International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals
June 30, 2021
The Trial Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts (IRMCT) rendered a first instance verdict on 30 June 2021 following a retrial in the case of Prosecutor v. Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović (IRMCT-15-96-T).
The Trial Chamber found beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant Jovica Stanišić and Defendant Franko Simatović were responsible under Article 7 (1) of the ICTY Statute (individual criminal responsibility) for aiding and abetting the crimes of murder, deportation, forcible transfer and persecution committed in Bosanski Šamac. The Trial Chamber therefore found that the Accused Jovica Stanišić and the Accused Franko Simatović were guilty under Counts 1 to 5 of the Indictment and sentenced them to 12 years of imprisonment.
Furthermore, on the basis of the evidence presented, the Trial Chamber did not find that the only exchange conclusion was that Stanišić and Simatović shared the intention to contribute to the achievement of a common criminal purpose. Accordingly, the Prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Accused also participated in the joint criminal enterprise. However, it has been established that the systematic pattern of crimes committed by Serb forces against non-Serb civilians is the most convincing evidence indicating the existence of a common criminal purpose.
The Trial Chamber is satisfied that, at least since August 1991, there has been a joint criminal enterprise. The common criminal purpose of this enterprise was to forcibly and permanently remove the majority of the non-Serb population from the above-mentioned areas by committing the criminal offenses charged in the indictment. This common criminal purpose was shared by certain high-ranking political, military and police officials from Serbia, the Serb autonomous regions of Krajina and Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem, as well as from the Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, later renamed the Republika Srpska.
Also, beyond reasonable doubt, it was established that in the municipalities of Bijeljina, Doboj, Sanski Most, Zvomik and Trnovo in BiH as well as in the territory of the Republic of Croatia in Baćin, Saborsko, Poljanik, Lipovača, Škabrnja, Bruška, Dalj, Erdut, crime against humanity (persecution, murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer)) and violation of the laws or customs of war (murder) were committed.
On April 14, 2021, the trial in the retrial against the defendants Jovica Stanišić and the defendant Franko Simatović ended with the presentation of closing arguments. During the incriminated period Stanišić was the head of the State Security Service (“DB”) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia (“MUP”), while II. Defendant Simatović was employed in the Second Directorate of the DB of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia.
According to the operative indictment of July 2008, in or about April 1991, Defendant Jovica STANIŠIĆ and Defendant Franko SIMATOVIĆ assisted in the opening of a training centre in Golubić near Knin, in the Serbian Autonomous Region – SAO Krajina as and centres in other parts of Croatia and BiH. Volunteers and recruits were trained in these centres. Some were then assigned to special units of the DB of Serbia or became instructors in other units associated with the DB of Serbia. They were formed for the purpose of undertaking special military actions in Croatia and BiH.
Furthermore, the Accused managed the financing, training, logistical support and other types of significant assistance or support to the special units of the DB of the Republic of Serbia and other Serb forces that participated in the crimes in Croatia and BiH during the indictment period. For a long period of time, they continuously sent forces and provided them with support and did not instruct them to refrain from committing illegal acts and did not stop recruiting forces on the ground who committed illegal acts.
Also, defendant Jovica Stanišić and defendant Franko Simatović were responsible for special units of the DB of the Republic of Serbia and they organized, supplied, financed and supported their participation in certain activities in Croatia and BiH and managed them. From April 1991 to the end of 1991 at the latest, Serb forces, and in particular special units of the DB of the Republic of Serbia acting in cooperation with the JNA, TO and paramilitary forces, committed crimes in towns and villages in the SAO Krajina and the SAO SBWS. and took control of them. From March 1992 until 1995, Serb forces, and especially special units of the DB of the Republic of Serbia, committed crimes in towns and villages in the municipalities of Bijeljina, Bosanski Šamac, Doboj, Sanski Most and Zvomik, attacked them and took control of them and committed crimes in Tmovo.
We remind that the defendants are charged with committing criminal offenses of crimes against humanity (persecution, murder, deportation, inhumane acts (forcible transfer)) and violation of the laws and customs of war (murder). Also, based on the concept of joint criminal enterprise (this concept found its place in numerous judgments of the Hague Tribunal, ie. in the judgments of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, although it is not explicitly mentioned in the Statute of the Court as a form of individual criminal responsibility) which arose no later than April 1991 and lasted at least until 31 December 1995, the defendants are charged as co-perpetrators.
Among the individuals who participated in that JCE, and thus significantly contributed to the achievement of the goal of that venture, were the accused Jovica STANIŠIĆ and Franko SIMATOVIĆ; Slobodan MILOSEVIC; Veljko KADIJEVIĆ; Blagoje ADŽIĆ; Ratko MLADIĆ; Radmilo BOGDANOVIĆ; Radovan STOJIČIĆ aka Badža; Mihalj KERTES; Milan MARTIĆ; Goran HADŽIĆ; Milan BABIĆ; Radovan KARADŽIĆ; Momčilo KRAJIŠNIK; Biljana PLAVŠIĆ; Mićo STANIŠIĆ; Željko RAŽNATOVIĆ aka Arkan; Vojislav ŠEŠELJ; and other members of the Serb forces.
The aim of this joint criminal enterprise was to forcibly and permanently remove most non-Serbs, primarily Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large areas in Croatia and BiH, through persecution, murder, deportation and inhumane acts – forcible transfers within the offenses of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.
Accused Jovica Stanišić and defendant Franko Simatović participated in a joint criminal enterprise as co-perpetrators, as follows:
- provided communication channels between key participants in the JCE in Belgrade, in specific areas and at the local level, and between them
- organized and managed the formation of units of the DB of the Republic of Serbia and other Serbian forces that participated in the commission of crimes in Croatia and BiH;
- organized and managed financing, training, logistical support and other types of significant assistance or support to special units of the DB of the Republic of Serbia and other Serbian forces that participated in committing crimes in Croatia and BiH, provided practical assistance, encouragement and moral support to perpetrators the crimes of persecution, deportation, forcible transfer, and murder, which significantly influenced the commission of the crime: they did so with the necessary awareness.
The indictment covers crimes committed in Bijeljina, Bosanski Šamac, Doboj, Sanski Most, Trnovo / Srebrenica and Zvornik, in BiH, as well as crimes in the territory of the Republic of Croatia in Baćin, Saborsko, Poljanik, Lipovaca, Škabrnja, Bruška, Dalj, Erdut.
CHRONOLOGICAL REVIEW OF THE ORIGINAL AND REPEATED PROCEDURE:
The original proceedings lasted a full 200 court days, from 9 June 2009 to 31 January 2013. A total of 133 witnesses testified or gave written statements, and almost 5,000 pieces of material evidence were admitted into evidence.
After the initial first-instance proceedings, the defendants were acquitted on all counts of the indictment on 30 May 2013.
On 15 December 2015, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ordered a retrial due to the Trial Chamber’s error of law:
- THE TRIAL CHAMBER did not adjudicate or issue a reasoned opinion on the essential elements of criminal liability under the JCE;
- when the TRIAL CHAMBER requested that the acts of the accomplices and supporters be specifically aimed at aiding and abetting the commission of the criminal offense – an error of liability based on aiding and abetting.
The retrial, the first of its kind before the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts, began in July 2017.
The presentation of closing arguments took place in the period from 12 to 14 April 2021.
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