Serbian Red Berets Fighter’s War Crimes Testimony Challenged

30. May 2018.14:54
A defence lawyer for former Serbian State Security Service chief Jovica Stanisic insisted the Red Berets unit was commanded by a Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry officer when it allegedly committed war crimes, not by Belgrade’s security service.

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Jovica Stanisic’s defence lawyer told the Mechanism for International Tribunals in The Hague on Wednesday that Radojica Bozovic, who was the commander of the ‘Red Berets’ unit in Doboj in the spring of 1992, was an officer of the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry, not the Serbian State Security Service.

A protected prosecution witness codenamed RFJ-165, who said he was a member of the Red Berets when they expelled and murdered Bosniaks in Doboj in 1992, testified on Tuesday that Bozovic was a member of the Serbian State Security Service.

But Jovica Stanisic’s defence lawyer Ian Edwards presented the court with an order which Mico Stanisic, who was the Bosnian Serb interior minister at the time, gave to Bozovic on January 13, 1993.

Addressing Bozovic as commander of the Special Police Brigade of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, Stanisic ordered him to establish “an independent squad” in Doboj.

Edwards also quoted an entry from a wartime diary of the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, Ratko Mladic, indicating that Mico Stanisic ordered Bozovic to form an independent squad.

The defence lawyer further suggested that the Stanisic who according to another document gave the authorisation to establish a Red Berets camp on Mount Ozren in Bosnia was Mico Stanisic, not Jovica Stanisic.

RFJ-165 responded by commenting that he “couldn’t say”.

Stanisic, the former chief of the Serbian State Security Service, and his former assistant Franko Simatovic are being retried for persecution, murders and deportations during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the charges, the Red Berets were under the control of the Serbian State Security Service.

The indictment alleges that Stanisic and Simatovic committed their crimes as part of a joint criminal enterprise aimed at forcibly and permanently removing Croats and Bosniaks from large parts of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, which would then be incorporated into a unified Serb state. The enterprise was allegedly led by Slobodan Milosevic.

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.

Radoša Milutinović

This post is also available in: Bosnian