UN Court Screens Video of Serbian Unit Shooting Bosniaks

8. November 2017.14:34
At the trial of former Serbian State Security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic in The Hague, prosecutors played a video of paramilitaries from the Scorpions unit murdering men from Srebrenica in July 1995. Prosecutors played the video of the six Bosniak civilians’ murders, filmed by the Scorpions themselves, at Stanisic and Simatovic’s trial at the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday.

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The recording played in the courtroom shows several Scorpions fighters, some wearing red berets, taking the six civilians from a truck to a forest near Trnovo in Bosnia, insulting them along the way.

They shoot four of them in the back, then in the head at close range.

The two remaining prisoners are forced to carry the bodies away, before the Scorpions fighters kill them too in a nearby, half-destroyed house.

The victims were later identified as Safet Fejzic, Azmir Alispahic, Sidik Salkic, Smail Ibrahimovic, Dino Salihovic and Juso Delic.

Witness Goran Stoparic, a former member of the Scorpions unit, told the court that he saw the murders, which he said were ordered by the Scorpions’ commander, Slobodan Medic, also known as Boca.

Stoparic identified Scorpions fighters Pero Petrasevic, Milorad Momic and Aleksandar Medic from the recording as the perpetrators.

“Boca selected members of his security to shoot those men … I watched the first four murders from a distance of around 200 or 250 meters. As far as the two remaining murders are concerned, I only saw the roof of the house in which they were shot,” Stoparic said.

The recording of the murder was first played to the Hague Tribunal at the trial of the former Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic.

The perpetrators of the crime were arrested in Serbia and Croatia and givenm long prison sentences.

The Scorpions’ commander, Medic, was sentenced to 20 years and his brother Branislav Medic to 15 years in prison. Petar Petrasevic, who admitted guilt, was sentenced to 13 years. Milorad Momic was sentenced to 15 years, as was Slobodan Davidovic.

Medic was killed in a car accident in Serbia together along with his family in 2014 while on weekend leave from prison.

Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, and his former assistant Simatovic, alias Frenki, are charged with being responsible for the persecution, murder, deportation and forcible resettlement of Croat and Bosniak civilians during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The prosecutors allege that their crimes were committed during the execution of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to achieve Serb domination.

Stoparic said the Scorpions were deployed to the Trnovo area in late June 1995.

He said he heard at the time that “Frenki Simatovic and Radojica Bozovic”, one of the commanders of the Serbian interior ministry’s Red Berets unit, “had already been there” with State Security Service units from Serbia and Republika Srpska.

He also testified that the Kajman and Plavi units, who he called “the satellites of the SDB [State Security Service]” were present on the Sarajevo battlefield with the Scorpions.

“Our chief commander was Vaso Mijovic,” Stoparic said, naming another Red Berets commander.

According to the witness, defendant Simatovic “commanded the joint command of the police and SDB units, which was located on Mount Jahorina”.

Prosecutor Edward Russo included in the case file a document in which the then interior minister of Republika Srpska, Tomislav Kovac, ordered the establishment of “a mixed company” which would consist of “members of the Serbian police and a company from the Jahorina camp” on the eve of the offensive against Srebrenica in 1995.

Stoparic also said the unit was deployed to give armed support to the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, a short-lived rebel statelet led by Bosnian businessman Fikret Abdic in Velika Kladusa, during the ‘Pauk’ (‘Spider’) operation at the beginning of 1995 during the conflict between Abdic’s forces and the Sarajevo-led Bosnian Army. Abdic was later jailed for war crimes.

“We, the Scorpions unit, were commanded by Milorad Ulemek, alias Legija, at that time. He used to come every two or three days and tell us what to do,” Stoparic said.

According to the witness, Ulemek held regular meetings with Simatovic, who was “either in Belgrade or Velika Kladusa”.

Ulemek was later jailed for the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.

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 previous 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.

Stoparic will continue testifying on Thursday.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian