News 15 Jun 17

Serbian Security ‘Trained Serb Forces in Croatia’

The defence lawyer for former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic rejected a witness’s claim that he saw the defendant in Knin in Croatia in 1991 and that Belgrade trained local Serb forces in the area.

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

Protected prosecution witness RFJ-135 testified at the retrial of former Serbian security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, alias Frenki, at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday, saying that he saw Stanisic in Knin in the spring of 1991 around the outbreak of the war there.

Defence lawyer Wayne Jordash however denied this.

“You did not see Stanisic in Knin,” Jordash said during cross-examination.

But the witness, who attempted to prevent the escalation of the conflict between Serbs from Croatia’s Krajina region and the Croatian authorities in Knin at the time in his capacity as a member of the State Security Service, stuck to his testimony.

“I saw him,” RFJ-153 said.

Stanisic and his former deputy, Simatovic, are accused of participating 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.

The indictment charges them with persecution on racial, religious and political grounds, as well as murders, deportations and the forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians.

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

During cross-examination, Stanisic’s defence lawyer said that in his first statement to the Hague Tribunal in 2004, the witness said he “did not personally see Stanisic in Knin, but he heard he visited the place occasionally in order to participate in training of SAO [Serbian Autonomous Region of] Krajina officers”.

But witness RFJ-153 repeated that he saw Stanisic in Knin twice.

Jordash asked the witness which Croatian officials told him about the Serbian State Security Service’s involvement in training local Serbs while he was in Croatia.

“They told us they knew Serbia was present in Krajina. Deputy minister of internal affairs Vice Vukojevic did not speak about the presence of the SDB [State Security Service], but the presence of Serbia in the field in Krajina,” RFJ-153 responded.

Commenting on RFJ-153’s allegation that the Serbian SDB conducted training “aimed at establishing an SDB of SAO Krajina” at a camp in Golubic, near Knin, the defence lawyer asked the witness if he claimed that “Stanisic and the Serbian SDB trained the local police”.

RFJ-153 answered negatively, saying that “the police did not fall under the responsibility of the SDB”.

Stanisic’s lawyer also pointed to the fact that, in his first statement from 2004, the witness did not mention that paramilitary groups known as ‘Frenki’s Men’ and ‘Arkan’s Men’, who, according to the charges, were under the control of the Serbian SDB, operated in Beli Manastir in Croatia’s Eastern Slavonija area in the summer of 1991.

But RFJ-153 said that while in the field, he obtained information about the presence of these paramilitary groups.

He said that Radovan Stojcic, alias Badza, of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as defendant Simatovic, were also present in the field, arguing that this could not have happened without approval from Belgrade.

The retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic is due to continue on Tuesday.

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