IRMCT Finds Stanišić and Simatović Guilty of War Crimes

Kamilla Sorskar Engen, Head of International Affairs

29 Jun 2021

Stanišić and Simatović were found responsible for aiding and abetting crimes committed in the Bosnian municipality of Bosanski Šamac in April 1992, when the town was attacked by military forces controlled by Belgrade and Serb paramilitaries. Many Croat and Muslim men were killed, and others sent to prison camps. They were found guilty of aiding and abetting the war crime of murder, and the crimes against humanity of murder, deportation, forcible transfer, and persecution. The Trial Chamber found they had provided practical assistance, which had a considerable effect on the commission of the crimes, through training and deploying members from a special unit of the Serbian State Security Service as well as local Serbs, to take part in the municipality’s takeover.

The presiding judge, Burton Hall (the Bahamas), stated that there was a “joint criminal enterprise” to remove non-Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in doing so had created “an atmosphere of terror, arbitrary detentions and forced labor.” He went on to say that “this common criminal purpose was shared by certain senior political, military, and police leadership in Serbia.”

This case marks the final case before the IRMCT from the 1990s wars in the Balkans. Both Stanišić (70), the former Deputy Chief and Chief of the State Security Service (DB) for Serbia, and Simatović (71), his subordinate at the Second Administration of the Serbian DB, received a sentence of 12 years. Both pleaded not guilty. The two men were apprehended into court custody in 2003, and were both acquitted of all charges by a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in May 2013, which held that the two men could not be held criminally responsible. However, in December 2015, the ICTY Appeals Chamber ordered a retrial and for the accused to be placed in immediate detention. This was the first retrial held before the IRMCT.

Kada Hotic, a representative of a Bosnian war victims association, voiced her satisfaction with the verdict to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, despite her disappointment at the ‘light sentence’. She noted that, “All in all, they are guilty” and Serbia was finally proven to be involved in the crimes committed – an important legal triumph.

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