News 04 Oct 17

Croatia ‘Still Searching for War Missing from 1991’

A Croatian official told the trial of former Serbian security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic that Zagreb is still searching for people who disappeared as a result of Serb forces’ attacks in 1991.

Radosa Milutinovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Former Serbian state security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. Photo: MICT.

Visnja Bilic, who deals with missing persons issues at the Croatian war veterans ministry, told the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that most of the 929 people who are still missing from the war in Croatia disappeared in 1991.

During her testimony, Bilic provided examples of individuals who went missing at some of the locations in Croatia which are mentioned as crime scenes in the indictment against Stanisic and Simatovic.

The body of Ernest Baco, a former resident of the village of Dalj in Eastern Slavonia, who went missing in the summer of 1991, was found in Novi Sad in Serbia in 2002, Bilic said.

According to the charges, forces under the control of the Serbian State Security Service attacked and occupied Dalj in the summer of 1991, persecuting, killing and robbing the non-Serb population.

Speaking about the consequences of Serb forces’ attack on the village of Saborsko in the Lika area in the autumn of 1991, Bilic said she attended an exhumation from a mass grave in the village after the war.

Bilic testified that most of the victims were more than 60 years old and had been found in the smouldering rubble of their houses.

Prosecution witnesses have previously said that the crimes in Saborsko were committed by Serb Territorial Defence forces, the Krajina police and the Red Berets unit, which, according to the charges, was controlled by the Serbian State Security Service.

Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, and his assistant Simatovic are charged with 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, they 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.

Stanisic and Simatovic 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.

Bilic will be cross-examined by the defence on Thursday.

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