Prosecutors have asked a UN war crimes tribunal to hand down life sentences to former Serbian spy chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic.
Two former Serbian spy chiefs and Slobodan Milosevic’s aides face UN court verdicts after a nine-year trial on charges of leading death squads in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Jovica Stanisic, 70, a former head of the Serbian state security service, and his deputy Franko Simatovic, 71, are accused of supporting paramilitary groups in Bosnia and Croatia.
They included an elite unit called “Red Beretta” and the paramilitary fear held by Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic, called “Arkan’s Tigers,” which together would have killed hundreds of people.
Wednesday’s verdicts in The Hague, which can be appealed, are the latest UN persecution for crimes committed during the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia.
Separate but connected conflicts, which led to the outcome of the country’s disintegration in 1992 after the fall of communism, have left about 130,000 people dead and millions displaced.
Stanisic and Simatovic, who were on bail, will be in court after being taken to the UN detention center in The Hague last week, a court spokeswoman told AFP news agency.
Both pleaded not guilty to the crimes against humanity of persecution, murder, deportation and forced transfer, and the war crime of murder.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.
The judges will announce their decision at 13:00 GMT. The verdict will be broadcast live with a 30 minute delay.
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In 2013, Stanisic and Simatovic were acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes in a shock verdict at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
But in 2015, in a rare turnabout following protests and an appeal by prosecutors, judges ordered a new trial because the initial trial saw legal errors.
The new trial took place at the UN International Residency Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. It started in 2017, with final arguments being made in April 2021.
Earlier this month, judges appealed to the same court confirmed conviction of former Bosnian Serb leader Ratko Mladic for his role in atrocities throughout the Bosnian war, confirming his life sentence for genocide.
UN prosecutors say the couple was part of a joint criminal enterprise that included the late Serbian President Milosevic, who died in The Hague in 2006, and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is serving a life sentence.
Stanisic and Simatovic “organized, supplied, financed, supported and directed” Serbian paramilitary groups that killed Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs to force them out of large areas, seeking to establish a Serb-run state, he says. the accusation against them. .
The indictment includes at least 280 homicides in about two dozen specific attacks on cities and towns by the Red Berets and Tigers.
Arkan, head of the Tigers, was indicted by the Hague tribunal but died in a shooting in Belgrade in 2000.
Stanisic and Simatovic were transferred to the ICTY in 2003 after being arrested by Serbian police following the assassination of Serbian reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
A long obscure figure in the wars, Stanisic was first seen in public in early 1995, when as Milosevic’s special envoy he negotiated with the Serb leadership in Bosnia for the release of several hundred soldiers. UN troops.
Stanisic was ousted in October 1998 before the escalation of the 1999 war in Kosovo, according to which he did not agree with Milosevic’s repressive policy towards the ethnic Albanian majority in the province.