, by which I mean
14 the JNA and whatever other forces were fighting with them." Because there
15 is evidence about the TO and about the police, and the witness himself has
16 referred to the TO as a Serbian army. So that's why I used that term "the
17 Serb side."
18 JUDGE MOLOTO: And I think it is the Serb side that is being
19 objected to.
20 MR. BLACK: Exactly, Your Honour. But what's being objected to is
21 that the JNA was not a Serb army. But I'm talking not just about the JNA
22 but about the other forces that were representing Serb interests. And,
23 Your Honour, there's evidence about the role of the JNA at this time in
24 1991, certainly from Kijevo and August of 1991 - I don't want to go into a
25 big argument on the merits - but whatever the constitution said, we say
1 that the de facto role of the JNA at this time was to fully support
2 Serbian interests. That's why I use this term.
3 JUDGE MOLOTO: If that's what you say in that -- in that way, that
4 the JNA had taken the Serb side, then I think you are perfectly entitled
5 to move on.
6 MR. BLACK: In the indictment, Your Honour, these groups are
7 lumped together and called Serb or Serbian forces.
8 JUDGE MOLOTO: In that event, the objection is overruled.
9 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
10 Q. Mr. Lakic, I hope this isn't causing confusion and I think you
11 understand perfectly well which sides I'm talking about. Isn't it true
12 that the attacking forces, the JNA and whatever other forces were involved
13 in the attack suffered far fewer casualties than --
14 JUDGE MOLOTO: The forces they were fighting against --
15 MR. BLACK:
16 Q. -- the forces they were fighting against, including villagers in
17 the village of Skabrnja and the village of Nadin. Isn't that right? All
18 I'm trying to get at is the comparison between those two figures.
19 A. May I answer?
20 Q. Please.
21 A. The Yugoslav People's Army, the Yugoslav People's Army in November
22 of 1991 was the army of all nations and ethnic minorities in the Socialist
23 Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.
24 Q. I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir. What you can answer to is
25 whether or not the attacking side suffered far fewer casualties than the
1 receiving side in Skabrnja. And we don't want to hear about the other
2 issue right now.
3 A. That after Mr. Stefanovic's death, there'd been negotiations, then
4 it would only have been the JNA to have suffered losses because -- and
5 casualties because the Croatian side would not have had any casualties.
6 But it so happened that there ensued fighting and soldiers and citizens
7 were killed on both sides.
8 Q. Well, you --
9 JUDGE MOLOTO: I just want to make Mr. Milovancevic aware that his
10 witness is now talking of the Croatian side, and the question didn't have
11 Croatian side. I just wanted to make you aware of that.
12 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
13 Q. Mr. Lakic, you testified that only -- there were only two
14 casualties on the attacking side, two from the JNA, and none from the TO.
15 And now you're saying there were soldiers and citizens killed on both
16 sides. Do you want to change the number that were killed on the attacking
17 side, or, in fact, do you agree with me that there were far fewer killed
18 on the attacking side than there were on the receiving side? It's a
19 pretty simple question. I'm anxious to move on, if you can just answer.
20 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] Objection, Your Honour.
21 JUDGE MOLOTO: Yes, sir.
22 MR. MILOVANCEVIC: [Interpretation] My learned friend says that
23 there were far fewer victims on the attacking side than on the receiving
24 side. This question does not arise from this witness's evidence, and this
25 is not correct. The Prosecutor is misrepresenting witness's testimony.
1 At no point in time did the witness say that the JNA was attacking, and he
2 is -- and a question is being put to him on a completely different topic.
3 JUDGE MOLOTO: [Previous translation continues] ...
4 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
5 Q. Sir, can you please try to answer my question.
6 [Trial Chamber confers]
7 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I never had any information to the
8 effect how -- or about how many civilians and soldiers were killed on the
9 Croat side. There were different figures bandied about, even as many as
10 100. And then, at last, the Croatian side came up with the final figure
11 of around 20. Numerically speaking, there were more victims on the
12 Croatian side; however, the conflict escalated because the Croatian forces
13 attacked the unit that came into negotiate. The attack was carried out by
14 the Croatian forces upon the JNA, which was equally entitled to be active
15 in that area.
16 Q. Sir, I think you'll agree with me that I didn't ask you why the
17 numbers were what they were. I'm asking you specific questions and please
18 do your best to focus your answers on my questions and things will move
19 more quickly. Do you understand?
20 A. 20-something or 30- or 40-something, more than two persons, if
21 that's the answer you want to hear. But any casualty, any person killed
22 constitutes a great loss.
23 Q. Sir --
24 A. Now, the summing up and totalling of casualties is quite something
1 Q. Sir, really, please, focus on my questions. And the first one is:
2 Do you understand that you need to focus your answers on my questions? Do
3 you understand me?
4 A. Fully.
5 Q. Stop.
6 A. And I'm about to answer such questions.
7 Q. Great. You don't need to give an explanation for every little
8 thing you say. When you said "fully," you could have even said "yes," and
9 that's enough.
10 My point of putting this last string of questions to you, sir, is
11 that -- isn't it the reality that overwhelming force was used against the
12 village of Skabrnja and then later Nadin. The attacking side had
13 overwhelming force and used it, didn't it?
14 A. It's not true that they had overwhelming force. If military
15 experts were to assess all the resources that the JNA had in the area and
16 that the Croatian forces had, the features it had there, I don't know to
17 which side the balance would tip. We have information as to how much
18 weaponry the Croatian forces had, how many men they had, and I'm talking
19 about the resources they used to attack the JNA.
20 Q. Okay. Let me move on now to the -- something that's slightly
21 different, although focused on the 18th of November. You testified that
22 you didn't enter until approximately 5.00 p.m., when most of the fighting
23 was over. So am I correct to say that you have no direct knowledge of
24 what went on in the village up until that time, you have no personal
25 knowledge of what happened before 5.00 p.m.?
1 A. Personal knowledge from the spot is something I didn't have. I
2 listened to the commanding officers, what they had to say about it.
3 Q. Okay. Thank you. So you can't -- you can't say with certainty
4 what forces were present in the village during the fighting, can you?
5 A. Well, I know that those were the forces that were there at the
6 outset and that they reached the centre of the village. There were no
7 other forces on the JNA side. When I went to the scene after 5.00 in the
8 afternoon, the JNA officers and units were there. And I asked them to
9 provide me with information concerning civilians, if any were still to be
10 found there.
11 Q. Do you accept the possibility that members of the SAO Krajina
12 police were present in the village before you arrived?
13 A. I do not accept that for the simple reason that I know that they
14 were not active -- well, I know -- I wasn't along the axis of attack,
15 that's true. However, the units, or rather, I should say police force,
16 police patrols carried out those duties that were envisaged under the plan
17 involving the peace agreement. They weren't there when I was there, nor
18 were they there before on that axis.
19 Q. Do you know whether any of Captain Dragan's men participated in
20 the operation in Skabrnja?
21 A. Captain Dragan wasn't there, not a trace of him, him or any of his
22 men, no.
23 Q. Let me move on to something else then. You said -- you talked
24 about -- or you testified about how you used a Volkswagen van and a
25 minibus with approximately 20 seats to transport civilians out of
1 Skabrnja; correct?
2 A. I think it was a Volkswagen van, a Red Cross vehicle, with the Red
3 Cross emblems. It wasn't a Volkswagen minibus because it was a vehicle
4 from the Promet company that was requisitioned, this minibus, a civilian
6 Q. Maybe we miscommunicated a little bit. There was a van and then
7 there was also a minibus, two vehicles, right?
8 A. I didn't have any more vehicles at my disposal at the time with
9 that particular evacuation, just those two cars, two vehicles. And I do
10 apologise, but there was an APC belonging to the JNA military police that
11 was engaged in the evacuation as well. It came to help, but it was within
12 the composition of that unit.
13 Q. Okay. Do you know if -- did any of the other forces, the JNA or
14 anybody else that was there, participating in the attack, did anybody else
15 have a bus or a van or were yours, the TO vehicles, were those the only
16 ones present?
17 A. No, no. This is how it was. What belonged to the Yugoslav
18 People's Army, they were the military vehicles of the olive-green colour.
19 I had two vehicles myself. I don't know whether later on an ambulance
20 from the hospital took part as well, but there certainly weren't any other
21 visible vehicles on the 18th of November, ones which you would notice.
22 Q. Thank you. Did you know that civilians were beaten, beaten up,
23 called Ustashas, and otherwise mistreated on the 18th of November before
24 they were loaded on to a bus and driven out of Skabrnja? And they were
25 then taken to an establishment called Oscar's where they were further
1 mistreated and humiliated. Did you ever hear anything about such an
3 A. No, no.
4 Q. But if they described a bus, well it must have been your bus
5 because that was the only bus or minibus present. Isn't that right?
6 A. Well, it was a bus painted in the colours that denoted the
7 property of that country -- company.
8 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's correction.
9 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] It had it's own particular colour,
10 and that's what it said on it. So if you're thinking of something
11 specific -- but anyway the company's name was Promet and that word was
12 written up on the bus "Promet Benkovac."
13 MR. BLACK:
14 Q. You testified yesterday that the real fighting ended on the 18th
15 of November, and then -- although the operation officially ended on the
16 19th of November. And then you said you weren't personally in the area on
17 the 19th. Have I got all that correct?
18 A. I personally wasn't doing the same work I was doing the previous
19 day, not in that position. I wasn't in the same position, but I did stop
20 by two or three times to control the area and my units to control the area
21 and those villages. But I wasn't included there anymore; there was no
22 need because the population had been evacuated the day before. So that
23 assignment was completed and they were transported to the Croatian side.
24 So I worked around-the-clock until the following day.
25 Q. Okay. Did you know that nine civilians were killed in Nadin on
1 the 19th of November, 1991, during or immediately following the attack on
2 that village? Did you know anything about that?
3 A. I remember that in Nadin, the village of Nadin, that some of the
4 inhabitants stayed -- remained, less than ten, civilians, I mean. They
5 were elderly persons and were not able to move around easily. And I know
6 that I organised this and that my members took food and medicines to them,
7 and a doctor as well --
8 Q. Sir, let me interrupt you --
9 A. -- so, are those the people you have in mind?
10 Q. If they survived the 19th of November, they're not the ones I have
11 in mind. My question specifically was: Do you know anything about nine
12 civilians being killed in Nadin on the 19th of November, 1991?
13 A. I see, no.
14 Q. Is it correct that by the evening of the 19th of November, the
15 village of Nadin was -- large parts of it were burning? Do you know
16 anything about that?
17 A. The 19th of November you say? I know nothing about that. I
18 received no information to that effect.
19 Q. Okay.
20 A. I'm hearing about it from you.
21 Q. Okay. Thank you. I'd like you to look at a document with me.
22 It's Exhibit 109 in evidence, please.
23 MR. BLACK: And actually, if we could --
24 Q. Actually, you may have referred to this document. Have you ever
25 seen this document before?
1 A. This is an official note by the official from the military police
2 Benkovac -- may I just take a moment to read through it?
3 Q. Sure.
4 A. No, I haven't seen this document, no.
5 Q. Let me --
6 MR. BLACK: Could we look at the last page, please, and at the
7 signature line of the last page. The second page, sorry, of 7350. It
8 looks like we have -- oh, I see, of 7350, please. Exactly.
9 Q. You see there, sir, the signature or what appears to be the
10 signature of Ernest Radjen, and you had mentioned him earlier?
11 A. Yes. Yes, I did mention him. He was a reserve officer who was
12 mobilised into the 180th Brigade. He was the commander of the military
13 police platoon of the 180th Brigade, and he was part of that unit of the
15 Q. Okay. Thanks. That's enough for now.
16 A. He was a well-disciplined --
17 Q. Sorry to interrupt you, but I want to keep us moving along. So
18 this is an official note by Lieutenant Radjen.
19 MR. BLACK: And if we can go to the first page, please.
20 Q. Then in what is the second paragraph before the numbered
21 paragraphs start it says -- and actually, if you look with me at the first
22 paragraph and it says there, doesn't it, that "Lieutenant Radjen was
23 involved in the fighting to defeat the Ustasha forces in the village of
24 Skabrnja, in clearing the battle-ground, and in providing assistance to
25 the population." That's what it says there; correct?
1 A. Ernest Radjen was not an infantryman or a policeman -- he was a
2 policeman, he was a military policeman but he didn't take part directly in
3 combat operations. He used the APC together with members of my
4 Territorial Defence, helped evacuate the population. So he didn't have
5 any specific assignment in taking part in any armed sense.
6 Q. Okay. But he was present in Skabrnja on the 18th of November --
7 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I can't accept this. The
8 author of this document says during his involvement in fighting. He was
9 involved in the fighting. You can't come and listen to somebody say he
10 wasn't there when -- now, I think the witness must answer the question
11 that was put to him. Is it right that that's what it says?
12 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] That's what he says, that he took
13 part. Now, you can take part in different ways, just like TO commander
14 took part, participated in --
15 JUDGE MOLOTO: How he participated in, we don't want to know, just
16 that he participated.
17 Next question.
18 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
19 Q. Sir, look with me at the second paragraph. It says: "In fighting
20 in the village of Skabrnja on the 18th and 19th of November, 1991, about
21 50 people of various sexes and ages, members of paramilitary Ustasha
22 formations, and civilians at various locations in the villages of Skabrnja
23 and Nadin were killed."
24 That's accurate, isn't it? Can you confirm that or deny it?
25 A. I've never seen this document before. This is an official note.
1 This is an officer who performed his military task. He wrote the report,
2 and he was responsible to his command for the report, and if the command
3 accepted the report from him, you don't need me to present my views.
4 Q. Well, I'm --
5 A. That's what it says. It says what it says. Now, I can't accept
6 whether it's accurate or not. I really can't say. I don't know.
7 Q. Well, sir, what I'm going to do for the next few minutes is I will
8 be putting a lot of documents to you and I want to know, based on your
9 knowledge, whether you can confirm things or if you don't know things,
10 that's fine. Any of those answers are fine, but I want to show some
11 things that are in evidence in this case. So please have patience and
12 bear with me.
13 Look at paragraph number 3 here. It says: "In the yard of a
14 private house, a man aged 65, a civilian, and two women aged 65 to 70,
15 were in the cellar of a house, three elderly people." That refers to --
16 appears to refer to civilians killed in Skabrnja. Do you know anything
17 about that?
18 A. I don't know who this refers to and who the civilians belonged to,
19 or rather, these men here, these males. I had no other knowledge or I
20 have no other knowledge.
21 Q. Look at number 6?
22 MR. BLACK: If we can scroll down a little bit.
23 Q. There it says: "On the road an elderly man around 70 and two
24 women aged around 60 to 65," you would agree with me that this appears to
25 refer to civilians, correct, not fighters but civilians?
1 A. As to the men, 70 years old, according to our regulations - and
2 that is of the Republic of Croatia - he couldn't have been a military
3 conscript and women -- the women either of that age. They couldn't have
4 been conscripts. No, I couldn't say they could when they couldn't.
5 Q. I don't want to spend too much time on this document, so follow
6 along with me as I just point you to some particular paragraphs.
7 Paragraph 8 refers to a man around age 60, a civilian, and two women aged
8 around 50. Paragraph 9 refers to a woman aged around 55. Paragraph 10
9 refers to two men aged 60 to 70, civilians. Paragraph 11, a man aged
10 around 60, a civilian. Paragraph 12 refers to three women aged around 60
11 to 65 and a man aged around 60, a civilian. Paragraph 13, a woman aged
12 around 60. Paragraph 14, two men aged around 40 to 45, but it says they
13 were civilians. Paragraph 15, a woman aged around 60, and it continues on
14 to the next page, sir. But having seen this document, do you accept that
15 many civilians were killed in Skabrnja on the 18th and 19th of November,
16 1991, not fighters, civilians?
17 A. I accept that in Skabrnja, certainly every woman was a civilian;
18 but that every man, every male capable of bearing a rifle regardless of
19 his age, did carry a rifle -- and did carry a rifle and stood up to the
20 JNA, I claim that that was so, too.
21 Q. So despite not even being in there during the fighting, you say
22 categorically that every man in Skabrnja was a combatant. Is that what
23 you just told us?
24 A. I claim on the basis of all the analyses and findings of the
25 command of the Yugoslav People's Army of the 180th Brigade I claim that.
1 I didn't say that they were the only official sources that I relied upon
2 for gathering information about Skabrnja. It was also based on what I saw
3 on the 18th, the situation as it was on the 18th, and with respect to
4 further developments. Now, I didn't receive those facts and figures from,
5 I don't know, soldiers who were in charge of that or uncertified sources;
6 I relied on official documents that were relevant as far as I was
7 concerned. The only documents that I could use in order to report back to
8 my superior commands for them to be able to take steps. I couldn't react
9 to any other sorts of reports.
10 Q. Well, let me put a very specific case to you and see if you know
11 anything about this. A man named Krsto Segaric was born in 1927 and
12 according to eye-witnesses was taken out of a basement where he had been
13 with other civilians and shot in the head with relative proximity
14 according to autopsy reports and I believe we saw a photo of him at the
15 beginning of your cross-examination. If that information is true, would
16 you accept that he was a civilian, not a fighter, and was intentionally
17 killed even though he was a man?
18 A. Well, it's like this --
19 JUDGE MOLOTO: Did you say he was born in 1937 or 1927?
20 MR. BLACK: 27 is what I meant to say.
21 JUDGE MOLOTO: The transcript says "37."
22 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
23 JUDGE MOLOTO: So --
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] That man, a man of that age,
25 certainly couldn't have been a soldier or military conscript. Now,
1 whether he could hold a rifle in his hand and shoot, I can't say. But for
2 somebody to kill him like that, that is a very serious crime. It is a
3 criminal act and a war crime on the person who perpetrated the act; I
4 agree with that absolutely. But I have no information or knowledge about
5 that until hearing what you just told me.
6 MR. BLACK:
7 Q. Okay. Let me put one other concrete case to you before I move on
8 and this was about a much younger man in his 30s. His name was Ante Rasov
9 [phoen]. But the autopsy report which is in evidence indicates that he
10 had been tortured before he was shot in the head from point-blank range
11 and in fact his left ear had been cut off his body. Do you agree with the
12 assertion that even if he was a fighter, that that kind of brutality and
13 that kind of intentional killing after he had been captured is also
14 unlawful and worthy of condemnation?
15 A. Absolutely, absolutely.
16 JUDGE MOLOTO: Let me just ask a question.
17 Would you also accept that that would be a war crime?
18 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, in every army, in every
19 army, regardless of --
20 JUDGE MOLOTO: Wait a minute. Would you accept that that would be
21 a war crime? It's a simple question. You either say: Yes, it would be a
22 war crime; no, it is not a war crime. Just like you told --
23 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] The person who perpetrated the act
24 perpetrated a war crime; I agree fully there, yes.
25 JUDGE MOLOTO: [Microphone not activated]
1 THE WITNESS: [No interpretation]
2 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
3 Q. Sir, I'd like to show you another document. This one is Exhibit
4 116 in evidence.
5 MR. BLACK: Could we see it in on the screens, please.
6 Q. And while it's coming up, Mr. Lakic, did you know that the JNA
7 investigated allegations of crimes in Skabrnja committed in -- on the 18th
8 and 19th of November, 1991? Did you know about such investigations?
9 A. The JNA conducted investigations and didn't allow anybody, except
10 for the crime technicians of the police station who were highly trained
11 professionals, the police station in Benkovac, the crime technicians
12 which -- by which I mean the photographers, the inspectors, they were all
13 very well trained, the forensic team, in fact, and representatives of the
14 JNA and the civilian protection for the sanitization of the terrain. They
15 worked for a few days in the area. And nobody was able to approach the
16 area until a full investigation had been conducted.
17 Q. You see there's a document in front of us. This is an official
18 note from a 9th Corps intelligence officer dated the 8th of March, 1992.
19 Look with me --
20 MR. BLACK: If we can scroll down a bit.
21 Q. You can see in the first paragraph it says: "We have found out
22 the following about the killing of civilians in Skabrnja and Nadin
23 villages on 18 and 19 November, 1991."
24 And then the first bulleted paragraph says: "All the collected
25 data shows that the killings were committed by members of the Benkovac
1 Territorial Defence staff special units or units that fought under their
2 command. These were volunteers from Serbia and Opacic's group composed of
3 combatants from this area."
4 That's correct, isn't it?
5 A. That is not correct, and I'll explain it point by point.
6 Q. Please.
7 A. And this is how it goes. In the Territorial Defence units we
8 never had -- never dared have -- or never did have units of volunteers.
9 To the best of my knowledge, a group, this Opacic's group as it's called,
10 certainly didn't take part in Skabrnja. I know that at the time he was in
11 Benkovac, or rather, outside the territory, and I say that with full
12 responsibility because I happened to meet him myself personally when I was
13 returning in the evening. And I know he didn't take part at all. Not
14 only did he not take part, he could not have taken part.
15 JUDGE MOLOTO: Slow down, slow down, slow down. The interpreter
16 is struggling to keep pace with you. Just slow down, please.
17 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I apologise. That's as far as
18 Opacic's group is concerned. Opacic was a professional policeman in the
19 Croatian police, and as such -- well, that was his profession. He didn't
20 have a group in any formal, legal sense. He didn't have a unit, he didn't
21 have a group, he didn't have a formation of that kind. There were people,
22 there were men, who had proved -- who saw him as a leader and a hero. And
23 these people -- but I don't think with permission from him, he didn't ask
24 the people to join him and he didn't take part in any operations that are
25 being ascribed to him like the one in Skabrnja. I know that for certain
1 because later on the police organs and the entire investigation and the
2 results of it had to be sent to the commanders of the JNA. We had to
3 report back to them.
4 JUDGE MOLOTO: Slow down, slow down, slow down.
5 MR. BLACK:
6 Q. Thank you, sir. Let's move on to the next part of the document.
7 The next paragraph, we don't have to read it out loud, but it says the
8 volunteers from Serbia committed murder in Skabrnja and refers to
9 unconfirmed data that Opacic's group killed members of a particular family
10 in Nadin village and killed three captured people from Skabrnja in
11 Smiljcic. Now, can you confirm or deny what's written there or do you not
12 have any information on that?
13 A. I have no information on that. That's for sure. And as I can see
14 here, I've just noticed it in the heading, it is an official note written
15 based on talks -- personal talks and talks linked to the service. So what
16 kind of source is that for this officer who wrote this?
17 Q. Sir, we'll be looking at some other documents, but I'm not
18 interested so much in your questions about the sources of the documents so
19 much as what you know. And I ask you to have patience with me because I'm
20 going to ask you about a lot of specific passages and it's always going to
21 be the same question: Can you confirm it, can you deny it, or don't you
22 know anything about it.
23 A. Very well.
24 Q. The next paragraph, bulleted paragraph down.
25 MR. BLACK: If we could scroll down just a bit in the B/C/S,
1 please, and we're now on page 2 in English.
2 Q. Starting at the second sentence, it talks about how members of the
3 Serbian volunteer units interrogated a captured ZNG member who was beaten.
4 And then it says that: "Three nurses in a blue van from the Benkovac
5 Territorial Defence staff witnessed it, and one of the nurses stood up to
6 a man named Vucicevic. Vucicevic led the ZNG member away behind the house
7 and a burst of fire was heard, after which Vucicevic returned alone."
8 The first question is: That would appear to be a reference to
9 your van, the one you described earlier in your testimony, correct? Or
10 was it not blue? I can't remember.
11 A. I don't remember what colour it was, but it had the Red Cross
12 emblem on it, and this -- as to this information here, I had no knowledge
13 of what it says here.
14 Q. Okay. Thank you.
15 MR. BLACK: If we skip down to the last paragraph that's visible
16 there -- actually, the last paragraph under that same sort of
18 Q. It says -- it's a name that's difficult for me to
19 pronounce "Gnjidic mutilated the body by cutting off an ear which he then
20 wrapped in cling-film and showed around the cafes in Benkovac. In one
21 instance he kept it in a glass and showed it to the waitress, saying that
22 the glass was dirty."
23 Did you ever hear anything about that, a mutilation, people
24 cutting off ears, and then showing it around as a kind of a trophy?
25 A. That individual, surname Gnjidic, I don't know who that is. And
1 this alleged display of this I didn't hear about it. Had I heard about
2 it, I would have certainly officially, and according to all the rules and
3 regulations, would have had to take steps. So I don't know about this, I
4 really don't.
5 Q. Okay. And then the next bulleted point down talks about Vucicevic
6 killing civilians by shooting them one by one and it says he threw a bomb
7 into the cellar of someone called Manda where a number of civilians were
8 hiding. Did you hear about any events like that?
9 A. I really have no information about any of this. This is the first
10 time that I see this document, which allegedly describes these acts or
11 evil acts.
12 Q. Okay. Let me ask you about one more passage and then we'll move
13 on to the next one, one or two more passages. There at the bottom, and
14 you'll have to read along with me and it will pass over to the next page
15 in B/C/S. This one says: "In the courtyard of the house in which Colonel
16 Stefanovic was killed, the Serbian volunteers brought three or four men
17 out of the house, one of them was mad, and mowed them down with a burst of
18 fire, killing one of them."
19 Did you hear of anything like this in connection with the place
20 where Stefanovic was killed, any sort of retaliation against the people in
21 the house like this?
22 A. I didn't hear about that because I couldn't have -- I could not
23 learn how Croatians were killed in those operations, and I think this
24 retaliation was retaliation not specifically in this case.
25 Q. Okay. Well, let me ask you to look at another document, it's
1 Exhibit 411.
2 MR. BLACK: Could we please see that on our screens. If we could
3 scroll just to the top quickly.
4 Q. You'll see this is another note by a 9th Corps security officer;
5 it's dated the 27th of November, 1991.
6 MR. BLACK: And if we could flip on to what is page -- I think
7 it's the fifth page in English and probably the same in B/C/S where the
8 statement of reasons begins, after the sort of forms. I apologise for not
9 knowing specifically which page it is. Exactly. Thank you. That's
11 Q. You can see that this is based on a contact or an interview with
12 someone regarding the killing of civilians in Skabrnja. And then in the
13 second paragraph it says: "Goran Opacic, a member of the Benkovac public
14 security station special unit, came here today. In front of all of us in
15 the office, he talked of how they were killing the civilians, mostly women
16 and old men in Skabrnja."
17 And then in the next paragraph down --
18 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'm sorry, I'm lost. What page are you at?
19 MR. BLACK: I'm sorry, Your Honour. In English it is --
20 JUDGE MOLOTO: [Microphone not activated]
21 MR. BLACK: At the top it should say L00065964.
22 JUDGE MOLOTO: 5946?
23 MR. BLACK: Yes, Your Honour, I apologise.
24 JUDGE MOLOTO: And what paragraph were you at?
25 MR. BLACK: I was at the first paragraph there which
1 starts: "Goran Opacic."
2 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'm with you. You can go on.
3 MR. BLACK: Thank you.
4 Q. And then, Mr. Lakic, the second paragraph there, just to continue,
5 talks about a specific incident where an old man was running away and an
6 active-duty soldier took a hand-held rocket-launcher, a Zolja, off his
7 back and asked a Chetnik, can I photograph him and hit him, fired this
8 hand-held rocket-launcher at him. According to this, Goran Opacic said he
9 had never seen a more terrible site in his life, that the old man was
10 blown to pieces.
11 Did you ever hear anything about Goran Opacic bragging about
12 killing civilians in Skabrnja? Did you ever hear anything about that?
13 A. I know Goran Opacic personally. This sort of bragging on his part
14 is nothing new. He tried to oversell himself as a hero, but in actual
15 fact he fled. He took to the heels whenever a situation was dangerous.
16 In the opinion of the JNA soldiers, he was an average soldier, but one who
17 was prone to telling tall stories. But I wish to say that he wasn't a
18 member of the SUP Benkovac; he was a lone fighter. Because he was
19 regarded in the positive -- he was regarded upon positively by some
20 political figures, he was there driving certain personages, and that was
21 probably how he ended up in Belgrade if this is indeed what he stated.
22 Q. Okay. And you said that you think that he was an exaggerator. So
23 you accept that he may very well have gone around bragging about killing
24 civilians in Skabrnja, as is reflected in this statement here or this
1 A. On the eve of the action --
2 Q. Sorry, sir, I don't want to --
3 A. Can I just explain this to you.
4 Q. I apologise. I don't need a long explanation. I guess -- let me
5 withdraw the last question. Did you ever personally hear Goran Opacic
6 bragging about killing civilians in Skabrnja, yes or no? And if yes,
7 explain; otherwise, we'll move on.
8 A. I personally didn't. I know that he wasn't there, and
9 consequently he could not have bragged about it.
10 Q. Okay.
11 MR. BLACK: And if we could scroll down just a bit, please.
12 Q. There's one more passage I want to point your attention to. It's
13 the next paragraph after what I just referred to. There again it refers
14 to a person -- and this time they say that the surname is Zoric who is
15 somewhere in the Territorial Defence unit going around town showing people
16 a bag containing human ears, and then it gives a similar account to the
17 one we saw before about calling a waitress over to see a dirty glass and
18 having a human ear in it.
19 Does this remind you about whether or not you ever heard stories
20 about this, about the ears?
21 A. Listen, I spent my childhood listening to the stories of the ears
22 cut off, eyes plucked out, back from World War II --
23 JUDGE MOLOTO: I'm sorry, I've got to stop you. You are not being
24 asked about your childhood. You are just being asked about this story
25 here. Please answer to this story directly and don't tell us about your
2 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Now I can state with full
3 responsibility that I didn't know of this particular instance involving
4 this man.
5 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you so much.
6 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I didn't know about it all.
7 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you. That's all we wanted.
8 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
9 Could we see another document on the screen, please. It's Exhibit
10 117. Thank you.
11 Q. Sir, again, this is yet another document from a security officer
12 of the 9th Corps, JNA 9th Corps. This one's dated the 23rd of November,
14 MR. BLACK: And again, if we could skip past the sort of form
15 pages to where the text is, the explanation.
16 It's page 3 of the English version, Your Honours.
17 Thank you very much. Perfect.
18 Q. Sir, you see in this first paragraph that he says: "On the 22nd
19 of November he interviewed a soldier from the battalion of the military
20 police regarding the murders of civilians in the village of Skabrnja on
21 the 18th of November during the attack on the village."
22 And then if you'll --
23 MR. BLACK: If we can scroll down a bit to the paragraph that's in
24 quotation marks there. Exactly. Thank you.
25 Q. And, sir, just look with me at the third sentence. It says: "At
1 the first houses in the village Skabrnja, members of the Territorial
2 Defence," and then it talks about how they were -- had their faces
3 painted, "took out three civilians without weapons. They lined them up in
4 front and at that moment gun-firing started, so I had to fire as well and
5 did not pay attention to them." And then it says when he stopped firing
6 he could see the civilians lying dead and that they were shot from a close
7 range. Sir, this says that Territorial Defence people were killing
8 civilians. Are you telling us again that you never heard of such an
10 A. I've never heard of the instance mentioned in this document, but
11 let me tell you what this was about. When this happened in Skabrnja,
12 certain officers wanted to "shift the blame" to a third party for these
13 casualties in Skabrnja, and these stories went on for months. However,
14 they were unable to prove anything officially because the -- these
15 documents here are just notes.
16 Second, as far as the volunteers are concerned, whoever had a
17 uniform on was immediately considered to be a member of the TO, which
18 isn't true. There were many volunteers who came to Krajina already armed,
19 already wearing uniforms, and under full equipment, and they were the ones
20 who most often committed crimes. So there is no basis on which you could
21 ascribe this to the Territorial Defence. It was the -- the reason why
22 this exists is because JNA officers wanted to shift the blame on someone
23 else, and this whole exercise lasted for months after the action.
24 JUDGE MOLOTO: Can I just get clarification.
25 You said when this happened in Skabrnja, certain officers wanted
1 to shift the blame to a third party. When did you come to know of this,
2 that certain officers wanted to shift the blame to a third party for these
3 casualties in Skabrnja?
4 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I came to know it two or three days
5 after the action in Skabrnja, when Colonel Vucicevic returned to the
6 command of the 180th Brigade. At that point the assessment was that in
7 fact there had been many victims --
8 JUDGE MOLOTO: There had been many victims. About how many?
9 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Many. I don't know how many. You
10 do have the information there.
11 JUDGE MOLOTO: So when you testified today and yesterday and said
12 that there were no victims, many victims, you mentioned only two, I think,
13 on the JNA side or on the Croatian side, I don't know. You only --
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] On the Serbian side, yes.
15 JUDGE MOLOTO: You testified you already knew that there were many
16 victims, as you came to testify in this case?
17 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes -- well, one is one too many.
18 JUDGE MOLOTO: No, no, I'm not talking of one or two; I'm talking
19 of many, many more than one or two. You knew this when you came to
20 testify here?
21 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I knew that.
22 JUDGE MOLOTO: [Previous translation continues] ...
23 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] But I also believe that one victim,
24 if the death of the victim was uncalled for, is too much.
25 MR. BLACK: Thank you, Your Honour.
1 Q. It's about time for our regular break, sir, but this is based on
2 an interview with a military policeman, and you're not suggesting that he
3 would have been mistaken about whether or not these people were members of
4 the Territorial Defence. It's not just any random civilian making a
5 mistake about uniforms. This military policeman must have known who he
6 was talking about, wouldn't he?
7 A. I don't know who he was referring to in terms of individuals
8 because it doesn't say in the report, but that any member of the armed
9 forces, be it the JNA or any other, wore a uniform. I said that in the
10 aftermath of the action, when Colonel Cecevic came and said that there
11 were many victims, this was then one of the reasons why additional persons
12 were sought to be pinpointed as responsible for these victims. I don't
13 know what else would have been the reason for it.
14 MR. BLACK: Your Honour, I see we're at the usual ending time.
15 I'll have to take this up on Monday morning.
16 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much.
17 [Trial Chamber confers]
18 JUDGE HOEPFEL: We are just -- I'm --
19 THE INTERPRETER: Microphone, please. The microphone isn't
21 JUDGE MOLOTO: Is it plugged? Can you just press it here.
22 JUDGE HOEPFEL: I may use the other microphone because, Mr. Black,
23 I was just asking myself if we could maybe finish today with the witness.
24 It depends how long you were intending to ask further questions.
25 MR. BLACK: [Microphone not activated]
1 JUDGE HOEPFEL: Okay, there is still re-examination also of
2 course, yeah, that will take quite some time, of course. Apparently the
3 technological staff wants a weekend.
4 MR. BLACK: Your Honour, I think mine's working now. I agree --
5 JUDGE MOLOTO: So is Judge Hoepfel's.
6 MR. BLACK: Yes, Your Honour, I don't think, realistically, we can
7 finish the witness today. I'm sorry.
8 JUDGE HOEPFEL: Thank you.
9 JUDGE MOLOTO: Thank you very much. Then we will have to adjourn
10 the case today to Monday, the 30th of October, at quarter past 2.00 in
11 Courtroom II, which is this courtroom. Thank you very much.
12 Court adjourned.
13 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 1.47 p.m.,
14 to be reconvened on Monday, the 30th day of
15 October, 2006, at 2.15 p.m.