Former Belgrade spymaster Jovica Stanisic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) hearing which led to his sentence being increased to 15 years in prison, in The Hague, Netherlands , May 31, 2023. PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW / AP
This judgment is “the last piece of the puzzle”, estimated Nenad Golcevski, director of the Center for Humanitarian Law (HLC) in Belgrade after the appeal trial of two Serbian officials tried for crimes against humanity, Wednesday 31 may. The judges of the UN “mechanism” in charge of the last cases of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have confirmed the convictions of Jovica Stanisic, 72, the spymaster of Belgrade, and Franko Simatovic, 73 years, the ex-commander of the red berets, a special unit of the Serbian police.
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Acquitted in 2013, the two men were retried and sentenced in 2022 to twelve years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes. On Wednesday, the judges of the appeals chamber increased their sentence to fifteen years. During the appeal trial, Jovica Stanisic’s lawyer painted the portrait of a man of peace, “the only one to reach out to the international community” during the war. But, for the judges, the two men are guilty of having trained, financed and distributed weapons to paramilitary groups such as the “Scorpions” and “Arkan’s Tigers” which, after crossing the border, spread terror in towns and villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
First conviction of Serbian state officials
It will therefore have been necessary to wait thirty years after the creation of the ICTY by the Security Council of the United Nations for it to confirm its first condemnation of officials of the Serbian State in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995).
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Since 1993, 91 officials have been convicted, including Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, but no officials from Serbia. “So far, all the convictions have targeted local authorities, among the Serbs of Croatia, and the Serbs of Bosnia. Here, it is the first time that a judgment so clearly evokes the Serbian state, therefore the authorities of Serbia, and their role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, underlines Iva Vukusic, professor of history at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. And that tells us something about the regime, about Serbia in the 1990s and its role in the wars of the former Yugoslavia. »
The former Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, who died in March 2006, a few months before the verdict, now haunts this final judgment. The Appeals Chamber confirms the participation of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic in a “joint criminal enterprise”, alongside Slobodan Milosevic and senior police and military officials, i.e. the policy of ethnic cleansing through the elimination of non-Serb civilians from large parts of the territories in Bosnia and Croatia.
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