THE HAGUE | 22.04.2010.

NOT A WORD ABOUT GRUBORI

Former member of the special police Bozo Krajina exercised his right not to answer any questions about the murder of elderly Serbs in the village of Grubori. Krajina contends that truthful answers might compromise his position in a Croatian court, where Krajina is charged with covering up that crime. The Trial Chamber has now called all its witnesses but the trial of generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac is not over yet. The prosecution was granted request to reopen its case

Based on the choice of witnesses called by the Trial Chamber, most of the unresolved issues after the prosecution and defense cases at the trial of generals Gotovina, Cermak and Markac concern the murder of five elderly persons in the village of Grubori on 25 August 1995. The Trial Chamber called seven witnesses: four of them were direct or indirect participants in the mop-up operation in the Plavno Valley when the incident occurred. One of the Trial Chamber’s witnesses gave evidence in closed session.

Bozo Krajina, leader of one of the four groups of the Croatian special police that carried out the mop-up operation in the Plavno Valley, gave evidence today. Together with Zeljko Sacic, deputy of the special police commander Mladen Markac, Krajina is charged with covering up the crime in the village of Grubori by the Croatian judiciary. At the beginning of his evidence, the presiding judge instructed Krajina he was not obliged to provide answers that might adversely influence his defense in a Croatian court. As additional precaution, Krajina was appointed defense counsel, Suzana Tomanovic, who was granted permission to counsel her client during the entire examination.

It became clear that the witness would exercise his right to refrain from responding to questions that might incriminate him when he was asked the first specific question about the events in the village of Grubori. The witness first refused to answer Judge Orie what his special police group found on 25 August 1995 in Grubori. The witness then proceeded to refuse to answer any questions related to the drafting, or ‘fabrication’ of reports after the mop-up operation. Several of Krajina’s fellow fighters from the special police had already testified about it.

Despite their right to do so, the judges decided not to order Krajina to reply to those questions. The presiding judge only concluded that the witness ‘fears that the correct and true answer may incriminate him’.

In the end, Bozo Krajina testified only about the incident in the village of Ramljani where houses were torched on 26 August 1995. In his replies to the judges, the prosecution and Markac’s defense, Krajina said that after the action he saw smoke rising from the direction of the village but didn’t know who set the houses on fire. He did confirm what several previous witnesses had claimed, that General Markac stopped the special police on their way back from the village of Ramljani; he was angry and told them that they ‘shouldn’t burn down the houses’ adding that they ‘should all be arrested’ and ‘recalled to Zagreb’. In the end, the special police were not arrested but they were recalled to Zagreb. The witness recounted that one of the group leaders, Frano Drlje, came out of the ranks and stood before the special police commander. Drlje told Markac, ‘I did it and there’s nothing you can do about it’. Markac obviously either couldn’t do or didn’t want to do anything as Drlje was neither disciplined nor processed for torching the houses in the village of Ramljani.

The last witness of the Trial Chamber thus completed his evidence at the trial of the Croatian generals. The trial is not yet over: the parties were told today that the judges had granted leave to the prosecution to reopen its case. The motion had been filed under seal. The prosecution indicated it could not call its first witnesses before 17 May 2010 due to logistic problems, but the testimony might be postponed even further because Ivan Cermak’s defense announced it would appeal the Trial Chamber’s decision.