1 Tuesday, 10 November 2009
2 [Open session]
3 [The accused entered court]
4 [The witness takes the stand]
5 --- Upon commencing at 9.00 a.m.
6 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Registrar, could you please
7 call the case.
8 THE REGISTRAR: Good morning, Your Honours. Good morning,
9 everyone in and around the courtroom. This is case number IT-04-74-T,
10 the Prosecutor versus Prlic et al. Thank you, Your Honours.
11 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Thank you, Registrar.
12 This is November 10th, 2009, and I greet everyone here in the
13 courtroom, the accused, the Defence counsel, General Beneta, and the
14 members of the OTP, as well as everyone helping us.
15 Ms. Alaburic, let me remind you that you have 24 minutes left,
16 and you have the floor. I apologise. Thirty-six minutes, not
17 twenty-four. Thirty-six.
18 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honours.
19 Good morning to you. Good morning to my colleagues from the OTP,
20 to my colleagues from the Defence counsels.
21 WITNESS: IVAN BENETA [Resumed]
22 [The witness answered through interpreter]
23 Examination by Ms. Alaburic: [Continued]
24 Q. Good morning, General Beneta. Good morning to the accused and
25 everybody who is with us.
1 General, we broke off yesterday when you were describing the
2 information that you received about sabotage activities on the eve of
3 Operation South. I will ask you to repeat and comment whether with
4 regard to the location and the description of the events, it corresponds
5 to reality.
6 The first document is P1045, P1045. I'll repeat, 10145. All
7 right, now the number is correct. This is the statement of a Prosecution
8 witness. I will read out a paragraph from page 6 of the Croatian
9 version, and in the English version it starts with paragraph 38 on
10 page 6. And I will say which paragraph I'm skipping.
11 The witness in this statement says that he was an HVO soldier and
12 that he was isolated in early July 1993, and that he escaped from
13 Dretelj. And he says, I quote:
14 "We were able to reach my village and find some of the
15 inhabitants of the village who had fled from the attack. We lived in the
16 forest, and our families were helping us by bringing us what we needed to
17 survive. We monitored the movements of the Croats in that area."
18 I'm skipping one paragraph. I continue quoting:
19 "We established contact with members of the Army of BiH from
20 Blagaj because in our group of 24 there was one man, an active soldier,
21 professional soldier, who was able to procure a radio and establish
22 contact with the Bosnian Army. We, 20 or so, had rifles, and we went on
23 foot to Blagaj to fetch more rifles."
24 THE INTERPRETER: Interpreter's note, could the English text
25 please be displayed on the screen.
1 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] "Our group grew with the arrival
2 of people from Blagaj and Gubavica ..."
3 So it is not "Dubravica" as is stated in the transcript, but
5 "... so that then we were 70. On the 12th of July, 1993, we
6 received an order by radio from the command in Mostar to cut through the
7 road from Mostar to Capljina -- between Stolac and Capljina," correction.
8 So I correct the transcript. Between Stolac, rather than Mostar, Stolac
9 and Capljina.
10 "We decided to launch an action in the surroundings of
11 Domanovici, not far from Potkos," so Domanovici, not far from Potkos,
12 "together with the people from Prenja and Bregava." So from Prenja and
13 Bregava. "We knew that a similar action was being taken nearby Buna,
14 Gubavica, and at the check-point nearby Pijesci," the village of Pijesci.
15 "We took our positions at dawn on the 13th of July, 1993. We arrested
16 all members of the units from Bivolje Brdo, and in the course of that
17 action we didn't fire a single shot, nor was anybody wounded. Three
18 soldiers were locked in the garage of Mujo Sose at Kremenac, that is, the
19 garage of Mujo Sose. They were guarded by Hasan Sose.
20 "I personally was at the front-line near Strmac, in another
21 village. We were waiting for reinforcement that was promised to us by
22 the command from Mostar. At 1500 hours, we received the order to retreat
23 toward Blagaj. Although our action was successful, that was not
24 acknowledged and we received no support. We had to retreat and walk to
25 Blagaj, and the civilian population we had to leave to their fate."
1 Q. Tell me, General Beneta, with regard to the description of the
2 events, the time, and the locations mentioned, does this correspond to
3 the knowledge you had then about the activities of the Army of BiH at the
4 Dubravica Plateau?
5 A. Yes.
6 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Let's take a look at the next
7 document, P9935, on page 4 of the Croatian text, and on the English text
8 it's paragraph 26 on page 4.
9 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Excuse me, Ms. Alaburic. I cannot help noticing
10 that this was an extremely leading question. You have put the whole
11 story to the applicant -- to the witness, I'm sorry, and asked him
12 whether he could confirm this, whether it was according to his
13 experience, and I'm not quite sure what this actually means.
14 Mr. Beneta, do you know that three people were locked up in
15 Sose's garage, for instance? Do you have any knowledge of that?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] No, I have no knowledge of that.
17 My affirmative answer was about the locations mentioned in this material
18 and the course of the action, and what we subsequently found out, that
19 they had crossed the line and made contact with Blagaj, which was held by
20 the Army of BiH.
21 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Do you know about the person who was a witness
22 here, whose name I don't know whether you have mentioned it,
23 Ms. Alaburic? I do not see anything that he is protected. It would be
24 Vilogorac. Do you know one Mr. Vilogorac?
25 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] No.
1 JUDGE TRECHSEL: So, in fact, your knowledge about this is very
2 vague. You could not confirm what the witness has said here, could you?
3 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I can confirm that what the witness
4 said has a foundation in the overall situation which I knew, but I don't
5 know the witness, nor the details he mentioned. But I know about that
6 area and the time and the events that went on there.
7 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Thank you.
8 Please, Ms. Alaburic.
9 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Your Honours, if I may --
10 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Witness, you were not fully
11 aware of this event. This was quite obvious. At least I found this
12 obvious. However, militarily, what the witness is saying, the witness
13 whose extract of the statement was read to you, seems interesting, but
14 there are other passages that weren't read to you, and maybe you could
15 give us your military point of view.
16 We see that on July 13th, a military action is underway, executed
17 by the BH Army soldiers who were ordered by Mostar to carry out this
18 operation. This operation is successful, at least this is what the
19 witness says, since they were able to capture HVO soldiers without
20 shooting at any time. However, they say that at 3.00 p.m., they received
21 an order to withdraw, so they leave the area. And then the rest seems
22 quite interesting, and I'm sure that maybe you can help us. This is what
23 he says:
24 "After our action, the Croats launched an offensive, and those
25 who suffered were the civilians."
1 And then he describes the suffering in the next sentence:
2 "All Muslim inhabitants in the region, whatever their age or
3 condition, were arrested, detained, and expelled."
4 And later on he says that about 800 to 900 people sought shelter
5 in the woods, and part of the population was sent to the Capljina cookie
6 factory and then -- and after that was expelled.
7 What happened exactly? The BH Army attacked, then withdrew, and
8 the HVO then launched its own action. And the HVO action is actually to
9 expel civilians. Militarily, I would like to know whether this is a
10 normal line of action. Does this happen? After an enemy action, is
11 there a possibility to capture the civilians and expel them? Is this a
12 traditional -- a classical military conduct? Is this normal?
13 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I cannot testify to
14 the details as an eye-witness, but according to what I learned at the
15 command post of Operations Group 1, the situation in the area of the
16 1st HVO Brigade, from the military point of view, was very problematic.
17 They, in the command of the brigade, received information from minute to
18 minute that almost all elements of their combat layout in the entire
19 depth were being attacked, which made the commander very nervous, and
20 rightly so, and he was rather surprised. The actions that were executed
21 to resolve the situation and prevent further negative consequences
22 obviously were of such a nature that the commander, being unable to judge
23 from whom he was being threatened, and the combat activity had spread
24 from the front-line to the entire depth of the area, it was in such a
25 situation that he evacuated all population from the area and put it under
1 his control.
2 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. So if I understand
3 your answer well, and it is quite important and I don't want to make
4 mistakes when I will have to assess what you say, you are saying that
5 given the military situation, which was difficult, the HVO,
6 militarily-wise, was only able to move the civilian population out of
7 this area in order to protect it; is that it?
8 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, that's what I'm saying. But
9 to say the whole truth, he also protected his own men from possible
10 subsequent such activity.
11 It is obvious from the statement, and it also coincides with my
12 recollection, that these people who were attacking the HVO forces in the
13 depth of the area were not all soldiers, strictly speaking. Most of them
14 were armed and in civilian clothes, and they had dangerous intentions.
15 And with regard to all that, I justify the commander's actions.
16 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Well, but then the witness in
17 this statement adds something else, and Ms. Alaburic did not mention it,
18 but I will. This is what he says:
19 "The people were taken in trucks by HVO soldiers to Podpetak to
20 be expelled."
21 And just listen to rest, because I believe that what he says is
22 quite important:
23 "They were sent down the 300 metres from the front-line, and from
24 the bunkers, where I was on duty, we could see about 50 metres. We heard
25 the HVO soldiers firing towards the expelled people who were walking
1 towards our lines. Along with my friends, we were responsible for
2 helping the people who were arriving."
3 This witness says that the HVO let the -- disembarked the
4 expelled people 300 metres from the front-line and told them, Move
5 forward towards the front-line. But it also seems that the HVO shot at
6 these people at the same time. And he goes on to say that on July 15th,
7 he received the body of his cousin, Remza, who was 75 to 80 years old.
8 Now, militarily-wise, could you tell us whether this is a normal
9 conduct, whether it's normal to shoot at people that you are -- that
10 you've asked to move forward towards friendly lines?
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] No. If I were the commander in
12 question, I would not approve such conduct unless that had been approved
13 by telephone, called the hot-line between the warring parties, or if such
14 a request had been made to send the people towards them.
15 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] I will finish, but -- because
16 our witness -- this witness is saying, and of course this is what the
17 witness says - you weren't there, and neither was I - but this is what
18 the witness says:
19 "At the beginning of the expulsion from Buna to Blagaj, there
20 were casualties every day, but later on HVO soldiers stopped firing
21 systematically on the exiled people. I think that between July 13th and
22 16th, 1993, at least 50 people were killed, trampled to death, or died
23 through exhaustion, and many others disappeared."
24 So according to him, there were about 50 people who were expelled
25 under these conditions and who actually died. But militarily-wise, in
1 such an operation where the civilian population are to be protected, how
2 can you explain this? How can you explain that some of the civilians
3 were shot at?
4 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] From the military point of view,
5 the only thing I can say, with knowledge of the situation down there from
6 the reports, that I am not aware that so many people of Muslim
7 ethnicity - that's probably who the witness means - had been killed. I
8 know that over 20 members of that brigade had been killed, along with the
9 civilians who happened to be in that area in this attack by Muslim
10 forces. And I want to stress here, without going into the veracity of
11 the witness's evidence, that it is very questionable whom we can consider
12 as a civilian, if it concerns a person between the age of 18 and 60, of
13 male gender, who could have been in possession of a weapon and would have
14 been a military conscript, so it's quite possible that people from that
15 brigade were over-sensitive to the possibility of a threat.
16 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] I would like first to correct the
18 On line 12 of page 7, when the witness mentioned civilians, he
19 said there were not civilians, strictly speaking, there were armed
20 civilians. The witness actually said that these were armed people in
21 civilian clothing, and that is an important distinction.
22 Q. Can you confirm, General, that this is accurate?
23 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] May I just explain to
24 Judge Trechsel that my question on lines 1 to 4, page 4, was very
25 precise, because I know that the witness cannot know details such as the
1 garage and similar, and my question was not leading, and I'll explain
2 why. I asked him, in general terms, about the events, about the time
3 mentioned in the statement, 12th and 13th July, and the locations
4 mentioned in the statement. The witness told us yesterday that sabotage
5 actions had taken place on the 12th and 13th July, which coincides with
6 the timing in this statement, and there is also reference to place names,
7 such as Domanovici, Gubavica, Bivolje Brdo, and other locations which are
8 on the Dubrava Plateau, and the witness can confirm that, and that indeed
9 there had been sabotage actions there. And in view of all the witness's
10 evidence from yesterday, I thought that I could put such a question
11 summarising the evidence from this statement.
12 I think it would be now fair for me to explain why I had not read
13 the entire statement, because this could be interpreted as an attempt to
14 conceal a part of the statement. That's why I said to everyone in the
15 courtroom that I would be using the statement so that the Judges and
16 everyone else could look at it in its entirety. The subject of this
17 evidence are the sabotage actions of the Bosnian Army. I did not want to
18 go into what the HVO had or had not done. We did not have a witness in
19 the courtroom to question about that. So I suppose that the Judges'
20 questions referred to whatever can be assumed from the statement,
21 assuming that it's correct.
22 Q. I want that my question, whether the correction I made was
23 accurate, that those were armed people in civilian clothing. Can you
24 answer that again?
25 A. Yes. I emphasised in my answer that those were mainly people in
1 civilian clothing who were armed and who constituted a danger to the
2 members of the Croatian Defence Council.
3 Q. Considering that there is this disagreement between the
4 Prosecution and the Defence about those sabotage actions, their causes
5 and consequences, I will continue the line of questioning to confirm that
6 these sabotage actions had taken place.
7 May I now move on to statement 9935, a witness statement,
8 paragraph 26 in both Croatian and English. I quote:
9 "According to my brother Mirsad, on the evening of 13 July 1993,
10 young people from the village prepared an operation to liberate the
11 region and to put a stop to the crimes committed against us by the
12 Croats. I don't know whether this operation was coordinated with a
13 wider-scale one conducted by the Bosnian Army. I think that the young
14 villagers who had been hiding in the surrounding area were liaising with
15 the Bosnian Army, but I don't know whether this planned operation was
16 taken on their own initiative or it was directed from the outside by the
17 army. I am aware that the objective of the operation was to attack the
18 Croats, but it failed. And later on, my brothers no longer mentioned
20 Let me just tell you, General, in the other passages, Domanovici
21 and some other places on the Dubrava Plateau are mentioned.
22 Now, concerning the location and the time referred to in this
23 statement, are they consistent with your evidence given here about the
24 sabotage actions by the BH Army?
25 A. Yes, this is consistent with the picture I was getting from the
1 reports I received at my command post during those days.
2 Q. Let us look now at some more documents. 4D1101. These will be
3 HVO documents. 1101. This is a record of questioning drawn up based on
4 an interview with Mr. Becir Suta. I'll summarise the whole statement
5 quickly. It's short. It says that on the Dubrava Plateau, they had
6 established a unit, and he says:
7 "My group had the task to emerge at Masline to set up a line ..."
8 And then he enumerates the members of the group, including
9 Salko Alihodzic, and finally he says they had refused to shoot, and
10 eventually they were found in that location by the HVO and they were
11 brought in to the barracks.
12 Now, this location, Masline, is it on the Dubrava Plateau, from
13 what you know?
14 A. Yes.
15 Q. Let's look at the next document, 4D1096. It's an Official Note
16 drawn up after interviewing a gentleman called Admir Cevra, and in the
17 second paragraph it says:
18 "In the course of an operation started by the BH Army, I was also
19 in that hamlet, and people from that village, who were actively engaged
20 in combat against the HVO, were Ahmet and Mithad Cevra ..."
21 He also lists other people as having taken part in the clash with
22 the HVO. And concerning Mithad, he said he had been a member of the HVO,
23 Mostar. He did not get involved in the action. Instead, he helped the
24 HVO detect the members of the army who were hiding in the vicinity of the
1 Now, General, is this consistent with your knowledge about the
2 members of the BH Army who were active in villages and other places
3 around the Dubrava Plateau?
4 A. Yes, this also is consistent with what I know on a general level.
5 Q. The next document, 4D1042. This is a report, a summary, made
6 evidently on the basis of interviews with various participants in the
7 action. I'll highlight certain parts.
8 A group of 70 is mentioned, then a group of 50, and then there is
9 reference to a meeting at Gubavica, where they had received a specific
10 mission to take the barracks at Gubavica.
11 Tell me, who had barracks at Gubavica?
12 A. The barracks at Gubavica is, in fact, a smaller installation that
13 the former Yugoslav Army had used for some communications equipment. At
14 that time, we had reports that it had been attacked. The attackers
15 surrounded it quietly and then launched a sudden attack, and the people
16 inside were captured due to a coincidence, because the surprise attack
17 was made with anti-armour assets that would have normally destroyed the
18 whole place. However, all these anti-armour vehicles got stuck in the
19 wire fencing around the installation, so the people inside managed to
20 repel the attack.
21 Q. Which army was stationed inside this installation? Who was
23 A. There was a unit of the 1st Brigade of the HVO.
24 Q. Localities Dubrava is then mentioned, and a group of 15 soldiers;
25 at Oplicici, a group of 50 soldiers was formed and given the task to
1 neutralise HVO soldiers stationed in Satorova Gomila. Then it says an
2 operations group of 25 to 30 people was established at Lokve village,
3 with a task of cutting the road from Domanovici from Stolac. And then
4 another group of 15 people is mentioned who had the task to cut off the
5 road Domanovici-Bivolje Hill.
6 Tell me, General, in view of the size of these groups and the
7 localities where they were active, is that consistent with what you knew
8 about the situation on the ground then?
9 A. Yes, this is consistent with the reports that were coming in at
10 the time. I know that fierce and long fighting took place at
11 Satorova Gomila.
12 Q. Further below in the text, it says that according to the
13 statements of prisoners, the task was broadened and they were supposed to
14 get reinforcement from Mostar, approximately 700 soldiers, with the
15 objective of holding on to the territory they had taken control of and
16 move on to Stolac and Capljina, taking complete control of the
17 Dubrava Plateau.
18 Does this surprise you or is it consistent with what you know?
19 A. Yes. This was also our estimate of their intentions after we
20 received the first reports.
21 Q. I'll skip the next two documents, because I don't think it's
22 important to see all five of them at this moment.
23 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Witness, 4D1042 is a document I
24 would like to talk about still. This document stems from the Military
25 Information Service, and out of interest I looked at the addressees of
1 this document. There are three of them: The Defence Department of
2 Mr. Stojic; the commander of the Operational Group 2, Matic; and the head
3 of the department, Zarko Keza. This department receives information,
4 first-hand information, from soldiers who have been captured and who
5 describe what has happened. So an order by Arif Pasalic seems to have
6 been given, and this plan will continue. He says, by way of a
7 conclusion, that this will continue during the night and over the next
8 few days.
9 A military piece of information of this kind, according to you --
10 maybe you can't answer the question. I don't know. If you can't, let me
11 know. How is it that this is not sent to the commander of the HVO in
12 person, perhaps even to the Supreme Commander, the commander of the armed
13 forces, Mate Boban, when this is being sent to the Defence Department and
14 to the commander of Operation Group 2? Does this seem logical, in
15 military terms? In a situation like this, what would you have done?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I must admit that I
17 don't know the exact structure and organisation of the HVO, and I didn't
18 know it even then, so I cannot give -- really give you an informed answer
19 to that question.
20 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Let's imagine - this is a
21 textbook example - that your unit captures enemy soldiers who disclose
22 the existence of a plan. Who would you have informed?
23 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] If I put myself in the shoes of the
24 person who signed the document, then I would have informed my superior
25 officer. Who of these people mentioned is the superior officer, I don't
1 know. We would have to look at the organisational structure. Perhaps
2 somebody was in the field and another person in the staff, so he decided
3 to inform whoever needed to know the information. But, again, I repeat,
4 I cannot give you accurate information on that.
5 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well.
6 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation]
7 Q. General, let us return to Operation South. Tell us, what was the
8 position of the commanders of the 1st and 3rd Brigades about the
9 readiness and capability of the HVO for larger-scale military operations
10 even before these sabotage actions?
11 A. My -- the first knowledge I received about their capabilities and
12 their readiness to engage in attack activities was when I was on command
13 reconnaissance with Mr. Dzanko, and on that occasion we spoke to the
14 commander of the 3rd HVO Brigade, Mr. Primorac, and it was his firm
15 assertion that his unit does not have forces to keep such a long stretch
16 of the confrontation line and, in addition, engage in attack activities.
17 Q. Tell us, General, to your knowledge, who was it that, in spite of
18 these views of military operations, approved the execution of
19 Operation South?
20 A. I was not involved in such talks. I was tasked with staff work
21 in Operations Group 1. I cannot be certain who it was.
22 Q. Do you have knowledge about Luka Dzanko going somewhere to have
23 meetings and take decisions with someone?
24 A. Yes. The commander of the operations group, Mr. Dzanko, went to
25 Grude several times.
1 Q. Do you know, General, who had his office at Grude?
2 A. Yes. I believe that, at that time, Mr. Boban had his office at
4 Q. General, the Chief of the Main Staff of the HVO,
5 General Petkovic, did he participate in the planning of this operation in
6 any way; do you know?
7 A. No, I have seen no document showing that, nor did I meet him in
8 those days in the area in which I moved.
9 Q. You said yesterday that the operation was delayed to the
10 15th of July in 1993. Tell us, was it really executed on that day?
11 A. Yes, the action began on the 15th, and it ended very soon and
13 Q. Before the beginning of the operation, did a high-ranking officer
14 or official of the HVO Army come anywhere close to the command post?
15 A. Yes. At dawn of the day of the launch of the operation,
16 Mr. Boban came to the artillery positions not far from the Command of
17 Operations Group 1. There were also some other people from the HVO whom
18 I don't remember. They were there.
19 Q. Tell us, was it at that place or anywhere near that the Chief of
20 the Main Staff of the HVO, General Milivoj Petkovic, was to be found?
21 A. No, he wasn't there at the time.
22 Q. To end with, General, let us look at two documents. 4D1695,
23 1695, that's a list of the members of the Command of Operations Group 1.
24 Tell us, General, what kind of command was that?
25 A. This is a list of people from the command and others who were
1 likely to come to the building of the command of the group of
2 operations -- operations group. The list was given to the security
3 services for them to know whom they were allowed to let into the
5 Q. Was this the Command of Operation South?
6 A. Yes, this is a list of the command of the operation and of
7 persons who went to see the command frequently.
8 Q. And let us now look at the last document, P3048.
9 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Excuse me.
10 Mr. Beneta, have you seen this list before?
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I saw this list during the
12 proofing. These days, it was shown to me.
13 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Do you have an idea what date it was
15 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] This letter, judging by the persons
16 mentioned, was made at the planning stage of the operation; that is,
17 'round about the 8th or 9th, possibly the 10th of July, 1993.
18 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Thank you.
19 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Judge Trechsel. This
20 was really missing to make this document complete information.
21 Q. Let us look at the next document. It doesn't have a date, so
22 maybe you can tell us when it was drafted. So it's document P3048. It's
23 an attack order. In the upper right-hand corner, it says "South," in
24 inverted commas.
25 Tell us, General Beneta, did you know this document before?
1 A. Yes, I know this document. This is an order which was written
2 once the decision had been taken, and it was drafted by the operations
3 officers of the staff which I headed.
4 Q. General, can you give us accurate information about the date when
5 this document was produced?
6 A. It was on the 10th or the 11th of July, 1993.
7 Q. Thank you, General Beneta.
8 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Your Honours, this concludes my
9 examination-in-chief. Thank you very much.
10 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, I have a follow-up
11 question of a technical nature, based on the last document.
12 Operational Group 1 is going to be reinforced by HVO units or
13 assisted by the HVO units which are mentioned. In this context, the
14 command is exercised by the commander of the Croatian Army, and in that
15 case, are the HVO units re-subordinated to the command of the
16 Croatian Army?
17 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, Mr. Dzanko commanded
18 this battle. Technically, he was an HV officer, but I believe that he
19 was assigned to this task the same way I was; namely, that somebody had
20 asked him to come and help out.
21 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Let me take another textbook
22 example. Let's assume that the HVO in a particular area needs the
23 support of the Croatian Army. The HVO commander then asks the
24 Croatian Army to be provided with some men, perhaps even an entire unit.
25 In that particular case, who in the field will exercise operational
1 command over the unit of the Croatian Army that would have been made
2 available, seconded? Who in the field has authority?
3 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, if HV members came to
4 help out, that means that somebody from the HVO was in command.
5 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] So you are saying that it is
6 someone from the HVO who would be in command. This is what you're saying
7 between the lines, if we take this textbook example.
8 We shall now have a break and resume after the break with other
9 Defence counsel. I have further questions. Perhaps other Defence teams
10 would like to get ready. Normally speaking, we have a break at 10.30,
11 but there's no set rule. The Bench decides it's in the interests of
12 justice and for the proceedings.
13 Ms. Alaburic.
14 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I thank you,
15 Judge Antonetti, for these questions. And if you allow, I'll just ask
16 one question, a follow-up question. Perhaps I should have put it,
17 myself, earlier.
18 Q. Assuming, General Beneta, that Mate Boban, as the Supreme
19 Commander of the HVO, decided whether or not the operation would be
20 launched, what does that mean with regard to who the superior officer of
21 Luka Dzanko, the commander of the operation, was?
22 A. In that case, he would be subordinate to Mr. Boban.
23 Q. Thank you, General.
24 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honours.
25 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Your answer is interesting.
1 But to illustrate what you've just said, I would like to state another
3 You remember what happened in Kuwait when Iraq invaded Kuwait,
4 and I'm sure you remember that the US Army had come to support Kuwait in
5 that particular instance. Let's imagine, as a follow-up to
6 Ms. Alaburic's question, that the commander of the US Army is there in
7 Kuwait City. The commander of the Kuwaiti Army is also there. According
8 to this situation, who would be in command of the military operations?
9 Would it be the Kuwaiti commander or would it be the US commander?
10 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] If the American Army came to help
11 out, then the Kuwaiti commander is in charge. I don't want to go into
12 what really happened, but the Kuwaiti commander should have commanded.
13 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] That's why you said that,
14 normally speaking, it was Mate Boban who was in command?
15 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I said as much also because I knew
16 the situation as it was down there at the time.
17 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] A question of a technical
18 nature. When you were in the field, yesterday we saw a map, we saw where
19 you were positioned, beyond Dubrovnik. What I would like to know is
20 this: When you find yourself in such a situation, with your command in
21 Zagreb, were you in permanent contact through radio communication, telex,
22 faxes, with them or were there problems with the line of communication?
23 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, as a brigade commander
24 at the time, I was subordinate to the commander of the south theatre of
25 operations, and I had communication with them, with occasional breakdowns
1 that occurred after moving, especially moving the command post, because
2 the infrastructure was very bad and we had not enough radios, and part of
3 the radios could not operate because of the hilly and mountainous
5 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. So you are telling
6 us that you were in communication with the command of the southern front,
7 but you were not in direct communication with Zagreb?
8 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Correct.
9 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Another question. In such
10 situations that are very complex, militarily-wise, notably when an Army X
11 is going to support Army Y, in order to avoid problem of collateral
12 damage between Army X and Army Y, who by definition are friendly armies,
13 should there be joint commands set up, or at least very sophisticated and
14 high-performance communication system, to make sure that there is no
15 friendly-fire problem?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] That problem occurs more on the
17 ground than on command level, and it's resolved by issuing specific tasks
18 to the troops on the left and right flanks and points of coordination in
19 terms of task, time, and space. The commands may be in various modes of
20 cooperation, but it is much more important to ensure proper cooperation
21 on the ground.
22 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Last question. You had command
23 of a brigade, so between you and a unit on the ground, a small unit on
24 the ground which is carrying out a pre-planned operation, could you tell
25 us whether you were supposed to be in permanent contact with this unit so
1 that you get feedback -- immediate feedback on successes that it has on
2 the ground, that -- problems that it encounters on the ground, and so on?
3 There's supposed to be permanent contact with the unit, this unit
4 deployed on the ground, and yourself, as brigade commander?
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, you probably mean a
6 unit that is not an organic part of my brigade. In that case, it is
7 highly desirable to answer, yes, that spares a lot of problems to the
8 commander in charge of the operation. Life in war is much more complex
9 than that. Sometimes you don't have enough devices, especially at that
10 stage of the war. Sometimes you lose communication. Sometimes the
11 devices that you have are not compatible with those that they have, and
12 that created huge problems for liaison between units.
13 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. Thank you for your
14 answer, and I have one last question.
15 You told us earlier that at one point in time, you had some
16 casualties in one of your operations, killed and wounded troops. So when
17 a brigade commander has casualties, is this commander supposed to ask his
18 subordinate officers for a report on the circumstances that led to these
19 troops being killed or wounded? Is this normal military conduct?
20 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] This should be an integral part of
21 the report, how losses occurred. I must confess that those reports did
22 not give much detail on whether a soldier died from a bullet, or from a
23 shell or shrapnel, or in a car accident because a shell exploded close to
24 the car, but the reports described the general military situation in
25 which losses occurred.
1 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] When the enemy has casualties,
2 do you also ask your own troops for a report to know how these enemy
3 troops were killed? Is that done or not?
4 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] It was the same as with own losses.
5 A description of the situation is given and the number of dead, without
6 detailed explanation of how, except if the commander in charge of the
7 unit has noticed something that one of his men had done something that
8 runs counter to regulation or to international law.
9 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. Let me ask my
10 fellow Judges whether they want to continue for 20 minutes or whether we
11 should have the break right now. No, obviously we're going to continue
12 until 10.30.
13 I will now ask the other Defence teams to see what they want to
14 do with the hour and 30 minutes that they have.
16 MS. TOMANOVIC: [Interpretation] Good morning to everyone in the
17 courtroom and around. The Prlic Defence has no questions for this
18 witness. Thank you.
19 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] D2, Ms. Nozica.
20 MS. NOZICA: [Interpretation] Good morning, Your Honour. Good
21 morning to everyone.
22 For the sake of our internal agreement, I must say that D2 team
23 is the first in order to examine this witness. We have no questions.
24 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well.
25 What about 3D?
1 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] Good, Your Honour. The 3D team does
2 have questions. Specifically, General Praljak has military questions for
3 the witness. He has prepared a large map that will be posted on the big
4 board. Unfortunately, we did not have time overnight to photocopy it, so
5 we would kindly ask your approval to prepare it for tomorrow.
6 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Ms. Pinter, how long does
7 General Praljak need, how many minutes?
8 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] According to our schedule, each
9 Defence team -- sorry, the Defence teams have an hour and a half, thus
10 each Defence has 17 minutes. But since our colleague Suzana has no
11 questions, we reckon that we would finish within half an hour.
12 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Thirty minutes. Very well.
13 General Praljak, your counsel said you had 30 minutes.
14 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] I'm sorry, Your Honours. May I ask
15 the usher to distribute this.
16 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General Praljak, to make sure
17 we don't run into the same problems as last week, please keep an eye on
18 the clock. You have been given 30 minutes. You shouldn't run over,
19 because when you exceed the time allotted, we have problems.
20 The second piece of advice. Please go to the crux of the matter,
21 and if you have any time left, go to marginal issues. Don't do it the
22 other way around. If you first deal with the marginal issues, you have
23 no time left for the core issues. So please focus. And if you have any
24 time left, then you can also deal with ancillary issues.
25 You have the floor.
1 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] I'm sorry, General.
2 Your Honours, since we did not have time to see each other in the
3 break, I would like to inform that part of the questions from
4 General Praljak refer to yesterday's record, pages 13 and 14 through 16.
5 Those are the topics General Praljak wants to cover.
6 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honours.
7 There seems to be very little generosity towards me, a minute here or a
8 minute there.
9 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] I can't let you say this.
10 Sometimes, you see, in just 15 seconds you can ask a question that sums
11 everything up. You don't always need to spend a whole hour on issues.
12 So don't say that you're not given enough time. You have been allotted
13 30 minutes, and focus on your -- on the right questions and everybody
14 will be happy; you also.
15 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.
16 Cross-examination by Mr. Praljak:
17 Q. [Interpretation] General Beneta --
18 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] While I'm putting my
19 questions, may I just ask this map to be hung?
20 Q. General Beneta, the Judge asked you about the cooperation between
21 the Croatian Army and the HVO. In your first stint in the liberation of
22 Stolac, did you go there as the Croatian Army, a Croatian officer?
23 A. Yes.
24 Q. In that second operation, Operation South, did you ask, be it
25 your zone commander or the commander of the south theatre of operations
1 or someone in Zagreb, whether you could go? Did you go there privately,
2 in other terms, or as a Croatian officer?
3 A. I went there as an officer of the Croatian Army who agreed, of
4 his own free will, to help out in the operation by the HVO.
5 Q. Did you ask Zagreb for permission to leave?
6 A. No.
7 Q. Thank you. Apart from that link you spoke about yesterday, using
8 the map, between the HV and the HVO, do you know of any other case where
9 a unit of the Croatian Army was re-subordinated to the HVO for a
10 particular operation?
11 A. No.
12 Q. Thank you. We have a problem, a common theatre of operations.
13 Was the Yugoslav Army attacking Croatia separately and Bosnia-Herzegovina
14 separately, or was it just invading whatever territory it wanted?
15 A. It was working according to a central plan, regardless of the
16 identity of the former Yugoslav Republic the operation was targeting.
17 Q. Thank you. From where was Vukovar attacked?
18 A. Vukovar was attacked by the forces of the Yugoslav People's Army
19 from areas which are now the Republic of Serbia and from the then
20 occupied territory of the Republic of Croatia.
21 Q. From where was Okucani and Pakrac areas in Western Slavonia
22 attacked, the occupied part of the territory we call Western Slavonia?
23 A. The forces that attacked there had come from areas in what is now
25 Q. To cut a long story short, does it apply also to attacks in Knin,
1 Zadar, Sibenik, Dubrovnik? Look at the map.
2 A. Yes, in all these areas the army came and also received support,
3 once it had come in, from the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
4 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, I'm interrupting
5 because General Praljak is going into details and I'd like to keep a
6 higher view of things. One thing is important, and he put a question to
7 you on this but he didn't go into details.
8 Could you tell us, according to you, whether Serbia had a general
9 plan of attack encompassing Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and so on,
10 or whether Serbia had a specific plan of attack to first attack Croatia,
11 then move on to Bosnia-Herzegovina, or maybe first attack
12 Bosnia-Herzegovina and then Croatia? According to you, what kind of plan
13 of attack did the Serbians have -- the Serbs have? Was it a general plan
14 of attack or was it specific, according to different republics?
15 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, at the strategic
16 level, the Serbs, in conjunction with the leadership of the
17 Yugoslav People's Army, had as their ultimate goal reaching the line
18 that, to their mind, would serve the interest of creating a
19 Greater Serbia. The operational significance of the operations that were
20 meant to implement the strategic idea were executed based on judgements
21 of the situation on the ground. And they are subject to changes, but
22 they are always done with a view -- or, rather, with the ultimate goal in
24 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] You're not directly answering
25 my question, but it was a simple question, according to me. Either they
1 have a general plan of attack or they have a plan which is broken down
2 according to specific republics. This is what I want to know.
3 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I stand by my position
4 that the general plan was in accordance with the ultimate goal, and the
5 individual plans are an outcome of considerations how the ultimate goal
6 can be achieved.
7 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. What you said is
8 very important. I believe everyone understands.
9 So if there is a general plan of attack which, according to you,
10 corresponds to the final goal of the Serbs, which is to achieve a
11 Greater Serbia, then, as far as the theatre of operations is concerned,
12 it's a single theatre of operations, isn't it?
13 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] At the strategic level, it's a
14 single theatre of operations or front.
15 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. Let me repeat what
16 you've said, because I believe it's quite important, and this has to be
17 well recorded on the transcript. You said that according to you, there
18 is a single theatre of operations; is that it?
19 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] For the force that wanted to
20 occupy -- I can't give an exact percentage, but let's say 70 per cent of
21 former Yugoslavia, there was a single plan in place and a single theatre
22 of war. For Croatia, and Slovenia, too, and somewhat later
23 Bosnia-Herzegovina that tried to pull out of it, everybody had their own
24 worries and went about them the way they could. They tried to oppose the
25 idea which had come from one place.
1 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well.
2 General Praljak, you have the floor, but I believe it was
3 important to highlight this issue. Thank you.
4 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.
5 Q. General Beneta, which borders in Croatia should the forces of the
6 Yugoslav People's Army or the Serbian forces have reached? We don't have
7 the map here, but --
8 A. Sorry, General, I can't show you that, but it's the well-known
9 line that they mention in their memoirs and books, I mean texts authored
10 by Serbian authors, and that's the line from Virovitica to Karlobag.
11 Q. Karlovac.
12 A. Yes, Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag.
13 Q. A follow-up question. In accordance with your overall military
14 doctrine, did the attacked party, under the doctrine of the JNA, or NATO,
15 whatever, have the right to oppose the attacking party anywhere and with
16 whatever means, if they are able to do so?
17 A. Yes, and in the process it looks for allies to establish a
18 balance at the confrontation line.
19 Q. Thank you. Please take a look at the map of the south. You can
20 see the date up there. Please read it out.
21 A. Disposition of forces on the 1st of October, 1991.
22 Q. Do you know whether this was really the disposition of forces of
23 the Yugoslav Army, as shown here?
24 A. Yes. This attack almost brought about the fall of Dubrovnik - it
25 was only a matter of time - and it was cut off from the remainder of
2 Q. Do you know that in the blocking defence of Dubrovnik, volunteers
3 from Herzegovina also took part?
4 A. Yes, and that applies also to other units.
5 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] Your Honours, should we
6 have a break now, and then I can use the remaining 15 or 20 minutes?
7 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] It's almost 10.30, so let's
8 break for 20 minutes.
9 --- Recess taken at 10.27 a.m.
10 --- On resuming at 10.53 a.m.
11 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] The court is back in session.
12 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation]
13 Q. General Beneta, you had a look at the map. We can't give it to
14 you now, but would you sign this map as something that reflects the facts
15 at the time, as far as you know?
16 A. Yes. By the way, it was signed by a man whom I trust as much as
17 I trust myself.
18 Q. Who signed it?
19 A. Colonel Milan Perkovic, who analysed these activities when we
20 were analysing what was happening in the area.
21 Q. Thank you. Were you a volunteer in the Croatian Army or were you
22 drafted in accordance with the mobilisation plans?
23 A. I was a volunteer in the Croatian Army.
24 Q. Was General Petkovic drafted or was he a volunteer?
25 A. As far as I know, he was a volunteer.
1 Q. In 1991, almost up until the recognition, what percentage of the
2 Croatian Army was the share of volunteers?
3 A. A huge percentage, almost all of them.
4 Q. Almost all; is that correct?
5 A. Yes, it is.
6 Q. So until the recognition of Croatia, that is, January 1992.
7 Mr. Prlic is pointing something out to me.
8 So when was Croatia recognised by the European Union? Some
9 countries recognised it earlier.
10 A. I believe the recognition was on the 15th of January, 1992, and
11 everybody who had joined the units earlier, even now, has -- enjoy the
12 status of volunteer.
13 Q. Thank you. I would like to hear the following now. After the
14 end of the war, you worked in the Croatian Army, and you still work
15 there. Among other things, you worked on the adjustment or the
16 adaptation of the Croatian Army to NATO standards; is that correct?
17 A. Yes.
18 Q. When I say "adaptation," I mean procedures, and the process of
19 commanding, control, communication, joint activities, and, in a word,
20 hundreds of algorithms that clearly outline what must be done in which
21 situations, who is accountable to who, et cetera; is that correct?
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. General Beneta, although the Croatian Army was already a
24 full-fledged army then, how much time and effort was required for the
25 system of the Croatian Army to be adapted to NATO standards?
1 A. We have worked on that since the end of the war intensively --
2 correction. We started to work on that intensively in 1999, and the work
3 still is not completed.
4 Q. Tell me, what kind of procedures were in place, generally
5 speaking, in the Croatian Army in 1991 which consisted mostly of
6 volunteers? Could they be considered satisfactory, as compared to JNA
7 standards or any other standards, or could we boil them down to the
8 phrase "adapt and defend yourself"?
9 A. It is difficult to speak about accepted procedures in the armed
10 forces. The question was not whether the procedures as known from the
11 JNA at the time would be implemented, or NATO procedures, for that
12 matter. The issue was how many men you have in your unit, men who you
13 can entrust with commanding others, bearing in mind the fact that they
14 had no command experience whatsoever. The first unit at battalion level
15 that I established, established with two officers who had command
16 experience, and that was myself and my deputy, Milan Perkovic, who signed
17 this map. Nobody else had military experience, apart from doing their
18 military service and knew how to fire a rifle.
19 Q. Tell me, was the situation possibly even worse at other places,
20 say in Vukovar, Mitnica, Borovo Naselje, Trpinjska road, et cetera? The
21 people there, were they just guys who gathered and defended themselves?
22 A. As far as I know, I can remember four or five men who had a
23 previous military career and command experience.
24 Q. While fighting is ongoing and when there is no time, is a verbal
25 order as good as a written order?
1 A. Yes.
2 Q. We are coming close to the end. Let's look at document, in this
3 file, P03983.
4 Were you aware, General Beneta, that at a certain period I was
5 commander of the Main Staff of the Croatian Defence Council?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. Were you aware that my deputy was General Petkovic and the Chief
8 of the Main Staff of the HVO was General Tole?
9 A. About Mr. Tole, I cannot confirm, but about Mr. Petkovic, yes.
10 Q. Are you aware of the order in the Main Staff prevailing
11 concerning who has the right to command?
12 A. No.
13 Q. Look at this document, item 2. You see this specifies who would
14 actually, in the circumstances prevailing on the 29th September 1993, and
15 you can see my signature -- no, no, sorry, this is the wrong document. I
16 asked for P05468. That's the next document. I misspoke.
17 A leading group on duty has been determined to deal with all the
18 issues of combat readiness, all urgent issues, commands and directs the
19 immediately subordinate commands, et cetera.
20 Mr. Beneta, you were not really aware of this, but if the
21 situation so requires and you are unable to change the situation, would
22 you adapt the command, rather than stick to your fixed system that would
23 entail losses of men and territory?
24 A. A commander is expected to adjust to the situation, because
25 within the framework of general criteria of command, it is more important
1 to achieve the task, fulfill the mission, rather than stick blindly to
2 one mode or another.
3 Q. Judge Trechsel asked you yesterday what exactly is Herzegovina
4 here. Therefore, I'd ask you, on this map of Bosnia and Herzegovina that
5 you will receive now --
6 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] May I ask the usher to take this map
7 and put it on the ELMO.
8 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation]
9 Q. On this map, General, you will outline roughly Herzegovina, and
10 you will write "Eastern Herzegovina" "Western Herzegovina." And then you
11 will also write "Central Bosnia," and then "Western Bosnia" or
12 "Bosnian Krajina," "Western Bosnia," and "Eastern Bosnia." Let us have
13 the outlines of various regions for the benefit of the Judges. Take this
14 pen, please.
15 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] Place this part,
16 Herzegovina, on the ELMO so we can see it.
17 Q. What is to the right of Mostar -- to the east or to the right?
18 A. Eastern Herzegovina [marks].
19 Q. Put "1."
20 A. [Marks]
21 Q. What is to the west of Neretva River?
22 A. To the west of the Neretva River [marks] is Western Herzegovina.
23 Q. Would you include Tomislavgrad and Livno?
24 A. I'll draw the line there, because they had not agreed whether
25 they are or not a part [marks].
1 Q. Put "2" there, and mark Eastern Bosnia.
2 A. [Marks]. Shall I put "3"?
3 Q. Yes. Now mark Bosnian Posavina. You don't need to be so
5 A. [Marks]
6 Q. Now mark Western Bosnia or Bosnia Krajina.
7 A. [Marks]
8 Q. And the central part can be called, altogether, Central Bosnia;
9 is that it?
10 A. Yes, more or less.
11 Q. Now please sign this map and put the date.
12 A. [Marks]
13 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Registrar, can we have an IC
14 number for the map, please.
15 THE REGISTRAR: Your Honour, the document just marked by the
16 witness shall be given Exhibit IC1100. Thank you, Your Honours.
17 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] It's not signed.
18 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation]
19 Q. Please sign it.
20 A. [Marks]
21 THE ACCUSED PRALJAK: [Interpretation] Your Honours,
22 Judge Antonetti, may I ask you that tomorrow, when we get a photocopy of
23 this map, enable the witness, please, because I couldn't do it this
24 morning, to get an IC number for this map, for the photocopied map.
25 I think I finished in less than 30 minutes.
1 Q. General Beneta, thank you for your answers.
2 MR. STEWART: Excuse me, Your Honour. I'm puzzled again.
3 The map previously that the witness referred to and signed - do
4 you remember, he said it had been signed by somebody that he trusted as
5 much as himself - according to what I understood from Judge Trechsel the
6 other day, because he didn't put any marking on it, it doesn't get an
7 IC number. But I'm still extremely puzzled, Your Honour, because if it
8 doesn't, then what happens to it? Because he's referred to it in
9 evidence, it is in some sense incorporated in evidence, but it's sort of
10 lost in space, and I just remain absolutely puzzled as to how the system,
11 as described to me from the Bench the other day, with respect, makes any
12 sense at all.
13 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Ms. Pinter, the map, would you
14 be asking for an IC number for this map or not?
15 MS. PINTER: [Interpretation] Your Honour, before the beginning of
16 the cross-examination by General Praljak, we explained that it had been
17 made in haste overnight and we had no time to photocopy. Now, if we get
18 an IC number now, we would lose the map. We asked for time to photocopy
19 it and give an IC number to the photocopy, because the witness spoke
20 about it in his evidence, he knows the author very well, as he said, and
21 we have all the elements needed for the identification, and the
22 reliability of data indicated on the map has been established. However,
23 since it's the only map the general has, we cannot let go of it, but we
24 could tomorrow. We are sending it to be photocopied today.
25 While I'm on my feet, Your Honours, the numbers 4 has not been --
1 have not been recorded. When General Praljak examined about the
2 positions, that is, locations of various regions such as Western and
3 Eastern Herzegovina, the witness answered these questions, but the record
4 does not show the numbers given by the witness to denote the various
5 parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Could we just add this to the record?
6 Number 3 was placed. Bosnian Posavina should have been marked. The
7 witness marked it. Bosnia -- in fact, Bosnian Krajina was marked, as
8 well as Central Bosnia, but these numbers are not on the record.
9 And now, for the record, I just want to confirm that these were
10 regions referred to by the witness, which means number 4 should be
11 Bosnian Posavina. Am I right? You can no longer remember. The evidence
12 follows the numbers. 4 was Bosnian Posavina, 5 was Western Bosnia, and
13 then Central Bosnia was number 6.
14 MR. STEWART: Your Honour, could I make it clear, Your Honour?
15 I completely agree with what Ms. Pinter says. As far as the
16 timing of the marking of IC numbers is concerned, clearly that's a
17 sensible, practical solution. My concern had been that the rigorous
18 application of the system, as described to me the other day, would have
19 meant that this document got no IC number ever. As long as it's going to
20 get one, the problem is solved. And clearly, because I'm quite sure that
21 the document wouldn't be disgorged once it had disappeared into the moor
22 of the Court with an IC number, it's sensible that it should be retained
23 for the time being.
24 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Mr. Stewart, according to what
25 I've understood, the map we have, well, is a map that General Praljak
1 only obtained during the night, so your colleague was unable to photocopy
2 this map for all and every one. If we are able to give an IC number to
3 this map already, then the Registrar can take the map, because he's
4 custodian of this document. So to avoid that happening, your colleague
5 suggests that tomorrow -- because in the afternoon she will make the
6 photocopies, and then officially she will ask for the map to be given an
7 IC number tomorrow. This is what I have understood, anyway.
8 MR. STEWART: Well, Your Honour, I'm happy to say, as a matter of
9 fact, that is, with respect, exactly what I had understood, Your Honour,
10 when I was on my feet a few minutes ago. That was my understanding, and
11 I'm most grateful to Your Honour for confirming that the understanding I
12 had had was, in fact, correct. Thank you.
13 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General Beneta, a moment ago --
14 well, I have a follow-up question for you, because General Praljak put a
15 question to you, and you said that the Croatian Army, the HV, was made up
16 of volunteers, and at the time there were no conscripts. This is what I
17 have understood, that the Croatian Army at the time, in the years 1992,
18 1993, and following years, was made up solely of volunteers. Is that how
19 we should understand what you have told us?
20 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, yes, up to the
21 international recognition of the Republic of Croatia, anyone who had
22 spent 100 days in the battle-field up to the 15th of January, 1992, is
23 still considered today as having the status of volunteer, which means
24 that to qualify for that status, a person had to join the armed forces up
25 to the end of September, thus earning 100 days before the recognition.
1 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Today, the Croatian Army,
2 unless I am mistaken, is made up of 17.000 troops, 50.000 reservists, and
3 1 million able-bodied men, 850.000 of which would be fit to be
4 combatants. I believe that your budget amounts to in excess of
5 2 million -- 2 per cent of the GDP, given that your budget decreases over
6 the years. I don't know why that is the case, but your defence budget
7 decreases over the years. On the 15th of January, 1992, you say that
8 there was a change then, and the Croatian Army, if I understand
9 correctly, was also made up of conscripts. Is that right?
10 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Correct.
11 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] And you say that at the time,
12 those people that had spent 100 days on the front-line retained their
13 status as volunteers?
14 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Men who had spent 100 days in the
15 battle-field up to the 15th of January have the status of volunteer, in
16 terms of certain benefits they now enjoy from Croatia. With the
17 establishment of units, they became part of these units, and their status
18 has no relation to their service in units.
19 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] You have told us that you were
20 in charge of streamlining the Croatian Army with NATO standards. You,
21 better than anyone else, you are aware of the fact that this status as a
22 volunteer is not something which exists in Western armies in the 1990s
23 because conscription was the rule, that drafting was the rule, so which
24 is -- we find it difficult to understand what a volunteer actually means.
25 Over the last four years, we've been discussing this term, and we're
1 beginning to put our finger on what it actually means to have the status
2 of a volunteer.
3 If I understand correctly, a volunteer was someone who decided,
4 of his own free will, to join the army, without anyone ordering him to do
5 so, and that is how you became a volunteer to go to the Republic of
6 Bosnia and Herzegovina. Am I mistaken when I say this or not?
7 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] The time we are discussing is a
8 time when a state was being established, an army too, and a war is
9 starting. Things that are normal in countries with a well-established
10 political system are in good order. We were in the situation to
11 simultaneously establish an army starting to fight in a war and
12 establishing a state. If you want me to draw a parallel, I must say that
13 that's extremely difficult to do.
14 I believe that General Praljak is closest to the truth when he
15 says that those of us who were in commanding positions, and I believe the
16 same applies to high-ranking political officials, were endeavouring to do
17 our very best, but the likelihood of making mistakes in such
18 circumstances is much greater. Mistakes couldn't always be avoided, but
19 we always tried to do the best that circumstances would allow us.
20 JUDGE TRECHSEL: I would like to ask another question of you,
21 Mr. Beneta.
22 Before the break this morning, in answering a question of
23 Mr. Praljak, you have said that you did not ask Zagreb for permission to
24 go as a volunteer to the HVO. Did you ask anyone else?
25 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Mr. Dzanko, who asked me to go
1 there at the time, was a deputy commander of the Army District of Split.
2 I considered it unnecessary to ask anybody else, because he had asked me
3 to go. If somebody of a lower rank had asked me, I would have reported
4 to the commander of the Army District.
5 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Thank you. That appears -- that appears very
6 plausible. You said that Mr. Dzanko asked you to go there. Do you
7 confirm this?
8 No, Ms. Alaburic.
9 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Your Honour, this is a
10 misinterpretation. I can tell you what my colleague Ms. Lustig, who
11 studied in New York, said to me. It was interpreted: "He asked me to
12 go" --
13 JUDGE TRECHSEL: I'm sorry, Ms. Alaburic, this seems to me rather
14 abusive. I asked a question, I got an answer, and now you want to tell
15 me what someone from New York told you?
16 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] No, Your Honour. I just want to
17 say that a correct interpretation would be "who asked me if I wanted to
18 go" rather than "who asked me to go." This is a nuance in the English
19 language. I don't pretend that I have such a master of English. That's
20 why I mentioned my co-worker who is a near-native speaker of English. So
21 I would ask the interpretation to be adjusted accordingly because it
22 correctly reflects what the witness said.
23 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Anyway, Mr. Beneta, it was not your own
24 initiative, it was not initially your idea to go to the HVO, but it was
25 suggested to you. You were asked whether you would be prepared to go,
1 whether you would -- yes, whether you would be prepared to go; that is
2 correct, isn't it?
3 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, Mr. Dzanko asked me whether I
4 wanted to go with him.
5 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Thank you.
6 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, if you had said, No,
7 to him, I'm not interested, I don't wish to go, what would have happened
9 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Nothing would have happened. I
10 would have continued doing the work I had done until that time, and he
11 would have looked for somebody else.
12 I apologise, but I don't have the English transcript on my left
13 screen, so I cannot see whether the transcript is up to date.
14 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. The usher will
15 check this out. The usher --
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Okay.
17 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] [Previous translation
18 continues] -- many things.
19 I'm putting this question to you for the following reason. A few
20 months ago, we saw a document which stated that soldiers from the
21 Croatian Army had to go to the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and
22 they didn't want to go. Then these men were prosecuted. How can you
23 explain this?
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, this is news to me.
25 My experience tells otherwise. If you wish, I can give you concrete
2 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, if I understand
3 correctly, when one is a volunteer, one can decide where one is to be
4 assigned; but if one is a conscript, then one doesn't have a choice. Is
5 that how the Croatian Army functioned?
6 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] With regard to going to
7 Bosnia-Herzegovina and participating in operations there, the
8 Croatian Army participated in an organised fashion in a part of territory
9 along the border, which made sense in the context of defending Croatian
10 territory against the aggression. I spoke about that in detail
11 yesterday, when I spoke about my unit. About all other instances of
12 going there, as far as I know, persons who wanted to went there. And I
13 will be frank and say also that it suited the Croatian authorities to
14 strengthen the defence across the border, where the Croatian authorities
15 had no direct influence. That is why, when I was asked whether I wanted
16 to assist in organising the defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I
17 accepted. Likewise, groups of people were sometimes allowed to go there,
18 and they went there in groups.
19 There were situations in which I had to prevent people, Croats
20 born in Croatia, from accompanying their fellow soldiers born in
21 Bosnia-Herzegovina who went there to protect their homes and parents,
22 because out of a feeling of solidarity with them, they wanted to go
23 there, too, and help them, but I, as a commander, had my duties connected
24 with the defence of Croatia.
25 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General Beneta, there's
1 something I don't understand, and I'm sure you will shed some light on
3 When you were answering to the question from Judge Trechsel, you
4 said that General Dzanko had asked you whether you were willing to go to
5 the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and you answered, Yes. We spent the
6 entire morning trying to understand - at least that's what I think was
7 being elicited - that there was a single theatre of war, because you had
8 one enemy, one single enemy, the Serbian forces. I understood that the
9 Republic of Croatia was in jeopardy. In such a case, why did he ask you
10 whether you were willing to go or not? All he had to do was tell you,
11 Mr. Beneta, as of Monday you'll be in Split, and then you will head for
12 the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is an order. Please execute
13 the order.
14 Why are you asked whether you were willing to go? I really don't
15 understand this.
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] There are two crucial moments which
17 I, at this moment, consider important, one being that Croatia had entered
18 a clause in its constitution that it would engage in armed combat to
19 defend its territory, Croatia as a successive state of the former
20 Yugoslavia. Only now that we are NATO members will it be allowed to
21 engage in armed combat outside the territory of Croatia. Another reason
22 is that the international community, and I still think that it didn't
23 understand the situation completely, prevented Croatia from doing what
24 you, too, Your Honours, considered logical; namely, to defeat the enemy
25 with allies as soon as possible and thus eliminate the dangers or the
1 threats to a normal development.
2 The policy of the state was such that it didn't allow commanders
3 to take their units to the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, although
4 there was such demands. I must admit if I had been in a position to
5 decide freely while I was brigade commander, I would have been glad to go
6 to an area in jeopardy, and that would have been welcomed by my fighters,
7 because the Serbian forces had occupied over 70 per cent of
8 Bosnia-Herzegovina, but we couldn't do so. That is why there was a
9 political understanding for volunteers to go there, but units were not
10 allowed to go.
11 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] I believe I understood. You're
12 telling us that for political reasons, the Republic of Croatia,
13 Mr. Tudjman actually, did not want the Croatian Army to officially be in
14 the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, so the solution found was to ask
15 soldiers of the HV to volunteer to go to the Republic of
17 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes. I cannot say that the
18 Croatian authorities demanded that soldiers go to Bosnia-Herzegovina, but
19 if there should be such demands, it was possible. I said that we were
20 even caught by surprise that 30 to 40 per cent of my fighters all of a
21 sudden wanted to leave my units and go to their homes, where their
22 parents were, and under the pressure of such a situation, we reported up
23 the hierarchy because otherwise there was the threat of them leaving on
24 their own.
25 The situation remained unchanged throughout the war, until the
1 signing of the agreement and the operations we conducted together with
2 the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I can now suppose that the war would
3 have been much shorter if the agreement had been signed earlier, because
4 it would have provided a political framework in which we would have
5 pushed back the enemy together.
6 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well.
7 Let me ask the Coric Defence whether it has any questions.
8 MS. TOMASEGOVIC TOMIC: [Interpretation] Good morning,
9 Your Honours.
10 We have no questions, but we wish to thank the witness for his
12 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] And, finally, the
13 Pusic Defence. Mr. Ibrisimovic, do you have any questions?
14 MR. IBRISIMOVIC: [Interpretation] Thank you, Your Honour.
15 We have no questions.
16 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well, thank you.
17 I'll now give the floor to Mr. Laws, and I thank him for the
18 binder. This was extremely well organised, as usual.
19 MR. LAWS: Good morning, Mr. President, to each of Your Honours,
20 and to everyone in and around the courtroom.
21 Thank you, Mr. President.
22 Cross-examination by Mr. Laws:
23 Q. Good morning to you, General Beneta.
24 Can I start, please, by asking you a question about timing, the
25 timing of your two deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina. All right?
1 You've told us that you were there in 1992 and that you were also
2 there in 1993, all right, and I want to look at both of --
3 A. That is correct.
4 Q. Thank you. Sorry. I want to look at both of those deployments
5 separately, if I may.
6 In 1992, we know that you were there in June for the liberation
7 of Stolac; is that correct?
8 A. No. I was there earlier as Chief of Staff of the 4th Guard
9 Brigade in the area of Hutovo, which is also in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but
10 closer to the border.
11 Q. Yes, it's my fault. You were definitely there in June for the
12 liberation of Stolac. What I wanted to ask you is: How long before
13 Stolac was liberated had you arrived? And then, second question: How
14 long after the liberation did you stay on the territory of
15 Bosnia-Herzegovina? Let's take them one at a time.
16 You were in the area of Hutovo with the 4th Guard Brigade before
17 June of 1992. Can you give us a month?
18 A. Right after New Year's Day 1992, the 4th Guard Brigade
19 strengthened the positions along the border with 1 Battalion, but on BiH
20 territory. The task was to defend the Neretva Valley. After that, we
21 successively moved battalions from the Zadar theatre of war, and in
22 February we established a command post at the Southern Front.
23 Q. Just pause there. Thank you, General. I asked you really a very
24 short question. Can you give us a month for when you arrived? Is it
25 January of 1992 or is it another month in 1992 that you arrived on your
1 first deployment?
2 A. You mean me, personally, or my first units?
3 Q. I mean specifically you, Colonel Beneta, as you then were.
4 A. In the first half of January 1992.
5 Q. Thank you. And how long did you, Colonel Beneta, stay on the
6 territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina after Stolac was liberated from the
8 A. I stayed until August 1992.
9 Q. Thank you. In 1993, we know that you were again on the territory
10 of Bosnia-Herzegovina. You were there in July for Operation Jug. Again,
11 you personally, how long before that operation did you arrive in the
12 territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina?
13 A. I arrived seven days prior to the beginning of the operation.
14 Q. And for how long did you stay after the end of the operation?
15 A. I left 'round about the 10th of August of the same year.
16 Q. All right. Now, in that period from January of 1992 until you
17 left after Operation Jug in August of 1993, did you have any other
18 deployments within the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, other than the
19 ones you've told us about?
20 A. No, nothing outside the deployments with the 4th Brigade and the
21 116th Brigade and Operation South.
22 Q. Thank you very much. I'm going to ask you a number of questions
23 about the presence of HV troops in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
24 First of all, this: You remained an HV soldier throughout, did you not?
25 A. Yes.
1 Q. Thank you. I want to look at your two deployments quite
2 separately, although we're going to move between the two years 1992 and
3 1993 in this first piece of my cross-examination of you. But just
4 summarising it, in 1992 you were sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina to fight
5 against the Serbs, as they posed a threat to Croatia; is that right?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. In 1993, you were being sent, in Operation Jug, to fight against
8 the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina; is that also right?
9 A. Yes.
10 Q. And you knew that before you left to take part in the combat in
11 Bosnia; is that right?
12 A. No.
13 Q. Well, that's one of the things I wanted to get clear with you.
14 You were telling us about how you volunteered or you were asked to go by
15 Brigadier Dzanko, and we'll look at that in more detail later on, but
16 you're saying that you didn't know it involved fighting the Army of the
17 Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina?
18 A. That is correct.
19 Q. Who did you think you were going to fight?
20 A. I expected that an operation against the Serbian forces would be
22 Q. Are you telling us, let me get it absolutely clear,
23 General Beneta, that in 1993, when the 116th Brigade was mobilised and
24 sent across the border, you all thought you were going to fight the Serbs
1 A. I apologise, but could you please explain what you mean by your
2 question, because it seems strange to me. You put to me that I went with
3 the 116th Brigade to fight the Serbs. I went there as an individual from
4 the Staff of the Army District. I -- it was in March 1993 that I handed
5 over my duty as a brigade commander.
6 Q. I was asking you about the second of the two deployments that you
7 were engaged in, in 1993, which was given the operational name
8 "Operation Jug," and I'm just getting clear with you whether you mean to
9 say to us that your expectation was that Operation Jug would involve
10 combat with the Serbs. That appears to be the sense of what you have
11 said, but I want to get it clear in case there's any room for error.
12 A. Yes, that is what I said, and I stand by my words.
13 Q. We are going to come back to that a little bit later on. But at
14 what point did you realise that you had been misinformed and that you
15 were, in fact, not fighting the Serbs, but fighting the Army of the
16 Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina?
17 A. I realised that when I was on the command reconnaissance mission
18 with Mr. Dzanko and when he explained what our task would be and showed
19 us on the ground.
20 Q. So not until you were in Bosnia, itself?
21 A. Correct.
22 Q. Well, you'll have to help us. Does the same go, as far as you're
23 aware, for the rest of the men deployed in Operation Jug, that they
24 thought until they got to Bosnia they were going for a fight against the
1 A. I don't know when they received their respective tasks, when it
2 was announced to them in advance, but the forces, once they had taken
3 their positions, were assigned their respective tasks.
4 Q. Well, the men under your command, what was the position? You
5 were talking together about going into Bosnia with a view to fighting the
7 Let me --
8 MR. LAWS: I think General Praljak wants to attract the attention
9 of the Court to leave briefly.
10 [The accused Praljak leaves the courtroom]
11 MR. LAWS:
12 Q. The men under your command would be unlikely to have a superior
13 knowledge of your role of combat than you; wouldn't that be fair?
14 A. I cannot answer this with a yes or a no, but I'll describe a
15 situation that makes the answer clear.
16 We were assigned certain forces when we formed the ad hoc command
17 of Operations Group 1. We were given certain forces of the HVO to
18 command, and these forces of the HVO had already been in that area, in
19 that territory, on the lines reached thus far. These forces and their
20 own commanders had been there, following the situation day to day. I
21 came with another colleague down there, where we were met by Mr. Dzanko,
22 who explained the situation and gave us an outline of the operation,
23 saying that the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina was preparing to attack
24 and to reach the Neretva River Valley, inside Croatian territory at
25 Ploce. I must say, at that moment, I was surprised. However, the events
1 north of Mostar, I think Bijelo Polje especially, on the 14th and the
2 15th, before the beginning of our operation, demonstrated to me -- those
3 were very serious indicia to me that the judgement on the basis of which
4 we were engaged was well founded on facts.
5 [The accused Praljak entered court]
6 MR. LAWS:
7 Q. And so for that reason, do we take it you decided that you would
8 remain a volunteer in this expedition, even though you were now fighting
9 a quite different enemy to the one that you had set off to fight?
10 A. Yes, and I must say I was taken aback by that situation because I
11 had previously established a joint Muslim-Croat defence in the area of
13 Q. And we're going to talk about that as well, but we can probably
14 all well understand why you may be taken aback, having been under the
15 misapprehension that you were fighting a common enemy, the Serbs, to find
16 out you are fighting the troops who are the government forces of the
17 country that you are in. Did your men share your sense of being taken
19 A. Can you explain the term "my men"?
20 Q. The men under your command in Operation Jug. You know what I
21 mean by "your men."
22 A. You obviously misunderstand something. At that time, I was Chief
23 of Staff. At that time, I was Chief of Staff, not in command of men.
24 But if you're talking about units that were supposed to carry out the
25 operation, I have to say again those units had been in those positions in
1 that territory for months. They had been engaged in combat every day,
2 facing the opposing forces of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
3 Q. And so far as you're aware, did any of the volunteers, as you
4 call them, change their mind at any stage during the deployment in
5 Operation Jug?
6 A. I'm not aware of any such information. I cannot say either yes
7 or no.
8 Q. All right. Well, we are going to come back to Operation Jug in a
9 little while, but I want to start, please, by looking at this notion of
10 volunteers which you told us something about, not volunteers in the
11 Croatian Army, but volunteers from the Croatian Army going to fight in
12 Bosnia-Herzegovina. All right? And I'm going to jump back to 1992, when
13 another HV unit was deployed, April of 1992, a few months after your
14 first deployment in January of that year. It was a brigade of the
15 National Guards Corps, or ZNG. I wonder if you had been aware of that
16 deployment. They were going to Citluk.
17 Does that ring any bells with you, General Beneta?
18 A. No, no, I was not aware of that.
19 Q. If you'll look, please, with me at the first document in your
20 binder that you've just been given, P00158. Do you have that document --
21 A. Yes.
22 Q. -- dated the 12th of April, 1992? It's an order to the commander
23 of the 4th Brigade of the National Guard Corps, and it starts:
24 "Based on the situation that has arisen in Herceg-Bosna and in
25 connection with the order of General Janko Bobetko," and that apparently
1 is underlined by hand, and then some orders are given.
2 Can you see that the idea is to prevent the aggressor's
3 penetration in the Citluk area, and in Citluk, under paragraph 2, the
4 troops are to make contact with a Mr. Perak, the defence commander of
5 that part of Herzegovina? Can you see that?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. Would you look at the final paragraph with me, please.
8 Confusingly, there are two number 6s, but it's the last paragraph:
9 "All HV/Croatian Army insignia are to be removed from the
10 fighters and present yourselves as volunteer defenders of your homeland."
11 Can you see that?
12 A. Yes.
13 Q. When you were deployed in January of 1992, did you receive any
14 similar instructions?
15 A. No, we wore all the insignia and emblems of the Croatian Army.
16 Q. And what about presenting yourselves as volunteer defenders of
17 the homeland; did you receive any instructions of that kind in 1992?
18 A. Are you asking if I received instructions to take down the
19 insignia of the Croatian Army?
20 Q. No, I'm asking if you received instructions to present yourselves
21 as volunteer defenders of the homeland.
22 A. No. I was there with the 4th Guards Brigade, its Chief of Staff
23 and later as commander of the 116th Brigade, with all the insignia and
24 emblems of the Croatian Army, and I was a member of the Croatian Army.
25 My men at the time were not volunteers. They went to defend the Croatian
1 territory in the border belt and to repel any danger to the Republic of
3 Q. Very well. Let's turn on, please, in the binder to
4 document P05 --
5 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, in paragraph 6 --
6 there are two paragraphs. I mean the last paragraph. It says "defenders
7 of your homeland." I believe that in your language, it's "domovine,"
8 the word. What does this actually mean? Does this mean that one is
9 defending the homeland of the Republic of Croatia or the homeland of a
10 Croatian in Herceg-Bosna? How is one to interpret the sentence?
11 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, to be quite frank, I
12 remembered this document only when it was shown to me. This document
13 arrived at the command of the brigade in this form, and we sent that
14 battalion, with all its insignia, and there it executed tasks in
15 cooperation with the rest of the brigade because the line in that area,
16 the defence line, was under threat. They were there on the same
17 assignment, on the same principles, and the same rules of employment as
18 the rest of the brigade. This was written by someone at the command in
19 Split who did not have all the elements of our employment there.
20 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Must I infer from this that the
21 word "homeland" means to defend the Republic of Croatia?
22 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, that's how I understand it.
23 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well.
24 MR. LAWS:
25 Q. The next document, General, is P05880. If it helps you to find
1 it, if you go to the very back of that binder, it's the fifth document
2 in, or thereabouts.
3 Do you have that document? We're moving forward in time to
4 October of 1993, and this is a document from Brigadier Ivan Kapular, a
5 gentleman who we're going to see writing various letters in the course of
6 today. It starts by saying that it's an order on transport and that it's
7 based on the arisen need to make a rotation of the troops on the
8 Southern Front. And "Southern Front" is an expression that we hear from
9 time to time in this courtroom. I want to ask you this about it, if I
10 may: This was, was it not, an expression used to cover the deployment of
11 Croatian troops in the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993?
12 A. No. I understand this "Southern Front" to be a synonym of the
13 southern theatre of war, which was the official term for that area,
14 encompassing both forces on both sides of the confrontation line, the
15 border belt on the side of the Croatia and the border belt on the side of
16 Bosnia and Herzegovina. This shows, once again, that different terms
17 were in use because concepts were not quite clear in that time, the
18 doctrine was not quite clear, the rules were not quite clear, which is
19 very hard to explain to people who come from countries with 100-year-old
20 tradition. This was all being done under circumstances of a parallel
21 creation of a state and an army, while waging a war.
22 Q. The Southern Front is referred to in this order, as we've just
23 seen. Would you look, please, at paragraph 2, and just read paragraph 2
24 to yourself. It deals with the transport of a part of the
25 Engineering Company who, on the day after this order, the
1 15th of October, are going to be transported in a motor vehicle, ending
2 their journey in Prozor, journeying from Split to Tomislavgrad and then
3 on to Prozor. And when they arrive at Prozor, they're to report to
4 Colonel Siljeg. Can you see that?
5 A. Yes.
6 Q. Prozor does not border Southern Croatia, does it?
7 A. No.
8 Q. And it's more than the 25 kilometres -- 20 to 25 kilometres that
9 you were speaking about yesterday, is it not, from the Croatian border?
10 A. Yes.
11 Q. What I'm going to suggest to you is that this is an order about
12 rotating the troops on the Southern Front. It relates to Prozor, and
13 that tells us that Prozor is being regarded by the author of this
14 document, Mr. Kapular, as part of the Southern Front. Do you agree with
15 that, General, or not?
16 A. Mr. Kapular writes this about a part of the Southern Front, and I
17 would suggest he's talking about a part of the artillery unit, not the
18 artillery company but a part of the unit, consisting of only 14 soldiers,
19 which is part of something I have already explained; namely, that
20 volunteers were being sent there, people who wanted to go.
21 Q. Very well. Let's turn on, please, to look at the document that
22 I think Judge Antonetti might have been referring to a few moments ago.
23 It's document --
24 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General Beneta, the Prosecutor
25 quite rightly mentioned the fact that Prozor is mentioned in the document
1 in paragraph 2. It seems that the transport of 14 soldiers is being
2 organised. Fourteen soldiers is fourteen soldiers. These are going to
3 get into a van, and that trip goes through Vinkovci, Djakovo, and the end
4 of the journey is in Prozor, so we may well wonder what these men are
5 doing in Prozor, because the Military Post 38132 is far removed from
6 Prozor -- 3132 Military Post. What kind of explanation can you give us
7 for this? Wouldn't it have been easier to tell them to hitchhike to
8 Prozor or to find other means of getting there? Why deploy the logistics
9 of the Croatian Army just to bring 14 soldiers to Prozor?
10 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I think this fits
11 into the same explanation that I've given before; in other words, the
12 same explanation applies, and what I'm going to say is consistent with
13 what I know.
14 I had the same situation in the beginning of 1992, when
15 30 per cent of my men wanted, at all costs, to go there and help defend
16 the homes of their parents in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was in a bind,
17 and I talked to my own deputy, what to do. We decided ultimately to let
18 them go there, but as an organised group, so that they really have a
19 chance of success, rather than acting on their own, individually. That's
20 why I can assume that organised transport was here organised for people
21 who wanted to go, because the situation in that area was very hard for
22 people. They wanted to go. They asked for permission, and their command
23 approved it and tried to support them with organised transport.
24 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General Beneta, I would like to
25 suggest two hypotheses to you, and I don't have a solution.
1 In the first case, the Croatian Army felt that its field of
2 competence went as far as Prozor, so this order is being established to
3 make sure that the transport of 14 soldiers is organised. That is one
4 way of reading this.
5 Now, in the second alternative, Colonel Siljeg, who's mentioned
6 in the document, is asking for reinforcements and is asking to have more
7 troops. He is being granted these men, and the departure from Vinkovci
8 of 14 soldiers is being organised with all their equipment. As is
9 mentioned in the document, they're entitled to come with their equipment
10 and weapons.
11 So there are two ways of looking at this, and I don't know which
12 is the right one. What do you have to say to this? Maybe there's
13 another -- still another way of looking at this. What do you have to say
14 to this?
15 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I would say that these were men who
16 wanted to go there, who were called by someone down there privately to
17 help them in a difficult situation, and when the volunteers addressed
18 their commanders, their units allowed them to go there and gave them some
19 support. I don't think you can read an official support for this
20 operation in Prozor on the part of the Croatian Army into this.
21 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] So in your view, there were
22 volunteers, and, therefore, they made sure that these men could get to
23 Prozor; is that actually what you're telling us?
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes.
25 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, I don't want you to be
1 uneasy, but I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable. It's very easy
2 for a Judge to do, but I don't intend to do this.
3 I have noticed, if you look at paragraph 6, one is asking for
4 regular reports to be provided before the departure, once the men have
5 reached their destination, before they actually go to the field - I
6 assume that's a battle-field - and after they return from the
7 battle-field, the field. So clearly, these 14 soldiers are going there
8 for a given operation, and then they're going to come back. What do you
9 think of this? So they would be volunteering for a particular operation?
10 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I believe, Your Honour, that by
11 that time, in some parts of units where a lot of the men hailed from
12 Herzegovina, there were cases when they swapped, agreeing to go there.
13 Their families, too, were in the territory of Croatia. They wanted to
14 spend some time in Croatia and some time in the operation. I believe the
15 troops were rotated to enable them to maintain contact with their
16 families, while still enabling them to provide the support they had been
17 asked to.
18 In most units, especially units that had in the meantime become
19 professional, such as the ZNG, the Home Guards Corps, and who did not
20 wish to lose that status because it provided a certain security, men
21 would report and volunteer to go where assistance was needed, especially
22 in areas where they hailed from, where their home towns and home villages
23 were. And the first time I was faced with it, I was very taken aback by
24 such a request, but then we tried to channel these people, organise
25 transport, and make it work somehow.
1 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Is it customary for a general,
2 in this particular case Ivan Kapular, to prepare an order for 14 unknown
3 soldiers when this could have been settled at a much lower level? Do you
4 have an explanation for this?
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Considering that a logistical unit
6 with vehicles has the possibility to organise the passage of this group
7 through Croatia, was established at the level of brigade, an engineering
8 unit does not have the wherewithal and the organisation to take care of
9 it at its own level. The logistics of the brigade have to be engaged.
10 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well.
11 Mr. Laws.
12 JUDGE TRECHSEL: If I may just add one question regarding this
14 It is also forwarded or delivered to the assistant commander for
15 political affairs or propaganda. Do you have an explanation for this?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I think that among others at the
17 command, this man, too, was supposed to monitor the movement of troops
18 from the brigade, because one of his duties is to inform families in case
19 of death. So he had to know where they were going.
20 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Thank you.
21 MR. LAWS: We're going to see something along those lines in just
22 a moment.
23 Q. But before we leave this document, General, I'm going to put to
24 you what I suggest to you is just the straightforward, simple truth about
25 it. The Croatian Army is sending 14 specialist engineers to help the HVO
1 on the front-line. That's what this is about, and you can see it as well
2 as everyone else, can't you?
3 A. I confirm that completely, but I must say that as I understand
4 the situation, these 14 people wanted to go there of their own free will
5 and they weren't made to go there by anyone.
6 Q. All right. Was the 4th Motorised Brigade deployed in
7 Bosnia-Herzegovina in the second half of 1993?
8 A. I cannot say for certain. I hadn't been a member of that brigade
9 for a year, so I cannot be certain about it. If I can -- if I see a
10 document, I may be able to say so.
11 Q. All right. You can look, then, please, with us at P05355. So
12 that's seven documents from the back of the binder, if that helps.
13 Do you have that document, General? By all means, take a moment
14 to read it.
15 A. Yes.
16 Q. You see that it's a very short document from the Ministry of
17 Defence of the Republic of Croatia, dated the 24th of September of 1993,
18 and a combat group is being sent, consisting of the 4th Motor ised
19 Battalion, it says here, but I think in the Croatian you'll agree with me
20 it says "4 MTB"; is that right?
21 A. I have the English version here. It says "Motorised Battalion."
22 Q. And just over the page, you have the Croatian version as well;
24 A. Yes, it's the 4th Motorised Battalion.
25 Q. Thank you. And that unit is being sent to the Prozor Forward
1 Command Post, or so it would seem; is that right?
2 A. Yes.
3 Q. Would you look, please, at P11033.
4 THE ACCUSED PETKOVIC: [Interpretation] Your Honours, if I may, I
5 have a technical intervention.
6 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General Petkovic.
7 THE ACCUSED PETKOVIC: [Interpretation] Just a technical
9 The witness should look at the stamp, because mention was made of
10 the 4th Brigade, so it is important to know whether or not the
11 4th Brigade was at Vinkovci.
12 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, I must say that this is very
13 strange, indeed. I cannot establish a connection between the stamp and
14 the document, itself.
15 MR. LAWS:
16 Q. Well, help us with the stamp. What does the stamp say to you?
17 A. Oh, I understood you to speak about the forces of the
18 4th Brigade, but it is obvious here that it is a combat group of the
19 4th Battalion --
20 Q. Thank you.
21 A. -- reinforced. So I stress once more it is not a battalion, it's
22 a combat group. And with regards to the issue of volunteers, then we
23 have returned to the same question.
24 Q. Yes. Well, this started by me asking you whether the
25 4th Motorised Brigade were deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and you said
1 you were not going -- not able to answer that without seeing a document.
2 This document doesn't help you; is that what you're saying?
3 A. This is not the 4th Brigade mentioned in this document, it's the
4 4th Battalion, or, rather, it is a group of the 4th Battalion which does
5 not belong to the 4th Brigade. This is Military Post 3132, which is
6 obviously some other unit and not the 4th Guards Brigade.
7 Q. Thank you very much. Would you turn on now, please, to
8 document P11 --
9 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Excuse me, everyone. I have not quite
10 understood this.
11 The English text speaks of a combat group consisting of the
12 4th Motorised Battalion; battalion, not brigade. Of course, you have
13 rightly corrected that earlier. But if one reads it here, it refers to
14 the entire battalion, and not something less. Now, you seem to say that
15 what is meant is only something less, namely, a small part of the
16 battalion, and I would like you to explain what is the basis for this, if
17 I have understood you correctly.
18 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Yes, Your Honour, that's exactly
19 what I wanted to point out as the difference -- oh, sorry, as the reason.
20 This should have read the 4th -- in case a battalion was meant, it should
21 have read the battalion is sent, reinforced with so and so many soldiers,
22 but -- and that isn't what it reads. It reads that a combat group of the
23 battalion was sent.
24 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, how many men are there
25 in a battalion?
1 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] A battalion, according to its
2 establishment, has 500 to 650 men.
3 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Between 500 and 650, and in
4 this text one is asking for 350?
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] This is about a total of
6 350 soldiers, including reinforcements from other units; that is, part of
7 this battalion plus the reinforcements, and in total 350 men.
8 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Where do you find the reinforcement? If you
9 could show in the text. "Reinforced with," yes, I'm sorry, thank you.
10 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] One moment, General.
11 Maybe we have a translation issue here. The best would be for
12 you to read it, and read these two sentences. These two sentences are
13 now very long, and then I believe this would be much clearer. Please
14 read these two sentences out aloud slowly so that the interpreters can
15 tell us exactly what it says, rather than spending something like
16 ten minutes on this.
17 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I'm reading:
18 "During the night between the 23rd and the 24th of September,
19 1993, a combat group from the ranks of the 4th Motorised Battalion, plus
20 reinforcement numbering 350 soldiers, was sent," or deployed.
21 THE INTERPRETER: Correction, "sent."
22 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] In the French translation that
23 we got directly from the Croatian, this is what we heard: A combat
24 group, made up of the 4th Motorised Battalion, was sent with
25 reinforcements -- the reinforcement of 350 soldiers. This is what I
1 heard in French. There might be a mistake, but at least this is what we
2 heard in French. This is what I heard in French in my head set. The
3 4th Motorised Battalion was sent with a reinforcement of 350 soldiers,
4 which is not exactly the same thing.
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, the explanation that
6 you stated, what it should read and the way it was interpreted to me,
7 that is the way it should have been phrased if the meaning were that this
8 was about a whole battalion; but the original text, if interpreted
9 correctly, the stress is on the combat group, which means that this is
10 not a unit of the establishment, but an ad hoc group.
11 JUDGE TRECHSEL: I'm sorry. As we are at it, let's try to get it
13 What you have read now was translated as "a combat group from the
14 ranks of," not consisting of, "from the ranks of," so one can suppose
15 that it is less than the full battalion. Is that what the text says?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] The text, this sentence being what
17 it is, points toward a group composed of members of the 4th Battalion,
18 whose number we don't know, plus more personnel, and they altogether
19 total 350 soldiers. Mathematically, this doesn't equal the strength of a
20 battalion which is reinforced, so a combat group is mentioned to make
21 clear that this is not an establishment unit. To me, it is clear beyond
22 any doubt that this is a part of the 4th Battalion and some additional
23 personnel which, to me, equals 70 per cent, at the most, of the strength
24 of a battalion.
25 JUDGE TRECHSEL: I still am a bit puzzled, because as you have
1 translated it, it would be a part of a battalion, plus -- plus, and
2 that's also in the original, 350, so the total must be more than 350.
3 Otherwise, I really need linguistic support here. Something plus
4 something else is more than the something else.
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, the most important
6 piece of information communicated between the sender and the recipient of
7 this message, the strength of the group being sent, how many people being
8 sent, this most certainly is the total number of soldiers. Otherwise,
9 from the military point of view, and from any other point of view, I
10 believe, too, this document would be very problematic. So the only
11 number here is the total number of men.
12 JUDGE TRECHSEL: I doubt. A motorised battalion has vehicles, at
13 least. If this were a complete order, then something should be said
14 about the amount of vehicles. So I see this is very laconic, but I think
15 we should not insist. It is at least 350 people, perhaps more. I think
16 that's quite enough for us. Thank you.
17 MR. LAWS: Whichever way you look at it, a lot of volunteers.
18 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I apologise. If I
19 may correct a mistake in the transcript, and this made Judge Trechsel
20 take the floor.
21 Page 67, lines 2 and 3, the witness says "plus reinforcements
22 totalling 350 soldiers." That figure of 350 should mean the
23 reinforcement and not the total number.
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] I apologise, but I think that we
25 are adding to the confusion.
1 To me, the total number of men sent is 350, and I'm certain that
2 this was the case.
3 MS. ALABURIC: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I apologise. It
4 seems that I misunderstood the witness. I apologise to you too, sir.
5 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Let's break for 20 minutes.
6 Our legal officer is telling me that we are running late, so we need a
7 20-minute break and then we'll resume.
8 --- Recess taken at 12.37 p.m.
9 --- On resuming at 12.58 p.m.
10 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Mr. Laws, you have the floor.
11 MR. LAWS: Thank you, Mr. President.
12 Q. General, if you would turn, please, to P11033. It's three
13 documents in from the back of the binder, the big binder there. In fact,
14 it's three in, P11033.
15 This is a document which appears to be written by Ivan Kapular.
16 We can see that in page 4 of the English and also page 4 of the B/C/S.
17 And he was the gentleman who was sending the 14 engineers up to Prozor in
18 P05880, which we spent some time on earlier. Do you recall that?
19 A. I apologise. I was reading the document. I didn't hear the
20 question. Do I remember what?
21 Q. The gentleman who signed this is Ivan Kapular, who was also the
22 gentleman who was sending the minibus of 14 engineers up to help
23 Colonel Siljeg either as volunteers or as the deployment by the Croatian
24 Army. You remember that; yeah?
25 A. [No verbal response]
1 Q. I think -- I'm told you nodded. Sorry, I --
2 A. Yes, yes.
3 Q. You need to say something or else the transcript doesn't pick it
4 up. All right.
5 Now, this document you've been reading sets out the names of
6 26 guardsmen from the 4th Motorised Brigade, and let's be clear about
7 that. And it goes on to describe, and it's page 2 for you and page 2 for
8 us, and it goes on to describe, under the heading "Statement of
9 Reasons" -- sorry, bear responsibility for their refusal to obey the
10 order on the marching of the unit to the Southern Front on the 2nd of
11 October, 1993, and the 11th of November of 1993, as members of the 4th
12 Motorised Brigade. It says they violated military discipline. We learn
13 a few lines further down that they're to have their salaries reduced by
14 20 per cent over three months.
15 Can you see that, General?
16 A. Yes.
17 Q. Now, the Southern Front, I'm going to suggest to you, here is
18 being used to describe the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and these men
19 are being punished by having a fifth of their income deducted from their
20 wage packet because they won't go there. That's what I'm going to
21 suggest to you is the sense of this document.
22 What do you think about that?
23 A. Yes, correct.
24 Q. I don't want to take an unfair point. My question included that
25 it's being -- the "Southern Front" is being used to describe the
1 territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and these men are being punished for not
2 going to Bosnia-Herzegovina. That's what I'm putting to you. That's
3 quite different to your evidence so far. Did you mean to agree with me
4 or did you not follow the question?
5 A. I thought we had defined the notion of "Southern Front," and my
6 affirmative answer does not anticipate in any way that these men were to
7 be sent exclusively to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Southern Front is a part
8 of the theatre of war in the south of Croatia, and it includes parts of
9 Croatia and parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
10 Q. Were you aware, in the latter part of 1993, of a major problem of
11 Croatian soldiers not being willing to go and fight in Croatia? In other
12 words, if you're right that the Southern Front includes a part of
13 Croatian territory, were you aware that there was a problem of, on this
14 occasion, 26 guardsmen from the 4th Motorised Brigade not wanting to
15 fight in their own country?
16 A. I don't know of this specific case. I was not familiar with it
17 then, but I know of other cases. I, myself, also applied the
18 disciplinary measures, when I was commander, in cases of refusal to obey
20 Q. All right. Well, so that we're clear, I'm suggesting to you, if
21 we read this document, we come to the conclusion these were people who
22 won't go to Bosnia-Herzegovina and they're being fined. And in support
23 of that, I'm going to ask you to look, please, at page 4 in the B/C/S,
24 it's page 3 in the English, at the foot of the page. On your page 4,
25 General, it's the second paragraph down, and in English it's the final
1 paragraph of page 3:
2 "One of the basic duties of the guardsmen is to perform all
3 tasks, without questioning them, scrupulously, independently,
4 efficaciously, and professionally, as well as to be ready for personal
5 sacrifices and professional risks, so I consider that in the concrete
6 case there was no place for subjective attitude towards the order that
7 was the subject matter of the disciplinary violations committed by the
8 guardsmen members of the 4th Motorised Brigade."
9 That's a long way of saying a soldier doesn't get to agree or
10 disagree with an order because he's got a certain view about something;
11 he has to obey it. That's what that paragraph is saying, isn't is it?
12 A. Correct.
13 Q. These are people who don't want to go and fight in Bosnia, aren't
15 A. I cannot find any argument to corroborate what you're putting to
16 me. They refused to go to the Southern Front. The Southern Front is an
17 area from the delta of the Neretva River, in the upper left-hand corner
18 of the map and a bit above, down to this point here [indicates],
19 including territories on both sides of the border about which we spoke at
20 length yesterday.
21 To me, this is an order of a brigade commander by which he
22 punishes a group of soldiers who refuse to go to the Southern Front. I
23 cannot confirm anything but that here. I looked at the whole document,
24 possibly a bit superficially, but I haven't found any language saying
25 that they were being punished because they refused to go to
1 Bosnia-Herzegovina, any part of that country, so I cannot corroborate
2 what you are putting to me.
3 Q. So you're saying that these Croatian soldiers may have some
4 subjective opposition to going to fight in their own country? That would
5 be the competing explanation, that they don't want to go and fight in
6 Croatia, despite the fact that they are guardsmen in the Croatian Army?
7 A. This borders on conjectures, but that would be a way of
8 interpreting what I have read here.
9 Q. Let's stay with what you call conjecture, then, in respect of the
10 Southern Front and volunteers, and look at another document by the same
11 gentleman, Ivan Kapular, at P03667.
12 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, earlier I asked a
13 question while mentioning a document, and this was the document I was
14 actually referring to. On November 27, 1993, General Kapular takes some
15 disciplinary sanctions against a number of soldiers. Obviously, this is
16 an event, quite an important event. He's not sanctioning just a couple
17 of soldiers, but 26; even more, actually, because others will have a
18 20 per cent cut in their pay. So this reminded me of the revolt of the
19 sailors aboard the Bounty in 1789. This is quite an event. Any
20 reasonable trier of fact could start to wonder why there were such a
21 large amount of people. We could have obtained an answer if the
22 Prosecutor had obtained the entire procedure regarding this event.
23 Unfortunately, we only have this order, so we have now to assume a number
24 of hypotheses.
25 The first hypothesis is the following: The fighting in Prozor
1 was such that you were risking your life going there. And we see in this
2 document that they actually refused twice to go there; not once, but
3 twice, on October 2nd and on November 11th. So why did they refuse to
4 go? It's not mentioned in the document. They're afraid for their own
5 life? Maybe so. I don't know.
6 Another hypothesis is possible. The Southern Front might have
7 gone all the way up to Prozor, and the Croatian soldiers whose names are
8 mentioned here believe that this was not their fight, that they had no
9 business in BiH and that they really didn't see why they would go fight
10 over there.
11 One thing surprises me. It's the sanction, that they seem
12 extremely weak. Militarily-wise, this seems to be a rebellion during
13 war. Sometimes, in some countries, this meant execution at dawn. So as
14 far as you're concerned, maybe you didn't have to run into this kind of
15 situation, but do you believe that this sanction is in line with the
16 problem, with the offence, or do you think that there were more
17 complicated parameters which were such that people thought it would be
18 best just to turn a blind eye to this rebellion?
19 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, I conclude from your
20 question that you -- it is your position that these people were punished
21 because they refused to go to the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina. If I
22 develop this hypothesis further, then they have a strong reason to
23 refuse, and that reason is the policy of the Republic of Croatia. If
24 that is the case, but for which I don't find confirmation of the
25 document, then they would have had a reason to appeal and, in
1 second-instance proceedings, to ask for this decision of the commander to
2 be annulled, and then measures would be taken against the commander,
3 because if they -- if that was really the case, then the soldiers would
4 have had support in the policy of the Republic of Croatia.
5 It is my position, however, that these sanctions were imposed on
6 soldiers who refused to go to fight at the Southern Front, where forces
7 were engaged on both sides of the border. One of the possibilities is
8 that this -- the reason for refusal was the unwillingness to go and fight
9 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in that case they would have had good
10 grounds to appeal this decision, and those grounds were the -- was the
11 policy of the Republic of Croatia, which would have prevented them from
12 going there. Only volunteers could go there and fight.
13 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, I listened to your
14 words very carefully. I always listen to witnesses very carefully when
15 they answer my questions.
16 You are saying, and this is not contradicted by the document, you
17 are saying that the sanctions were imposed because the soldiers refused
18 to obey an order at the level of the Southern Front, and nowhere in this
19 document is there mention that they refused to go and fight in the
20 Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I looked very carefully at this
21 document, and I see no mention of this. So you are saying that they did
22 refuse to obey an order, but we don't know, from this document, whether
23 the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina was involved. And in this document,
24 there's no mention that they didn't want to go to Prozor, to the Republic
25 of Bosnia-Herzegovina. All it says is they refused to obey the order --
1 the marching order to the Southern Front.
2 Mr. Laws, you have the floor now.
3 MR. LAWS:
4 Q. And the reason that it doesn't say explicitly that you've refused
5 to go to Bosnia-Herzegovina is because "Southern Front" is the term that
6 is used as the code for that in documents of this kind, isn't it?
7 A. Your Honours, I'm expected to answer about something -- I mean,
8 there's really no reason for me to go into this debate. I've already
9 stated my opinion on this document, and all these further questions seem
10 to be intended to elicit from me a statement about something on which I
11 didn't -- don't even have a position.
12 JUDGE TRECHSEL: Mr. Beneta, I can understand your feeling and
13 your displeasure. That is often observed with witnesses under
14 cross-examination. However, the duty of the witness is to submit to
15 that, even if it is not quite to his liking, and it is for the trial
16 prosecutor, as the case may be, upon objection for the Chamber, to decide
17 what questions are put. And I regret that I have to recall the duty that
18 you have as a witness to answer all the questions truthfully, shortly.
19 Even you can think whatever you want to think about them, but you should
20 not comment on every question, and you cannot -- you cannot make the
21 programme of the interrogation. So please continue to cooperate, as you
22 have done so far.
23 Mr. Laws.
24 MR. LAWS: Thank you, Your Honour.
25 Q. We're trying to see if there is any evidence to put in the
1 balance against your evidence that volunteers from Croatia were seeking
2 permission to leave and go and fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina or whether, in
3 fact, the position is quite different. That's what we're doing. It's
4 going to take us a little more time, General.
5 Turn with me, please, to document P03667. It's approximately the
6 middle of your binder. Do you have it?
7 A. Yes, yes.
8 Q. I don't want to read it all. It's again a document by
9 Ivan Kapular, who was the person administering punishment to the
10 26 guardsmen who didn't want to go to the Southern Front, just in the
11 last document we saw. Can you see that? From Military Post 3132, which
12 takes us back, if we want to look to it, to the document that we were
13 dealing with before the break about where the 4th Motorised
14 Battalion/Brigade were.
15 Would you look with me, please, at the second paragraph under the
16 heading -- big heading 2, "State of Morale and Combat Readiness." For
17 you, it's the bottom of page 1. It's two lines up from the bottom of
18 page 1, and it starts: "The latest events at the Southern Front ..."
19 All right, can you see that?
20 A. Yes.
21 Q. This document is dated the 23rd of July of 1993, and is relating
22 the latest events at the Southern Front, which includes casualties of the
23 5th Guards Brigade; all right?
24 A. Yes.
25 Q. What brigade were you in in July of 1993?
1 A. I was not in the brigade. I was then in the Army District of
2 Split, and Mr. Dzanko assigned me around that date to execute the
3 Operation South.
4 Q. Were the 5th Guards Brigade involved in Operation South?
5 A. To answer that question, I have to add to a previous answer.
6 Members of the 5th Guards Brigade also took part in this operation. The
7 5th Guards Brigade, itself, did not.
8 Q. What Mr. Kapular is writing about here is the latest events at
9 the Southern Front, the 23rd of July. It's a week after Operation Jug or
10 "South," isn't it?
11 A. Yes.
12 Q. It says that:
13 "The casualties ... at the Southern Front suffered by the
14 5th Guards Brigade have had a more negative impact on the civilian sector
15 than on the brigade members, itself. For example, there was a
16 spontaneous gathering of parents in Nova Gradiska, in front of the
17 municipal building, where they demanded the return of their children and
18 information on their whereabouts."
19 Let's just pause there.
20 Following Operation South, there was a degree of unease in
21 Croatia, putting it mildly, wasn't there?
22 A. I could not agree that there was unease in Croatia, or
23 disturbances, nothing major.
24 Q. Nothing major. Let's carry on:
25 "I would like to mention here that everybody in Nova Gradiska
1 knows where the Southern Front is, so that particularly negative
2 political connotations occurred in connection with that."
3 And he promises a detailed report, and we'll look at another
4 report in just a moment.
5 Now, General, I know you don't like me going on about this, but
6 please just help us. What's being spoken of here is a deployment of
7 Croatian troops in Operation South who incurred casualties, and it was
8 unpopular at home. That's it, isn't it?
9 A. On the basis of this document, one could say that a group of
10 civilians protested over the losses in the 5th Guards Brigade in
11 capturing the --
12 Q. One of the things that you said -- one of the things that you
13 have said at least four times so far is that the volunteers from the
14 Croatian Army were, very many of them, keen to volunteer to go to help
15 the villages where their parents were in Bosnia-Herzegovina. You've said
16 that -- you've given that at least four times as a reason why Croatian
17 soldiers were keen to join the fight in Bosnia.
18 This document shows that the parents of the soldiers who are
19 dying are not in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They are in -- they are protesting
20 in Nova Gradiska, where they're saying, We know where the Southern Front
21 is, and they're not happy about it. That's the position, isn't it,
23 A. I believe so, because these parents were protesting because some
24 of the troops had lost their lives in the border belt of about
25 20 kilometres on the side of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
1 Q. Not fighting to protect their parents, but dying in a different
2 country to their parents, much to their parents' sorrow; that's the
3 position here, isn't it?
4 A. Obviously, there were cases like that, too, but that does not
5 detract from what I said earlier on this subject, that there were people
6 who were natives of that area; and, second, I said that some Croatian
7 soldiers, whose parents were also born in Croatia, nevertheless wanted to
8 go there and help out their fellows who hailed from that territory.
9 Q. Let's have a look at another document by Mr. Kapular on the same
11 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, this report was
12 prepared by the officer in charge of political affairs; that is,
13 Lieutenant Vladimir Kokeza. Since he is the officer in charge of
14 political affairs, this document should be read with a political view in
16 If you look at paragraph 3, "Information and Information
17 Activity," it says that:
18 "The interests of guardsmen would be due to the political
19 situation in the Republic of Croatia ..."
20 So he doesn't say that it has something to do with the Republic
21 of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but has to do with the political situation in the
22 Republic of Croatia. And, more specifically, due to "the opening of the
23 bridge -- of the Maslenica Bridge." What is this bridge?
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, as I've said earlier,
25 I went to this assignment south of Mostar from another duty that I
1 occupied in the Army District of Split, which was to protect the pontoon
2 bridge. In fact, at that time in the first half of 1993, the north and
3 south of Croatia were linked by one road alone, and that was the Adriatic
4 motorway and the section from Senj towards Zagreb, and at that point the
5 sea goes deep into mainland through the Velebit Canal with two bays. We
6 call it two bays, but actually it's the length of about 20 kilometres.
7 And the end of that -- the edge of that bay was held by the Croatian --
8 by the Serb side, sorry. The only communication possible between north
9 and south was by sea, and the ferries had limited capacity, very limited.
10 The Army District decided, with the approval of Zagreb, or vice versa,
11 Zagreb decided with the agreement of the Army District, I don't know, but
12 obviously President Tudjman agreed, was to build the pontoon bridge.
13 That pontoon bridge was built of several freight barges. I wouldn't know
14 the name in English, but it was a difficult way of ensuring traffic, but
15 the only way possible.
16 At that time, it was very hard to keep this bridge working,
17 because the Serb side was shelling it fiercely. Whoever was assigned to
18 wage war in that area was taking up the most dangerous assignment in
19 Croatia at the time. There were also parts of units -- or, rather,
20 individuals from various units in Slavonia who would very reluctantly
21 accept this assignment.
22 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Very well. As far as the
23 bridge is concerned, this is now very clear. The danger came from the
24 Serbs who were shooting. But the document then continues and talks about
25 the development of the Muslim offensive in Central Bosnia.
1 As far as you know, how many "volunteers," in inverted commas,
2 Croatian volunteers, had been killed in Central Bosnia, which led to the
3 fact that the parents in Croatia were worried? Were the casualty figures
4 high or not?
5 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, the term
6 "Central Bosnia" is a misnomer obviously used by someone who is not very
7 familiar with the matter. This is about the death of members of the
8 5th Guards Brigade who were involved in the Operation South, south of
9 Mostar, because the date also indicates -- I think there is a reference
10 in the text, or maybe not, to the Operation South, but I believe that the
11 date of this report tells us that these were the deaths that occurred
12 during those days. It's not the Central Bosnia area; it was the border
13 area of Croatia, 20 kilometres from the border.
14 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] As far as you know, how many
15 soldiers from the 5th Guards Brigade were actually killed?
16 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honours, I believe 12 men died
17 the same day and 1 succumbed to his injuries later at the hospital, so
19 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation]And the fact that 13 people, of
20 course, a figure is important, but this was a time of conflict, suffices
21 in itself to trigger the reaction of the families of those volunteers in
22 Croatia, which therefore poses a major political problem, or are there
23 other reasons behind this?
24 THE WITNESS: [Interpretation] Your Honour, judging by this
25 document, I can conclude that people were concerned about the whereabouts
1 of their children or relatives, because it was a problem to pull out the
2 bodies after the failed operation, and that dragged on for days.
3 I have experience from other battle-fields, and I know about this
4 problem and the reactions of people. Apart from the death, itself, the
5 greatest cause of discontent among the families is the failure to receive
6 back the body.
7 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] Mr. Laws, we have a few minutes
8 left before the end of today's hearing.
9 MR. LAWS: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
10 Q. We'll stay, then, with Nova Gradiska, and we'll turn to page --
11 sorry, document P04979, and it's another document prepared by
12 Mr. Kapular. We're going to start reading at the foot of page 1 in the
13 English, and it's also -- it's the last paragraph of page 1 in the B/C/S
14 that you're going to need.
15 The document is dated the 12th of September of 1993, and if you'd
16 read, please, the last six lines on page 1, General, and then over to the
17 top of page 2, again six lines. It's about another gathering of
18 civilians on the 11th of September of 1993.
19 Have you had a chance to read that, General?
20 A. Yes.
21 Q. A disturbance breaks out. The military police try to reason with
22 the parents and the relatives of the dead soldiers, and he encounters --
23 they encounter some opposition. The civilians want someone from the
24 superior command to explain to them why their children, sons, and
25 husbands have to get killed for Herzegovina, while Bosnians and
1 Herzegovinians are walking around Croatia.
2 When Mr. Kapular said in the last document that, Everyone here
3 knows where the Southern Front is, he was saying, You're not fooling
4 anyone with this "Southern Front" code, wasn't he?
5 A. Despite my best efforts to follow and answer your questions, I
6 really don't know how to answer this question. I don't know on the basis
7 of what I'm supposed to say yes or no.
8 Q. Very well. The passage that we've just looked at in this
9 document includes a record of parents asking for somebody from the
10 superior command to explain to them why their children, sons, and their
11 husbands have to get killed for Herzegovina, while Bosnians and
12 Herzegovinians are walking around Croatia. You've been telling us in the
13 last two days how these people are all volunteers, and the short answer
14 to these bereaved parents would have been, Your sons and husbands
15 volunteered, it's war. That's not what this document is recording, is
17 A. Yes, this is just a description of events.
18 Q. It's not just a description of events. It's recording anger that
19 needs the military police to intervene because their children are being
20 sent somewhere, to Bosnia-Herzegovina, to die, not because they're
21 volunteering. That's the difference. And, General, I appreciate that
22 you don't like this topic, but that's the straightforward answer, isn't
23 it? Do you want to give it to us now, Yes, volunteers is also a code,
24 like "Southern Front"?
25 A. I did not give or accept a yes-or-no answer that "Southern Front"
1 is the same as "Bosnia-Herzegovina," nor did I say that volunteers were,
2 indeed, people who were sent there. I have arguments to support what I'm
3 saying, that the Southern Front was part of this theatre of war of
4 Croatia, and there were documents and orders of the Republic of Croatia
5 that military units may not be sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have
6 knowledge about the policies, I know about the situation on the ground,
7 and nothing gives me reason to say that it was done any differently.
8 The fact that civilians, the families of fighting men, sometimes
9 protest the use of the army, that happened in other cases. Sometimes
10 they protested when Slavonians were sent to Dalmatia. They said, Let
11 Dalmatians fight for Dalmatia. Whenever soldiers were sent far from
12 their hometown, the families would say, Let the natives of that area
13 fight. And despite the good response to mobilisation call-up, we also
14 had individuals who never wanted to be drafted and go and fight. In a
15 democracy, it is everyone's right to express their agreement or
16 disagreement with anything.
17 I don't know how Mr. Kapular handled things, but I, whenever I
18 had to field questions why we are going to the other side of the border
19 to fight, I would stand in front of men and explain why, and they would
20 accept. If I made a mistake, I am prepared to join these six accused and
21 become the seventh one, but I am really insulted by this challenge of my
22 professional conduct.
23 JUDGE ANTONETTI: [Interpretation] General, nobody's calling into
24 question your professional experience, and the Prosecutor is putting
25 questions to you and suggesting a number of alternatives to you, and you
1 can just answer the question. This is what is called due process. We
2 will have ample opportunity to review this question again tomorrow. I'm
3 writing this on a Post-It to make sure that we have this question
5 The Prosecutor still has two hours tomorrow, because he's only
6 had one hour so far.
7 I wish you all a pleasant afternoon, and we shall meet again
9 [The witness stands down]
10 --- Whereupon the hearing adjourned at 1.46 p.m.,
11 to be reconvened on Wednesday, the 11th day of
12 November, 2009, at 9.00 a.m.