Cablegate: Ademi-Norac Trial Transferred From Icty Continues,

DE RUEHVB #1074/01 3471326
R 131326Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ademi-Norac Trial Transferred from ICTY Continues,
Additional Witnesses Appear

Ref: (A) Zagreb 1000 (B) Zagreb 853

Sensitive But Unclassified. Please Handle Accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment. The trial of Croatian Army Generals
Rahim Ademi and Mirko Norac, the only so-called 11 bis case
transferred from the ICTY to Croatia, continued throughout November
in Zagreb. The two are the highest-ranking Croatian military
officers to be tried for war crimes in domestic courts. (Ref B) The
men are charged with individual and command responsibility for 28
ethnic Serb civilian deaths that occurred during the 1993 "Medak
Pocket" military operation in central Croatia aimed at regaining
Serb-held territory. By the end of November, 42 prosecution
witnesses testified, including five endangered witnesses. None of
the witnesses to date were eyewitnesses to alleged crimes; rather
they have testified about military operations, location of remains
of civilians and soldiers, or the existence or non-existence of a
military sector called "Sector One." Following the worrisome
non-appearance of witnesses in October reported in ref A, the five
endangered witnesses testified via video-link and another six
appeared for the prosecution; all reside in either Serbia or Bosnia.
Their appearance allays some immediate concerns, but still
highlights the ongoing, widespread challenges faced in the Croatian
judiciary with witness facilitation and effective regional judicial
cooperation. End Summary and Comment.

Some Witnesses Appear, Institutional Problems Remain

2. (SBU) Following the testimony of the 11 witnesses and victims,
State Prosecutor for War Crimes Antun Kvakan told us he is pleased
with the way the trial is progressing. According to him, the volume
and quality of evidence clearly points to criminal responsibility of
both defendants. While he admitted to problems in locating
witnesses in the region and acknowledged the Ministry of Justice's
(MOJ) weak capacity, he argued that the MOJ is doing its best. In
addition, he doesn't believe the lack of witness appearances will
impact negatively on his case. The presiding judge Marin Mrcela
told us the presence of the six victims who testified was
facilitated by his contacts with judges in Serbia, the Croatian
MOJ's Witness Support Unit, and the Ministry of Interior's Witness
Protection Unit (which is actually designed only for highly
threatened witnesses). Of the 45 witnesses proposed by the
prosecution who have not appeared, 10 can still not be located, five
or six have died, and six reported to the court that they will not
appear. Three of those will likely be facilitated via video link.
Four additional victims/witnesses are scheduled to testify in
December. By Post's calculations, about 19 witnesses and victims
are therefore "no-shows" for various reasons. At the prosecutor's
request, the presiding judge has also requested testimony of former
UNPROFOR staff, which Kvakan believes will strengthen the
prosecution's case. Several witnesses residing in the US have also
been requested to testify.

3. (SBU) Despite Kvakan's optimism, outside observers see chronic
institutional faults as a key obstacle for the prosecution. Thomas
Osorio, Head of the ICTY Prosecution Office in Croatia, believes the
MOJ's floundering Witness Support Unit could be immediately
strengthened simply with political support and will. He told us the
MOJ has not made a sufficient effort to cooperate regionally on this
case to find witnesses. OSCE trial monitors also reported that
during testimony by endangered witnesses, information that revealed
the identity of four of the endangered witnesses was revealed
through voluntary statements by the witnesses, as well as in
response to questions from the presiding judge. As a result, the
identity of the witnesses became apparent, and was included in the
hearing minutes and consequently published in the national media.

4. (SBU) Veselinka Kastratovic from the trial monitoring NGO Center
for Peace, which has teamed up with Serbia's Humanitarian Law Center
to cover the trial, repeated earlier criticism reported in ref A how
prosecutors refrain from contacting any witnesses. NGOs claim that
they know where additional witnesses are located. The lack of
turnout is therefore largely due to the passive nature of the
judicial process. The NGOs also criticized the prosecution for not
being adequately aggressive or detailed in its questioning.

Testimony Divided: Did Sector One Exist?

5. (U) One of the most controversial issues in the trial is the
existence of Sector One - a temporary military formation created
only for the purpose of the Medak Pocket operation, comprised of the
9th Guards Motorized Brigade, Special Police Units, and a local Home
Guards Battalion - supposedly commanded by Norac. The existence of
Sector One would directly establish Norac's command responsibility
during the operation. Some former military members confirmed its
existence, while others denied it. According to some officers, the

ZAGREB 00001074 002 OF 002

Sector was under Ademi's control, while other witnesses testified,
and the prosecution argues, that the Sector was placed under Norac's

6. (U) To date, none of the witnesses testified they saw or heard
Ademi or Norac executing or ordering the commission of war crimes;
instead they described cases of arson, looting and destruction of
villages and killings of civilians. One witness testified that he
had heard Croatian Army soldiers telling each other that all people
found in the village had to be executed. Most of the former
Croatian Army officers stated that they had not seen any civilians
mistreated or killed, that properties were neither looted nor
destroyed, and that all soldiers had been acquainted with the Geneva
Convention. However, one military doctor testified that he had
found signs of torture on the bodies of dead Serb civilians. A few
others testified that Norac was a brash young officer who was out of
control, and that crimes did occur. Several witnesses characterized
the two accused generals as war heroes who had only done their job.

Endangered Witnesses Testify to Crimes

7. (U) Two endangered witnesses who testified were the son and
daughter of a murdered female civilian. The woman was found after
the Operation with a bullet in the back of her head, several bullets
in her chest and the fingers of her right hand cut off. The nature
of her death and those of other civilians puts into question the
defense's charges that deaths were collateral - largely from
shelling. According to the witnesses' testimonies, their mother was
killed while fleeing before the Croatian Army. The victim's son
also testified that he had seen several massacred bodies of
civilians in the town of Korenica where they were transferred for

8. (U) Three other Serb witnesses who testified were residents of
villages in the Medak Pocket at the time of the Operation and
testified about the killing of family members and property
destruction. However, none of these witnesses had any direct
knowledge of crimes or perpetrators. One witness resides in
Croatia, while a second traveled from Serbia to testify. The third
described destruction and killings in his village via video-link
from an undisclosed location, with his voice and image distorted.
Commander of the Engineer Corps Jozo Nenandic testified that
Croatian forces deliberately destroyed civilian facilities during
their retreat. Crimes were not committed during the successful
operation, but damage during the retreat tainted the reputation of
the operation, Nenadic stated. In the next ten days before the
Court's holiday break, testimony is scheduled for four
victim/witnesses proposed by the prosecution, and four witnesses
proposed by the defense.


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