ICTY Stanisic and Simatovic Retrial – Serbia’s Involvement On Agenda For War Crimes Against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Serb war crimes suspects:
Jovica Stanisic (L)
Franko Simatovic (R)

 

Two former secret police chiefs – Jovica Stanisic, the former head of Serbia’s state security, and Franko Simatovic, his deputy, once held to be among the most powerful men in Serbia, went on trial Tuesday 13 June 2017 at The Hague ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) for the second time, accused of running a lethal network of covert operations during the 1992-95 conflict in which Serbia wanted to prevent the break-up of Yugoslavia despite the fact that majority of people in states that made up Yugoslavia, except Serbia, voted to secede from communist Yugoslavia.

The ICTY prosecutors hold that the operations were intended to impose as well as conceal the wartime policies of Slobodan Milosevic, the then Serbian president. The policies that with their intent could perhaps be captured in a sentence uttered by Milosevic in 1989: “Either Serbia will be united or there will be no Serbia!” With this non-Serbs across former Yugoslavia began to tremble.

Stanisic and Simatovic were acquitted of similar charges to those in paragraph above in 2013 after a three-year trial at the ICTY in The Hague. The acquittals shocked legal experts, victims’ families and survivors of the wars of Serb aggression in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The wars of Serb aggression in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during early 1990’s meant that special combat units of the Serbian secret police directed Serb paramilitary forces who burned churches and mosques and killed masses and raped civilians in village after village to drive out non-Serbs (Croats and Bosniaks and other non-Serbs). These special combat units often went into action ahead of or alongside Serb military units.

With regards to the 2013 acquittal the ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in an interview: “Take for example, the most recent decisions on Stanisic and Simatovic. That victims cannot be satisfied with this decision is obvious. The judges on one hand have confirmed that Stanisic and Simatovic, as responsible for the Serbian intelligence service in Belgrade during the wartime, were the ones creating those special units (Serb paramilitary groups responsible for atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia), that they were the ones supporting financially those units, and that they de facto also were the ones who had a certain control of those units. To have as a conclusion that they were acquitted because they have not specifically directed their support to a commission of crimes is, of course, a notion very difficult for victims to understand. And even at my office, we considered it as a break from the previous jurisprudence where it was sufficient to prove that somebody who was providing substantial support to a party in the conflict had actual knowledge about the commission of crimes by those groups.”

In late 2015, ICTY appeals judges ruled that they had found legal and factual errors in the first trial.

While the judges in the Trial chamber ruled that the defendants had issued no “specific direction” to commit crimes, the appeals judges said no such proof was required to prove a criminal conspiracy or the aiding and abetting of crimes. Given that two of the three original judges had left the chamber, the case could not be sent back the appeals judges issued a decision that not only overturned what had been established by the Trial Chamber back in 2013, but also ordered that Stanisic and Simatovic be retried.

This was/is particularly good news as there has been a consistent, propaganda calibre of an alarming rise of zeal among Serbian nationalist groups, politicians and other public-figure individuals who are rewriting the history of the conflicts in Croatia and Bosia and Herzegovina, denying that Serbs committed any war crimes, pushing the agenda of Serb victimhood including falsely branding the voluntary withdrawal from Croatia of some 200,000 Serbs after Croatia’s liberating military operation Storm in August 1995 as forced deportations and ethnic cleansing, banning references to the conflict from schoolbooks and glorifying convicted war criminals.

ICTY chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor, told the Security Council on June 7, 2017,  that despite the large body of evidence proven in “case after case,” the denials and the refusal to accept facts, even by government officials, were “loud and clear.” (For Full address click here

Genocide is denied. Ethnic cleansing is denied,” he said.

When irresponsible officials use division, discrimination and hate to secure power, conflict and atrocities can gain a logic of their own,” Brammertz said. “That was true two decades ago when genocide and ethnic cleansing began, and it remains true today.”

On the first day of the new trial on Tuesday 13 June 2017, Douglas Stringer, a prosecutor, portrayed the two former Serbia secret police chiefs, Stanisic and Simatovic, as close to Slbodan Milosevic, who had himself gained control of the institutions and agencies of the federal government of what was then Yugoslavia.

Milosevic entrusted the two men with all the critical aspects of secret police activities leading up to and during the wars, Stringer said

The men set up clandestine training camps for paramilitary fighters and acted as chief organizers, paymasters and suppliers for those units, he said. The paramilitaries, some of whom were convicts, became notorious for their brutality and, according to ICTY prosecutor Stringer, “looted on an industrial scale.”

Far from spontaneous, the prosecutor said, the Serbian state security at first placed their operatives in positions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia that were scheduled for “ethnic cleansing.” He said these operatives were known as “doublehatters,” at once linked to the Belgrade government and also key players locally who relayed orders to the paramilitaries. All the activities “were covert to conceal the hand of Milosevic,” Stringer said.

The fate of Stanisic and Simatovic will be crucial in legally determining the role of the Serbian state in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina that killed more than 130,000 people. After two decades of trials at the tribunal in The Hague, no officials of the Belgrade wartime government are serving sentences, only Bosnians and Croats. Should Stanisic and Simatović be found guilty in the retrial, a connection between the Serbian political cadres and the crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina would be established, legally sanctioning the direct involvement of the Serbian state in the 1990’s wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Slobodan Milosevic, considered the war’s main architect, was facing a list of charges, including genocide, when he died in a tribunal cell in 2006 shortly before the end of his trial. His chief of staff, Gen. Momcilo Perisic, was convicted and sentenced to 27 years for aiding and abetting war crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the verdict was overturned on appeal in 2013 because no “specific direction” to commit crimes had been proved. That ruling also led to disagreements among legal scholars and judges. ICTY is expected to deliver a verdict for Gen. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief, in November 2017. Ina Vukic

Trackbacks

  1. […] , and Franko Simatovic, his deputy, once held to be among the most powerful men in Serbia, went on trial Tuesday 13 June 2017 at The Hague for the second time, accused of running a lethal network of covert operations during the 1990-95 […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: