News 03 Oct 17

‘More Croats than Serbs’ Displaced in Wartime Croatia

A prosecution expert told the trial of former Serbian state security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic that the majority of people displaced from war-affected areas of Croatia were Croats.

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

Testifying for the prosecution, Polish demography expert Jakub Bijak told the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday that the majority of people displaced during the war in Croatia were Croats.

Bijak said that data available to Croatian authorities suggested that more than 194,000 people were internally displaced during the war.

Out of the total number, 93 per cent of the registered displaced persons were Croats and 97 per cent were non-Serbs, he added.

However he said that he had never received data about refugees registered in Serbia following the Croatian Army’s Operation Storm in August 1995, which caused some 200,000 Serbs to flee the country.

Defence lawyers for Stanisic and Simatovic, the chiefs of the Serbian State Security Service - who are accused of the persecution of non-Serbs in Croatia, in charges which include the forced resettlement of civlians - suggested that Bijak’s findings were not valid because they were incomplete.

Bijak agreed it was one of the significant limitations of his research. He also said that during his research, he did not go into the specific causes of people’s displacement.

Simatovic’s defence lawyer Vladimir Petrovic said during cross-examination that Bijak’s report neglected “the other side of the problem, namely the displaced Serbs”.

“We only have half of the picture,” Petrovic suggested.

Bijak said that he only dealt with data on displaced non-Serbs from official Croatian sources, and admitted that he did not know “what happened to the others”.

Stanisic’s defence lawyer, Ian Edwards, asked Bijak whether he had comprehensive data on displaced persons irrespective of their ethnicity at his disposal during his research.

“We did not have access to databases of refugees registered in the then Yugoslavia,” Bijak responded.

Stanisic and Simatovic are being retried for the persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1991 to 1995.

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.

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 continues on Wednesday.

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