News 17 Nov 17

Serbian Security Service ‘Deployed Arkan’s Paramilitaries’

An expert witness told the Hague trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic that the Serbian State Security Service, which they ran, was able to deploy paramilitary boss Arkan’s forces - a claim rejected by the defence.

Radosa Milutinovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Former Serbian state security officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. Photo: MICT.

Jovica Stanisic’s defence on Thursday challenged prosecution expert witness Christian Axboe Nielsen’s claim at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague that the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, had power over paramilitary forces led by Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan.

Nielsen confirmed that he had not found direct evidence about the direct connection in numerous documents issued by the Serbian SDB, which he had analysed.

But he maintained that, according to other documents from 1995, SDB chief Stanisic could make decisions on the deployment of Raznatovic’s unit, the Serbian Voluntary Guard, also known as Arkan’s Tigers.

Stanisic is being retried along with Simatovic for alleged wartime crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, Raznatovic’s paramilitaries, as one of the units of the Serbian SDB, committed crimes in several places in Croatia and Bosnia, including Eastern Slavonia and Zvornik.

During cross-examination, Stanisic’s defence lawyer Wayne Jordash asked Nielsen if he had found proof of “Raznatovic’s connection with Stanisic in 1991” in the Serbian SDB’s documents.

Nielsen said he had never claimed that Stanisic and Raznatovic were “directly connected” at that time, but the Serbian SDB’s documents indicated that “the Service was aware that Raznatovic had organised the Serbian Voluntary Guard”.

Stanisic’s lawyer then suggested that the Serbian SDB’s documents “contained no reliable evidence about the connection between the Service and Arkan in 1992 and 1993 or that the Service had influence and control over him”.

“I agree with that,” Nilsen said, but then emphasised that “by 1995 the connection between the Serbian SDB and Raznatovic had become obvious … as well as Stanisic’s ability, not only to deploy the Serbian Voluntary Guard, as had been the case before … but also to offer its deployment”. 

As a proof of his claim, Nielsen cited a written record made by Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic during his meeting with Stanisic and Slobodan Milosevic concerning the engagement of units connected with the Serbian SDB to aid the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, a short-lived Bosniak rebel statelet.

In the note, which was made in April 1995, Mladic quoted Stanisic’s words: “We have provided 80 people from Erdut and 80 from Djeletovci.”

Nilsen explained on Wednesday in court that the Serbian Voluntary Guard’s base was located in Erdut in Eastern Slavonia, while the Scorpions paramilitary unit’s base was in Djeletovci in the same area.

Responding to a suggestion by the defence lawyer, Nilsen confirmed that it was the only document “directly linking Stanisic with the Scorpions”.

Stanisic and Simatovic have been charged, among other things, with 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 SDB unit, according to the prosecutor’s allegations.

Nielsen also testified on Tuesday that by the end of 1990, the Serbian SDB, with Slobodan Milosevic’s approval, “took upon itself to help Serbs establish their self-proclaimed entities” in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

The Serbian SDB established the first “elite police forces” training camp in Golubic, near Knin, in 1991 and, soon after that, at other locations in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia itself.

Nielsen quoted documents on the establishment of the official Unit for Anti-Terrorist Action in 1993, which imply that Simatovic, under the pseudonym of ‘Number One’, was its commander.

According to Nielsen, the Serbian secret service’s justification for its actions was to present them as a way to protect Serbs from “a horrible destiny if they remain stuck in the independent states of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina”, and prevent them from becoming a “persecuted minority”.

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.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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