HLC’s Press Release regarding the Judgment of the IRMCT’s Appeals Chamber in the case of Stanišić and Simatović
The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) passed a judgment on the case against two former leaders of the State Security Service (SDB) of the Republic of Serbia’s Ministry of the Interior – Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović – establishing an international armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This judgment has finally and unequivocally established the participation of the Republic of Serbia in the armed conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The highest officials of the RS SDB were convicted as members of the joint criminal enterprise for the crimes perpetrated by the Serbian Volunteers’ Guard (SDG), Special Action Unit, Special Operations Unit (JSO) – the Red Berets, Martić’s Police and Scorpions in 1992 in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bijeljina, Zvornik, Bosanski Šamac, Doboj and Sanski Most, and for the crimes perpetrated in 1995 in Trnovo and Sanski Most, as well as for the murder of Marija Senaši, perpetrated in Dalj Planina, Croatia, in June 1992.
The Appeals Chamber has established that Stanišić and Simatović, together with other military, political and police leadership from Serbia, the so-called SAO Krajina, SAO Slavonija, Baranja and Western Srem, as well as from the Republic of Srpska, constituted part of the joint criminal enterprise aimed at permanent expulsion of non-Serb population from the territories under the control of the Serb forces in BiH and Croatia, i.e. – ethnic cleansing.
The judgments on this case have established numerous facts on abuse, detention, expulsion, murders and other crimes against the members of non-Serb population in Croatia and BiH. The responsibility of JNA members has been established too, as well as that of special police forces, amongst whom also the Serbian Volunteers’ Guard commanded by Željko Ražnatović Arkan. The Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor of the Republic of Serbia must take into consideration the facts about the role of these units in the war crimes and prosecute the responsible ones. A video of JSO’s anniversary in Kula, from 1997, is the crucial evidence of the participants in the joint criminal enterprise commanded by Stanišić and Simatović. It should be noted that, besides the Scorpions members, who were prosecuted for murders of men and boys from Srebrenica in Trnovo in July 1995, not a single member of units controlled by the SDB has been prosecuted before the Republic of Serbia’s judicial authorities, although their crimes were described in detail in the ICTY’s and IRMCT’s judgments on the case of Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović.
Bearing in mind the functions performed by Stanišić and Simatović at the national authorities of the Republic of Serbia, the scope and significance of their participation in the crimes, as well as in the victims’ suffering and seriousness of crimes they are accountable for – HLC deems the judgment of the IRMCT’s Appeals Chamber sentencing them to 15 years’ imprisonment unproportionally light.
The enforceable judgment for Stanišić and Simatović is also the last ICTY’s and IRMCT’s judgment for the war crimes perpetrated during the armed conflicts in former Yugoslavia.
The case background
The ICTY’s Prosecutor Office issued the initial indictment against Jovica Stanišić, former SDB chief, and Franko Simatović, employed with SDB’s Second administration, 20 years ago, in May 2003. The first-instance judgment of the ICTY acquitted them. The proceeding against the accused was re-initiated after the ICTY’s Appeals Chamber annulled the first-instance judgment and ordered a new trial of Stanišić and Simatović on all counts of the indictment.
HLC believes that, on that occasion, the ICTY’s Appeals Chamber made a correct decision by confirming the dismissal of “specific direction” criterion as an element of accountability for aiding. This criterion was introduced into ICTY’s case law by the second-instance acquitting judgment to Momčilo Perišić, Chief of General Staff of the Yugoslav Army. In the Perišić case, the Appeals Chamber rejected the Prosecutor Office’s motion to reconsider the acquittal, although there were slender grounds for that, after unequivocal establishment of the fact that the “specific direction” criterion was not foreseen by the international customary law or by the ICTY’s case law.
In the renewed proceeding, in June 2021, Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović were sentenced by the judgment of the IRMCT’s Trial Chamber to 12 years’ imprisonment for crimes against humanity, i.e. aiding and supporting the persecution, murders, deportation and forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslims and Croats after assuming power in the municipality of Bosanski Šamac in BiH. During the appeals proceeding, the defence counsels of Stanišić and Simatović challenged the convicting parts of the first-instance judgment as well as the length of the sentences. On the other hand, the IRMCT’s Prosecutor’s Office requested that the Trial Chamber’s claims that Stanišić and Simatović were not part of the JCE be reconsidered or, alternatively, that the defendant be found guilty of aiding and abetting the crimes committed in the areas of SAO Krajina, SAO SBSZ, Doboj and Sanski Most. Accordingly, the Prosecutor’s Office requested that the prison sentences for the defendant be extended.
Timeline of the proceedings:
13 March 2003 – Stanišić and Simatović arrested in Serbia
1 May 2003 – initial indictment; operational indictment was submitted in July 2008
9 June 2009 – the ICTY trial commences
30 May 2013 – judgment of the ICTY’s Trial Chamber, acquittal
15 December 2015 – judgment of the ICTY’s Appeals Chamber, new trial ordered
13 June 2017 – the IRMCT trial commences
30 June 2021 – judgment of the IRMCT’s Trial Chamber, sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment
31 May 2023 – judgment of the IRMCT’s Appeals Chamber, sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment