News 09 Nov 17

Serbian Security Chief Denies Controlling ‘Scorpions’ Fighters

Former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic’s defence told the UN court in The Hague that he never controlled the Scorpions paramilitary unit which committed crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Radosa Milutinovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic in court. Photo: MICT.

Jovica Stanisic’s defence lawyer Ian Edwards told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that a prosecution witness at the trial who alleged this week that the Serbian State Security Service, SDB funded and equipped the Scorpions unit was not telling the truth.

Edwards said that witness Goran Stoparic had “made it up” that the Scorpions’ commander, Slobodan Medic, alias Boca, and Milan Milanovic, alias Mrgud, the assistant defence minister of the Croatian Serb wartime statelet the Republic of Serbian Krajina “went to Belgrade and submitted reports to Jovica Stanisic”.

“I am not making anything up,” Stoparic, a former member of the Scorpions unit, responded to Edwards in the courtroom.

Stoparic insisted that Medic told all the Scorpions members that he held meetings with Stanisic.

Responding to a defence suggestion that the witness did not know whether the Serbian SDB issued orders to the Scorpions, Stoparic answered: “Orders were issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia, as well as by Mrgud [Medic] and the Serbian SDB.”

Stanisic, the former chief of the SDB, and his former assistant Franko 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, 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.

Defence lawyer Edwards also denied Stoparic’s allegation that the Serbian SDB was involved in Serb forces’ operations in Brcko in Bosnia in 1992.

But Stoparic insisted that the SDB “was involved, of course it was involved”.

“I can say that the Serbian SDB was involved in all operations,” he said.

However, he did accept a suggestion by Stanisic’s defence lawyer the ‘Pauk’ (‘Spider’) operation in Bosnia, in which the Scorpions and other units under the control of the Serbian SDB participated at the beginning of 1995, “was not an ethnic-cleansing operation”.

The witness said that the units prevented ethnic cleansing “of Bosniaks by Bosniaks” by giving armed support to the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, a short-lived Bosniak rebel statelet, against the Fifth Corps of the Sarajevo-led Bosnian Army.

“We were supposed to liberate the territories held by the Fifth Corps, return refugees to their homes and support [Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia leader Fikret] Abdic,” Stoparic said.

The retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic continues on Tuesday.

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