News 13 Jul 17

Croatian Serb Rebels ‘Armed by Yugoslav Army’

The defence lawyer for former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic told the UN war crimes tribunal that rebel Serbs in Croatia mostly got weapons from the Yugoslav People’s Army, not the security service.

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

Jovica Stanisic’s defence lawyer Wayne Jordash on Wednesday disputed a prosecution witness’s claim that the Serbian State Security Service supplied arms to the self-proclaimed Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina rebel statelet in Croatia in 1991.

Stanisic and his assistant at the Serbian State Security Service, Franko Simatovic, also known as Frenki, are being retried at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague for the persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Stanisic’s lawyer presented the protected prosecution witness, codenamed RFJ-066, with a statement by the then leader of the Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina, Milan Martic, who said that local Serbs took weapons from police stations and military depots or purchased them from abroad.

Witness RFJ-066, who testified via video link, said the weapons arrived “from nearby garrisons and were sent by JNA [Yugoslav People’s Army] officers who were favourably disposed towards Serbs and Yugoslav-oriented”.

Jordash reminded the witness that he had not mentioned this in his statement included in the case file.

“You attribute all that to Stanisic? Why?” the defence lawyer asked.

The witness responded by saying that Martic’s statement about the weapons was “propaganda and an exaggeration”, because “the only weapons that were bought actually came from Zastava [arms] factory in Kragujevac [in Serbia]”.

“No weapons had been taken from military warehouses as yet. This happened in April 1991,” RFJ-066 said.

When asked whether the JNA took the Serbs’ side in Croatia in September 1991, the witness replied: “I do not know exactly.”

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 tribunal ruled on December 15 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 continues.

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