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Stanisic’s lawyer, Wayne Jordash, said that his client was “in shock from happiness” and that the Hague Tribunal had “confirmed its capacity to deliver justice”.
He added that Stanisic was eager to return to his life after more than a decade in the Hague’s detention unit, and said that the ex-security boss would return to Belgrade on Friday.
But a group of wartime victims from Bosnia who were at the Tribunal symbolically showed off white handkerchiefs in an expression of dissatisfaction with the acquittal.
“We expected a guilty verdict, knowing the evidence. We know Stanisic and Simatovic are directly involved in crimes. The only thing left is to hope for is changes in the appeals process,” said one of them, Murat Tahirovic.
Commenting on the verdict, Serbia’s chief war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, vowed that Belgrade would continue to seek the real perpetrators of the crimes.
“The trial chamber found no connection between the accused and the direct perpetrators of the crimes,” Vukcevic said in a written statement.
“However, many of the crimes committed in this indictment are the subject of investigations by the Serbian war crimes prosecution. We are trying to reveal the direct perpetrators and those who ordered [the crimes], and we will ask for all the evidence from the ICTY to be forwarded to us,” he said.
The Hague Tribunal on Thursday acquitted Stanisic, the former head of the Serbian interior ministry’s security service, and his right-hand man, Franko Simatovic, commander of the ministry’s Special Operations Unit, of taking part in a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly removing Bosniaks and Croatians from large parts of Bosnia and Croatia from 1991 to 1995.
Presiding judge Alphons Orie said that despite the fact that Stanisic and Simatovic organised, supplied, financed, supported and directed the training of Serbian security units during wartime, their support was of a general nature, and thus not aimed directly at committing war crimes.
The judges ordered their immediate release from the UN detention centre in the Netherlands.
The verdict can be appealed.