News 12 Sep 17

Serbian Security ‘Controlled Serb Fighters in Croatia’

A prosecution witness told the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic in The Hague that the Serbian State Security Service established, controlled and armed Serb forces that waged war in Croatia.

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

Borivoje Savic, one of the founders of the Serb Democratic Party, SDS in the Croatian town of Vukovar, testified at Stanisic and Simatovic’s trial at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday that Serbian State Security played a key role in establishing and arming Serb forces in Croatia.

Savic said that the goal was for “all Serbs to live in one state”, which Serbian politician Mihalj Kertes conveyed to Serb politicians from Croatia in late May 1992 as “Serbia’s unambiguous stance”. He said Kertes was “Slobodan Milosevic’s trusted man”.

Kertes’ words were included in minutes from the meeting with Serb politicians from Croatia, prepared by members of the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, which the prosecutor presented as evidence.

According to the witness’s testimony, Kertes was a close associate to defendant Stanisic and played a key role in arming Serb forces in Kninska Krajina and Eastern Slavonia, which began in August 1990 “seemingly under the auspices of the SDS, but actually under the auspices of the Serbian SDB”.

Savic said the Serbian SDB also deployed paramilitary units controlled by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, to the Croatian region of Eastern Slavonia in the spring of 1991.

Arkan’s men committed grave crimes against non-Serb civilians, he testified.

“As soon as they arrived in the field, they executed all the Croats and Hungarians and threw them into wells… Arkan’s guards had the role of both the law and the court,” the witness said.

According to the witness, the victims who were killed in the Croatian villages of Erdut, Dalj and Aljmas were “civilians who did not want to leave” after the Yugoslav National Army “had expelled the local population”.

“Old men and women were killed,” he said, and told the court that the local Serb authorities knew about this.

Savic said that the Serbian interior minister, Radmilo Bogdanovic, announced Raznatovic’s arrival in Erdut on January 15, 1991.

“We have given you Arkan as commander of the area. He will come and solve the problems,” the witness said, quoting Bogdanovic.

But Savic insisted that “the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia had nothing to do with what Arkan did” and that “only the Serbian SDB” was responsible for his actions.

Stanisic, who was the chief of the Serbian SDB from 1992, and his former assistant 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.

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 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.

Savic will continue testifying at the trial on Wednesday.

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