News 18 Oct 17

Arkan’s Fighters ‘Killed Non-Serbs’ at Croatia Base

The trial of former Serbian security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic was told that fighters allegedly controlled by the defendants detained and killed non-Serbs at a base in Croatia run by paramilitary boss Arkan.

Radosa Milutinovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Stanisic and Simatovic in court. Photo: MICT.

A protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-102 testified at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that non-Serbs were detained, beaten up and killed at a base run by a Serbian paramilitary unit led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, in the village of Erdut in the Eastern Slavonia area of Croatia in autumn 1991.

During her testimony, most of which took place behind closed door, the witness described having been apprehended by Raznatovic’s men in late 1991 and taken to the base in Erdut.

In her written statement, RFJ-102 said Arkan’s men “examined and threatened” her, saying they would kill her.

The witness said that while Raznatovic’s men were examining her, she “heard them beat” other arrested persons.

During cross-examination, Stanisic’s defence lawyer suggested that the witness did not personally see the murders of the detainees, but heard about them from another person.

Witness RFJ-102 said this was true.

Jovica Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, and his former assistant Franko Simatovic are charged with being responsible for the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard was controlled by the Serbian SDB.

Arkan was indicted for war crimes by the UN-backed court in The Hague but was shot dead in Belgrade in 2000 and never stood trial.

Protected witness RFJ-038 also testified at Wednesday’s hearing about Arkan’s base in Erdut, where she worked as a cook in 1991.

Summarising her written statement, which the court accepted as evidence, the prosecutors said that the witness described the “random detentions” and abuse of non-Serbs at the base in Erdut, as well as the deportations and disappearances of Croats and ethnic Hungarians from the village.

Speaking about Raznatovic, who she used to see at the base every day, she said that “literally everyone was afraid of him”.

Responding to a suggestion by Simatovic’s defence lawyer, the witness confirmed that “both Serbs and Croats” were afraid of Arkan.

Stanisic’s defence lawyer asked the witness if she had ever seen prisoners being brought to the base in Erdut.

“No, but a colleague of mine saw them bring my husband, whose hands were handcuffed,” RFJ-038 answered.

According to the charges, Stanisic and Simatovic were part of a joint criminal enterprise led by former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to achieve Serb domination.

They both pleaded not guilty in December last year after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.

The appeals chamber ruled that there were serious legal and factual errors when Stanisic and Simatovic were initially acquitted of war crimes in 2013, and ordered the case to be retried and all the evidence and witnesses reheard in full by new judges.

The trial will continue on October 31.

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