It was mostly the “old and powerless” villagers that were killed in Grubori in 1995, said Karolj Dondo, a former Croatian army liaison officer with the UN and EU, at the trial of two ex Croatian special policemen.
Testifying on Wednesday, Dondo said that the then Croatian military governor of Knin, Ivan Cermak, had approved his visit to the village of Grubori to find out what had happened because no concrete information could be obtained.
"Old and powerless inhabitants were killed, except one younger man, who was found lying on his stomach", testified Dondo, adding he saw "shocking scenes" which still haunt him.
Frano Drlje and Bozidar Krajina are standing trial at the County Court in Zagreb for the murders committed at the village of Grubori near Knin on August 25 and 26, 1995, which are among the best known war crimes perpetrated by the Croatian forces during the Croatian war.
Five elderly Serb civilians were shot dead, some of them in their beds, and the village was burned.
Dondo said that that the first unconfirmed information about the killings came from the UN officials in Knin.
When he came to Grubori with two soldiers, he thought that the village was empty, but after a while people started coming out of hiding. "We tried to calm those tearful people", said Dondo, who wrote a report about his findings.
He said he saw "horrible scenes" of a disabled old man shot dead in one house and a disabled old woman burned in another.
Dondo’s testimony was followed by that of several former Croatian special policemen, who repeatedly stated that they did not remember anything about the Grubori events.
Their testimonies prompted the presiding judge Zdravko Majerovic to warn the ex-policemen that: "The witness is obliged to tell the truth, but also to respect the common sense of those he is talking to in the courtroom".
The Grubori killings were committed 20 days after Serb rule in Krajina had been crushed and fighting had come to an end.
Mladen Markac, a wartime Croatian special police commander, was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment by the ICTY last year, partly for war crimes in Grubori. He has appealed against that conviction.
The trial started last November. Originally, a third former special policeman, Igor Beneta, was also indicted along with Drlje and Krajina, who deny the charges.
Beneta was at liberty when the trial began, but was found dead three days later, hanged in a forest near Knin, which caused speculation among the public that he had been killed.
Following this speculation, Beneta's body was exhumed on April 13 this year, but the findings of the post-mortem are yet to be released.
The Grubori trial continues on June 29.