Former Milosevic Allies Sentenced to Prison, Ending Yugoslavia War Crimes Trials

A UN international court on Wednesday extended the sentences of two former Serbian security officials close to the late President Slobodan Milosevic, dismissing their appeals and reversing acquittals for liability in the Balkan wars.

The UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) Appeals Chamber ruled against appeals by Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic over their 2021 sentences for aiding and abetting murder, deportation, and other crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkan wars, specifically in connection with the 1992 takeover of the town of Bosanki Samac in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Stanisic, the former head of the State Security Service, and former special operations unit chief Simatovic were close allies of then-leader Milosevic, who later became the first sitting head of state to be indicted on war crimes over his role in the Yugoslavia conflict. That trial concluded in 2006 without a verdict after Milosevic died of a heart attack in his prison cell.

The two former intelligence officers were indicted in 2003 and initially acquitted a decade later, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and the retrial began in 2017.

“The Appeals Chamber granted part of the Prosecution’s appeal, finding that the Trial Chamber erred in not convicting Mr Stanisic and Mr Simatovic under the mode of joint criminal enterprise liability,” the court said.

It concluded that a joint criminal enterprise existed with the purpose of “forcibly and permanently remove the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the commission of murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer), and persecution as charged in their indictment.” They were acquitted of further war crimes.

The court raised their custodial sentence from 12 to 15 years.

Judge Gatti Santana called the ruling a “milestone” for the IRMCT.

The IRMCT was established in 2010 to absorb the remaining functions of the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established in 1993, and Wednesday’s ruling was the final appeal involving cases that originated with it. Credit: UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals via Storyful

Video Transcript

JUDGE GATTI SANTANA: Having conducted this review, and for reasons explained in the judgment, the appeals chamber concludes that all reasonable doubt has been eliminated that, at least from the time Stanisic and Simatovic organized the training of unit members and local Serb forces at the Pasha's camp, and their subsequent deployment during the takeover of Bosanski Samac in 1992, and continuing through the period involving the commission of crimes in Sanse Mosque in September, 1995.

Stanisic and Simatovic shared intent to further the common criminal purpose to forcibly, and permanently, remove the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia, and Bosnia, and Herzegovina through the commission of the crimes charged in the indictment. All reasonable doubt has also been eliminated that both Stanisic and Simatovic possessed the intent to commit the underlying charged crimes.

Consequently, the appeals chamber grants, in part, grant one of the prosecution's appeals, and finds Stanisic and Simatovic responsible under Article I of the Mechanism Statute, and Article 7 (1) of the ICTY Statute for committing, based on their participation in a JCE. As a result, Stanisic and Simatovic are liable for charged crimes committed by principal perpetrators, whose conduct is attributable to Stanisic and Simatovic, or other members of the JCE.

Based on our review of the findings of the trial chamber, and the relevant record, these include charged crimes committed in Bosnia, and Herzegovina. In Violina, starting at the end of March, 1992. In Zvornik, in April, 1992. In Bosanski Samac, starting in April, 1992. In Dubai, in May, 1982. In Sanse Mosque, in April and May, 1992. In Chernobyl, in July, 1995. And in Sanse Mosque, in September, 1995.

The appeals chamber also finds that Stanisic and Simatovic are liable for a murder committed in the [INAUDIBLE], S-A-E-O-S-B-W-S, Croatia, in June, 1992. As