The defense of three former JNA officers charged with the massacre at Ovcara near Vukovar challenges the credibility of the protected prosecution witness, noting his memory is short and he recollected some things at a later stage

Defense in the 'Vukovar three' caseDefense in the 'Vukovar three' case

The defense counsel for Mile Mrksic and Miroslav Radic challenged in their cross-examination the credibility of P-016, protected prosecution witness. They highlighted many "drastic changes" his testimony had undergone between now and his statement given to OTP investigators in 1996.

The witness claimed in examination-in-chief that Mile Mrksic and Veselin Sljivancanin had ordered the murder of patients and the wounded taken out of the Vukovar hospital on 20 November 1991 and later executed at Ovcara. As he said, he had heard this from an acquaintance – an officer in the JNA anti-terrorist unit – whose name he forgot in the meantime.

Both the examination-in-chief and the cross-examination are conducted mainly in closed session in order to protect the identity of the witness, former JNA officer who was in Vukovar in November 1991 on a mission as a reporter. In parts of trial held in open session, the defense insisted that the witness had "short memory". In his statement to the prosecution he said he knew the name of the officer but did not want to reveal his identity because he wanted "to protect him".

Miroslav Radic's lawyer referred to another statement the witness made in his cross-examination: that Sljivancanin and Radic, as officers in the 1st Guards Brigade, assigned people who would be securing "this wasteland somewhere there" where the patients and the wounded from the Vukovar hospital had been killed. The defense counsel called the statement a "fabrication" and asked the witness why he never said anything about that to the prosecution in 1996. The protected witness said he "recalled later that the acquaintance had told him that". When he was asked why the officer chose him to confide in, he replied that "people felt the need to talk and they talked".

The defense counsel then remarked that the witness had "offered services to the prosecution in 1996" on his own initiative because he wanted to take revenge "embittered because his service was terminated". The witness replied that he "never was a vengeful man" and that he had "the duty to tell the truth".

The defense counsel for Veselin Sljivancanin will continue the cross-examination of witness P016 in the afternoon.