Former security official Franko Simatovic told the Hague Tribunal that he wasn’t responsible for atrocities committed by notorious Serbian paramilitary Arkan and his men.
Simatovic's defence team said that the prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, had failed to prove he was responsible for war crimes committed by the paramilitary Serbian Volunteer Unit led by Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, in the eastern Bosnian towns of Bijeljina and Zvornik.
“It is simply not true that Simatovic ordered Arkan and his unit to go to Bijeljina and Zvornik. The prosecution didn’t provide any relevant evidence that can support this claim,” the defence team said during closing arguments in the trial on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the ICTY prosecution asked for life sentences for Simatovic and his Serbian state security colleague Jovica Stanisic, claiming they were responsible for the actions taken by Arkan and his units.
When the war broke out in Bosnia in 1992, Arkan’s paramilitaries fought alongside Bosnian Serb forces in Zvornik and Bijeljina, where they were once photographed wearing masks and posing with the bodies of dead civilians they had killed in the streets.
According to the defence team, former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic had control over Arkan’s actions in Bijeljina.
Plavsic was one of the most senior Bosnian Serb leaders during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and voluntarily surrendered to the ICTY in 2001.
Two years later, she admitted her guilt and was sentenced to 11 years in jail for crimes against humanity and forced expulsions of civilians on religious, political and racial grounds.
According to the indictment, Stanisic and Simatovic were members of a joint criminal enterprise that planned and ordered the execution and persecution of non-Serbs in Serb-controlled regions of Croatia and Bosnia from April 1991 until December 1995.
The indictment alleged that Milosevic, paramilitary commander Arkan, former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic and Serbian Radical Party chief Vojislav Seselj were also part of this joint criminal enterprise alongside Simatovic and Stanisic.
They are accused of the murder, deportation and persecution of Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serb civilians for their political affiliations, race or religion.
The ICTY indicted Arkan in 1999, but only for crimes committed in 1995 in the Sanski Most area of north-west Bosnia.
The paramilitary boss did not stand trial however because he was killed in a mafia shootout in Belgrade in 2000.
Both Simatovic and Stanisic were arrested in 2003 in Serbia and transferred to the Hague Tribunal shortly afterwards. Their trial began in 2008.
The date for the verdict has still to be set.