Journalist Dejan Anastasijevic told the trial of former Serbian state security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic that the units they controlled fought to implement Slobodan Milosevic’s plan to seize parts of Bosnia and Croatia.
Prosecution witness Dejan Anastasijevic told Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic’s retrial at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that fighting units controlled by the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, worked to implement Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s plan for “setting up new borders between the republics” during the Bosnian and Croatian wars.
Anastasijevic, a Belgrade-based journalist, said that the new borders were intended to create a “Greater Serbia”.
“Milosevic did not say it openly, but his associates and politicians, who enjoyed support from his party, did,” he explained.
According to the charges, Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian SDB, and his former assistant Simatovic were protagonists in a joint criminal enterprise led by Milosevic aimed at permanently and forcibly removing Bosniaks and Croats from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to achieve Serb domination.
Stanisic and Simatovic have been charged with persecution, murders and deportations in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, according to the charges were committed by members of the Red Berets and other units controlled by the Serbian SDB.
Anastasijevic, who was a journalist with the Serbian weekly news magazine Vreme during the Bosnian and Croatian wars, said “the use of the Serbian SDB was of key importance” for achieving Milosevic’s plan “to set up new borders between the republics, because the actions undertaken with that aim were illegal both according to Serbian and international laws”.
It was “a combat intervention in a foreign country” for which “the secret service was ideal”, he added.
Anastasijevic said he first heard that Simatovic was in control of the Red Berets in November 1993 from Dragoslav Bokan, who he said was “the commander of a paramilitary formation in Western Slavonia [in Croatia]” at the time.
“Later on it was confirmed in many other ways and by many other sources that the Red Berets was a combat unit of the Serbian SDB,” the witness said.
Anastasijevic said that Stanisic and Simatovic, “due to the nature of the [security] service”, were among “the most important people” for the realisation of Milosevic’s plan.
As an illustration of Stanisic’s power at the time, Anastasijevic said he was the only person who could enter Milosevic’s office “without knocking and unannounced”.
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.
The trial continues on Thursday.