In 2021, they were sentenced to 12 years in prison for a war crime and several crimes against humanity, including persecution, forcible transfer, and deportation. Now, after appealing the initial sentence, the sentence against them has been increased to 15 years.
A United Nations court on Wednesday confirmed the conviction of war crimes and crimes against humanity against two intelligence chiefs under former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and increased their prison sentences from 12 to 15 years.
“The Appeals Chamber rejects the appeal filed by (Jovica) Stanisic and (Franko) Simatović (…) and imposes a 15-year prison sentence” on each of them, presiding judge Graciela Gatti Santana said.
The United Nations Court, based in the Dutch city of The Hague, issued its latest ruling on war crimes committed during the 1990s in the former Yugoslavia.
Help “death swarms”
Former intelligence chief Jovica Stanisic, 72, and his assistant Franco Simatović, 73, were convicted in 2021 of aiding the “death swarms” that terrorized a Bosnian town in 1992.
After their initial acquittal in 2013, they were each sentenced to 12 years in prison for the war crime of murder and several crimes against humanity, including persecution, forcible transfer, and deportation.
Stanisic, Simatović and the prosecutors have all appealed the ruling by the United Nations tribunal known as the International Mechanism for the Residual Functions of Criminal Courts (the Mechanism). Gati Santana said that this ruling “represents an important stage in the history of the Mechanism (…) the Court of Appeal issues the final appeal ruling.”
The defense said at the time that their conviction, which was described as a “malicious settlement”, did not prove that the defendants exercised authority over the Serb forces in Bosanski Samac. For its part, the prosecution asked the court to convict them of other crimes of which they were acquitted and to impose longer sentences on them.
This is one of the longest issues about the wars that tore Yugoslavia after the fall of communism, with estimated human losses at 130,000 dead and millions displaced.
It was the last remaining major trial for the Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which closed in 2017 after bringing to justice key suspects from the Balkan wars. It was replaced by the “mechanism”.
Stanisic and Simatović were acquitted in 2013 after they were arrested in 2003 following a long legal battle, but the Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ordered a new trial in 2015, considering that the first judges erred on various legal points.
In 2021, we were convicted of aiding, during the capture of Bosanski Samac in April 1992, in training and deploying Serb forces that carried out a “campaign of intimidation” to expel non-Serbs by committing rape, looting and destroying religious buildings in the city, according to the verdict.
Bosnian and Croatian Muslims were held in six detention centers and subjected to forced labour, repeated beatings, torture and, in some cases, murder.
But the court considered that there was not enough evidence to prove that the defendants were part of a conspiracy involving President Slobodan Milosevic to expel Croats and Bosnian Muslims and establish a homeland for Serbs.
Milosevic, who was president of Serbia from 1990 to 2000, died in detention before the end of his trial.
Tensions still erupt regularly in the region. Northern Kosovo has been witnessing clashes for days between elements of the international force led by NATO (KFOR) and Serb demonstrators.