News 22 Aug 17

Stanisic, Simatovic Retrial Resumes Before Tribunal

The retrial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, two former leaders of the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, for crimes in Croatia and Bosnia continues on Tuesday.

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

The retrial of two former leaders of the SDB, Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic alias Frenki, charged with war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, resumes before the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunalsin The Hague on Tuesday.

Following their one-month summer break, the judges will hear testimony from a protected prosecution witness who lives in a trans-oceanic country, via video link in the evening.

Stanisic will not appear in the courtroom, as he is on temporary release in Serbia until September 27. He has given up his right to attend the trial and will be represented by his attorneys.

Due to his illness, Stanisic requested temporary leave from the detention unit until the prosecutors had requested the presentation of evidence against him. The judges will decide on the request later.

According to doctors in The Hague and Belgrade, Stanisic suffers from a chronic intestinal disease and from depression.

Simatovic returned from temporary release, which was granted on July 21, to the detention unit on August 16.

Stanisic and Simatovic are charged with persecution, murders, deportations and forcible resettlement of Croat and Muslim civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are charged with crimes against humanity under four counts and violation of laws and customs of war under the fifth count.

The prosecutors allege that Stanisic and Simatovic committed these crimes while executing a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcibly removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia for the sake of achieving Serb domination.

According to the prosecutors, Serbia’s then president, Slobodan Milosevic, led the joint criminal enterprise.

Seven witnesses have testified at the retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic since it began on June 13. Those are: RFJ-153, Radoslav Maksic, John Wilson, RFJ-072, Vlado Vukovic, RFJ-066 and a protected witness, whose pseudonym has not been revealed.

All of them testified about the role Stanisic and Simatovic played in forming, arming and commanding Serbian forces, which, according to the charges, committed crimes against Croat civilians in the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina from 1991 to 1992.

At the end of the first-instance trial, which began in 2009, following an unsuccessful attempt, the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia acquitted Stanisic and Simatovic on all five counts on May 29, 2013.

However, on December 15, 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal accepted the key grounds of the prosecution’s appeal against the verdict, quashing the first-instance verdict of release and ordering a retrial.

The two defendants first arrived in the Hague detention unit in 2003 after the Serbian authorities arrested them following the murder of prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

The Tribunal has granted temporary release to the two defendants several times since.

According to his defence, Stanisic has spent more than six years at temporary liberty and more than five years in detention.

The retrial of Stanisic and Simatovic is the last one at which the judges will try to establish whether former Serbian officials are guilty of war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia.

No Serbian state officials have been sentenced for those crimes before the Hague Tribunal.

Former Serbian president Milosevic was charged with crimes against humanity in Croatia and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina committed from 1991 to 1995.

However, he died in the detention unit in Scheveningen in 2006 before his trial eded.

The Appellate Chamber pronounced a second-instance verdict against general Momcilo Perisic, former chief of the Main Headquarters of the Yugoslav Army, acquitting him of all charges and quashing the first-instance verdict, which found him guilty of crimes in Sarajevo, Zagreb and Srebrenica and sentenced him to 27 years in prison.

Vojislav Seselj, whom the first-instance Chamber acquitted of charges in March last year, is awaiting a second-instance verdict on an indictment charging him with crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1993 to 1995.

However, in the mentioned period, Seselj was not an official of the Belgrade government but the leader of a party in opposition, the Serbian Radical Party.

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