Ex-Milosevic intel chief, deputy, maintain innocence

18th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

Two top Serbian officials in Slobodan Milosevic's regime pleaded not guilty before the Yugoslav war crimes court Friday after the tribunal ordered their retrial for crimes committed during the 1990s Balkans wars.

Former Serbian intelligence chief Jovica Stanisic and his deputy Franko Simatovic "maintain their plea of not guilty" their lawyers told a hearing at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The ICTY on Tuesday in a rare turnabout quashed the acquittals of the two officials for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Serbian death squads in Bosnia and Croatia after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

More than 100,000 people died and millions of others were left homeless in the 1992-95 conflict, which saw some of the worst atrocities on European soil since World War II.

But appeals judges this week said judges in the trial of Stanisic and Simatovic, both 65, "erred" on several points of law and in acquitting them.

The five-judge appeals bench also in an unusual decision decided not to impose new sentences, but ordered the men to be tried anew.

Prosecutors accuse the pair of organising, financing and supplying Serb paramilitary groups, including an elite unit called the "Red Berets" and the feared paramilitary outfit run by Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic, called "Arkan's Tigers, between April 1991 and the end of 1995.

The units cut a swathe of terror and destruction across Croatia and Bosnia as they attacked towns and murdered Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs to force them out of large areas in a bid to create a Serb-run state, prosecutors said.

UN prosecutors, who have called for life sentences, also allege that Stanisic and Simatovic were part of a joint criminal enterprise, which included Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Milosevic died in 2006 while in the ICTY's custody in The Hague, where Karadzic is also on trial, facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The initial trial judgement capped a series of acquittals in 2012-13 of high-ranking Croatian and Serbian generals and officials, leading to severe criticism of the tribunal.

A former ICTY judge then alleged that the court's president, US judge Theodor Meron had pressured other judges to acquit accused, suggesting possible pressure from the United States and Israel.


© 2015 AFP

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