By Radosa Milutinovic
A prosecution military expert told the trial of former Serbian State Security Service chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic that their units were involved in the persecution and killing of non-Serb civilians during the Bosnian war.
Military expert Reynaud Theunens told the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Tuesday that Serbian State Security Service (SDB) units were involved in the forcible takeovers of municipalities and towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.
Theunens confirmed the allegation in Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic’s indictment that the SDB’s Red Berets unit, along with the Serbian Volunteer Guard led by Zeljko ‘Arkan’ Raznatovic, and various other groups of fighters that were under the control of the SDB, such as the Seseljevci ([Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav] Seselj’s Men), played an important role in seizing Bijeljina, Zvornik, Doboj, Bosanski Samac and Brcko in the spring of 1992.
On the basis of documents that he analysed, Theunens concluded that members of those units committed crimes against non-Serb civilians with the aim of permanently removing them from territories which Bosnian Serb leaders had claimed as their own.
As an example of crimes committed by Red Berets, Theunens mentioned the murder of at least 16 Bosniaks in the village of Crkvine at the beginning of May 1992.
Jovica Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, and his deputy, Franko Simatovic, are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcibly removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would then be incorporated into a unified Serb state.
They are charged with the persecution, murders and deportations of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to the prosecutors, the joint criminal enterprise was led by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.
Theunens said that the forcible takeover of municipalities in which Serbs were not the majority represented the achievement of the most important of the war goals that Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic proclaimed in May 1992 – the separation of Serbs from Bosniaks and Croats.
The expert witness said that an entry in Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic’s wartime log about a meeting in February 1993 implies that he agreed with Simatovic about the participation of Red Berets in Bosnian Serb forces’ operations in the Podrinje (Drina river valley) area.
At that time, Red Berets forces in the Bratunac and Skelani areas refused to obey the Bosnian Serb Army command, claiming they were under the exclusive command of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, a Bosnian Serb Army report cited by Theunens in the courtroom indicated.
Quoting further Bosnian Serb Army documents, Theunens said that in 1994, Stanisic and Simatovic directly managed an operation against the Bosnian Army in Cazinska Krajina. The operation, known as Pauk (Spider), was conducted in collaboration between the Bosnian Serb Army, the Serbian SDB and the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina.
Theunens cited a Bosnian Serb Army document which quoted Stanisic’s words that “managing the combat operations” was the only thing that interested him in the field.
According to Mladic’s wartime log, the Pauk operation was agreed upon at a meeting held in Serbian President Milosevic’s office in Belgrade in December 1993.
In the log, Mladic cited Stanisic’s promise that “100 to 120 men” of his could leave for the battlefield the following day.
According to Theunens, this meant the Serbian SDB chief had “a superbly trained” unit “in a high state of combat readiness”.
Stanisic and Simatovic both pleaded not guilty in December 2015 after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.
The appeals chamber ruled that there were serious legal and factual errors when Stanisic and Simatovic were initially acquitted of war crimes in 2013, and ordered the case to be retried and all the evidence and witnesses reheard in full by new judges.
Theunens will continue testifying on Wednesday.
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