Former Serbian security chief Jovica Stanisic’s lawyer told the Hague Tribunal that the Yugoslav People’s Army was responsible for crimes in the Serb-led Republic of Serbian Krajina wartime statelet in Croatia in 1991.
The defence lawyer for former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic, who is being retried alongside his former deputy Franko Simatovic, sought to prove at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday that the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) was responsible for crimes committed in the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina during the conflict in 1991.
Prosecution witness Radoslav Maksic, a former Yugoslav People’s Army colonel, said he agreed that the JNA was responsible for the crimes committed, but only because the Republic of Serbian Krajina police who committed them were officially under the JNA’s command during the fighting in the area in 1991.
Maksic testified the previous day that crimes against Croats were committed in the Republic of Serbian Krajina in the autumn of 1991 and that he had seen the defendants Stanisic and Simatovic there at the time.
Under cross-examination by Stanisic’s lawyer, Wayne Jordash, Maksic said he did not know what Stanisic and Simatovic had been doing in the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
Jordash suggested that the JNA was responsible for all illegal acts in because the Republic of Serbian Krajina police and Serb volunteer fighters who committed the crimes were subordinate to the JNA’s commands.
“The JNA commands were responsible in accordance with the principle of a singular command,” Maksic responded.
When asked who was responsible for preventing crimes and punishing their perpetrators in the area, Maksic said it was the JNA commanders unless the perpetrators were civilians.
Maksic confirmed that volunteer fighters from Serbia, including men from parties led by Serbian nationalist politicians Vojislav Seselj and Vuk Draskovic, were engaged in JNA units.
They had previously been trained and armed by the JNA in Bubanj Potok, near Belgrade, the witness said.
Jordash asked the witness to agree that Stanisic and Simatovic carried out legitimate intelligence operations in the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
“Stanisic and Simatovic, as personalities, were of no interest to me. Others told me who they were. The rest was of no interest to me,” Maksic responded.
The witness said that his statement to the prosecution that Stanisic was there to help Milan Martic, who was the interior minister of the Republic of Serbian Krajina at the time, to organise Serb police forces, was “my assumption, not a fact”.
“Why would he go there? If he was the chief of the Serbian SDB [Security Service], he certainly did not go fishing there, but to help others organise the police forces,” Maksic said.
The defence lawyer reminded the witness that, according to the charges, and acting through Simatovic, Stanisic “managed the training centre” for volunteers from Serbia in Korjenica.
But Maksic responded: “It is irrational and illogical for an SDB chief to manage a training centre. It would be like appointing a minister to work as a cook.”
Stanisic and his former Serbian Security Service deputy, Simatovic, are accused of participating in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanently and forcible removing Croats and Muslims from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia, which would then be incorporated into a unified Serb state.
The indictment charges them with persecution on racial, religious and political grounds, as well as murders, deportations and the forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians.
Stanisic and Simatovic both pleaded not guilty in December last year after the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned their acquittal in their first trial.
The tribunal ruled on December 15 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 retrial continues on Tuesday.