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The UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague announced on Tuesday that the verdict on Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic’s appeal against their conviction for war crimes in Bosnia will be handed down on May 31.
In June 2021, following a retrial, the court sentenced former Serbian State Security chief Stanisic and his former deputy Simatovic to 12 years in prison each for assisting and supporting crimes committed by a Serb unit in the Bosanski Samac area of Bosnia in 1992.
The two men, both powerful and widely-feared figures in Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in Serbia in the 1990s, were found to have aided fighters from the Special Operations Unit, an armed police force known as the Red Berets, who committed the crimes.
The retrial verdict in July 2021 was the first-ever conviction of top Serbian wartime officials for crimes during the wars that broke out during the break-up of Yugoslavia.
However, they were acquitted of bearing responsibility for other crimes committed by Serb units in in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia during the wars in early 1990s.
At appeals hearings in January this year, the defence urged the UN court to overturn the Bosanski Samac conviction and acquit the two defendants.
The prosecution argued however that they should be convicted of participating in a joint criminal enterprise along with other Serb political, military and police officials, aimed at forcibly removing non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during wartime.
The proceedings in the case against the two men have continued for two decades so far. They were sent to The Hague in 2003 and were initially acquitted by the court in 2013.
The court’s appeals chamber overturned the acquittal verdict in 2015, ruling that serious legal and factual errors had been made, and their retrial started in 2017.