News 28 Jun 17

Milosevic ‘Didn’t Command’ Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia

Former Serbian State Security chief Jovica Stanisic’s defence lawyer told the Hague war crimes court that Slobodan Milosevic had influence but not command over Serb leaders in Bosnia and Croatia.

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

Jovica Stanisic’s defence lawyer told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that local Serb leaders involved in alleged crimes were not subordinates of the Belgrade leadership, as the indictment claims.

Prosecution witness John Wilson told the court that Slobodan Milosevic had “an efficient influence” over Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But Wilson, who was the chief of the United Nations military observers in 1992 and 1993, said he had not even suggested that Milosevic was officially liable the actions of Serb leaders outside Serbia.

According to the charges against Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service (SDB), and his assistant Franko Simatovic, alias Frenki, Milosevic led a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for the sake of achieving Serb domination.

The indictment alleges that Milosevic’s criminal enterprise was implemented by Stanisic and Simatovic through the Serbian SDB.

Stanisic and Simatovic are being retried for the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During cross-examination, Stanisic’s defence lawyer Wayne Jordash presented a UN document from March 1993 which referred to “Milosevic’s new peacemaker role”.

Wilson responded by saying that “Milosevic’s stand changed over time” and that he was inconsistent.

“He would often find reasons for not doing something. Sometimes he would become cooperative on the eve of meetings with international envoys,” Wilson said.

The witness confirmed a claim by Stanisic’s lawyer that at that time, Milosevic was more inclined to put the leaders of the rebel Croatian Serb statelet the Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Bosnian Serb-led area of Republika Srpska under pressure in order to accept international plans with the aim of having sanctions against Serbia overturned.

According to Wilson, this led to the “deterioration” of relations between Milosevic and Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia.

The witness also accepted Jordash’s suggestion that Milosevic’s authorities “requested all the peoples in Bosnia to reach an agreement”.

Stanisic’s defence denied the witness’s allegation that in the summer of 1992, the Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic was “subordinated” to the chief of the General Headquarters of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA).

But Wilson stuck to his allegation that “in May 1992 Mladic showed clear signs of subordination to the JNA commander”.

He said it did not mean that Mladic was not subordinate to the Republika Srpska president Radovan Karadzic at the same time.

When asked by the defense attorney whether “Mladic received orders” from the General Headquarters in Belgrade during 1991 and 1992, Wilson said he could confirm that only in relation to one incident at Sarajevo airport in May 1992.

Wilson began testifying on Tuesday, when he said the SDB controlled the Red Berets paramilitary unit and the Tigers led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, who carried out ethnic cleansing of territories in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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.

Wilson’s cross-examination will continue on Thursday.

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