News 01 Dec 17

‘Scorpions’ Ex-Fighter Says Belgrade Controlled Paramilitaries

An ex-member of the ‘Scorpions’ paramilitaries told the Hague Tribunal that his unit and the ‘Tigers’ led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, were under the control of the Serbian security service in the Bosnian and Croatian wars.

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

Prosecution witness Goran Stoparic told the trial of former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic and his former deputy Franko Simatovic in The Hague on Thursday that the service controlled the ‘Scorpions’ paramilitary unit and Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard, also known as the ‘Tigers’, during the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

Simatovic’s defence tried to prove this was false and that the two paramilitary units acted as parts of the Bosnian Serb Army and of the armed forces of the unrecognised Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia. 

Stoparic, a former Scorpions fighter, replied that this was “formally true”, but that in reality both units answered only to the Serbian State Security Service in Belgrade.

“The Scorpions and Arkan’s men were helpful units for the Serbian Security Service,” he said.

“They were under the Serbian Security Service’s influence and they went where they were told. The Serbian Security Service knew where they were, what they were doing, where they would go and everything else,” he added.

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.

According to the charges, Raznatovic’s paramilitaries, as one of the units of the Serbian State Security Service, committed crimes in several places in Croatia and Bosnia.

Stanisic and Simatovic are also charged, among other things, with responsibility for the shooting of six Bosniaks from Srebrenica near Trnovo in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995.

The Scorpions, who shot the Bosniaks, were a Serbian Security Service unit, according to the prosecutor’s allegations.

This week, Stanisic and Simatovic’s trial also heard testimony from Davor Strinovic, a pathologist who examined the human remains found in Croatian mass graves.

Strinovic said that the victims were mostly civilians and that they died of gunshot wounds.

During cross-examination, Simatovic’s lawyer Mihajlo Bakrac asked Strinovic why he listed victims as civilians who have been classified as “defenders” - wartime soldiers - by the Croatian state.

Bakrac said there were more than 30 such victims on the list that Strinovic produced in court.

“I have no knowledge of this classification by Croatia, I cannot help you,” responded Strinovic.

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 continues on Tuesday.

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