News 13 Jun 17

Serbian Security Chiefs ‘Implemented Milosevic’s Criminal Plan’

As the retrial of former security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic began in The Hague, prosecutors said they were “key participants” in a joint criminal enterprise to dominate parts of Croatia and Bosnia.

Radosa Milutinovic
BIRN
Belgrade
The defendants in court. Photo: ICTY.

The retrial of the former head of the Serbian State Security Service, Jovica Stanisic, and his assistant Franko Simatovic, alias Frenki, both of whom are accused of wartime crimes in Bosnia and Croatia, began at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday.

They are accused of persecution on racial, religious and political grounds, as well as murders, deportations and the forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians.

According to the charges, Simatovic and Stanisic participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcible removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia, which would then be incorporated into a unified Serb state.

Prosecutor Douglas Stringer said the criminal enterprise was “thought out” by the then Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, in the spring of 1991.

Stringer said Milosevic he tasked men he trusted, Stanisic and Simatovic, with implementing the plan in the field.

“Milosevic was the driving force of the criminal plan. He entrusted Stanisic and Simatovic with its implementation,” Stringer said.

According to the prosecutor, the defendants, Milosevic and other accomplices were aware, from the very beginning, that the unification and ethnic homogenisation of the parts of Croatia and Bosnia which they saw as Serb territories could not have been achieved without persecuting the non-Serb population through the commission of crimes against them.

Milosevic’s idea to have “all Serbs live on Serb-controlled territories” as a result of the fall of Yugoslavia was implemented by Stanisic and Simatovic through the establishment of Serb-led autonomous regions in Croatia and Bosnia, and by establishing armed forces for them.

In line with their goal, Stanisic and Simatovic, in their capacity as powerful officials of the Serbian State Security Service, “enabled the commission of crimes” in Croatia and Bosnia by organising, logistically supporting and “directing” Serb forces, whose members committed the crimes, Stringer said.

“The crimes were Stanisic’s and Simatovic’s intention,” Stringer added, arguing that for four years of war, they stood behind Serb units which forcibly persecuted tens of thousands of Croats and Bosniaks by committing murders and carrying out summary detentions, robberies, rapes and deportations.

Listing the Serbian-sponsored units which committed numerous crimes, the prosecutor mentioned ‘Frenki’s Men’, who grew into the Red Berets or the Special Operations Unit later on, as well as the Serbian Voluntary Guard commanded by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, and the Scorpions paramilitary group.

“The defendants decided where, how and when those units would be used. The units performed their operations in secrecy in order to hide Milosevic’s role in them,” the prosecutor said.

According to the prosecutor, Stanisic formed, trained and armed local Serb units in special camps in Croatia and Bosnia through Simatovic, who implemented his instructions in the field. He said the units then participated in ethnic cleansing operations under the defendants’ control.

The prosecutor said that Simatovic himself confirmed that in front of Milosevic during a celebration of the anniversary of the Special Operations Unit in 1997. A recording of his speech will be played during the course of the trial.

He further said that the Yugoslav National Army carried out ethnic cleansing in 1991 and 1992 after the federal army was put “at the service of the joint criminal enterprise” and turned “into a Serbian fighting force”.

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 previous acquittal.

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.

It ordered the case be retried and all the evidence and witnesses reheard in full by new judges.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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