THE HAGUE | 29.04.2008.


As the prosecution continues with the opening statement at the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, Dermot Groome describes how the Serbian state security service set up its special units that ‘operated outside the law and followed Milosevic’s dictate’; their objective was to persecute and expel the non-Serb population in Croatia and BH

‘The creation of the special units began on the day when Slobodan Milosevic tasked Stanisic with setting up covert forces that did not operate within the law but on Milosevic’s dictate’, prosecutor Dermot Groome stressed as he continued his opening statement at the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic.

The prosecution alleges that in the spring of 1991, former chief of Serbian state security joined Milosevic’s plan to ensure that the Serbs would emerge victorious from the breakup of Yugoslavia, regardless of the evils inflicted on other ethnic groups. According to the prosecutor, the idea to create special units for ‘the protection of Serb interests outside Serbia’ germinated in Belgrade. The first unit of this kind ‘came into being in Knin’ in May 1991 under the leadership of Dragan Vasiljkovic, a/k/a Captain Dragan. In his opening statement, the prosecutor listed special units run by the Serbian state security service: Special Operations Unit (JSO), Anti-terrorist Action Unit (JATD), Special Purposes Unit, including Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard and Tigers, Captain Dragan’s Kninjas, Martic’s men, Red Berets, Seselj’s men and the Scorpions on the list. Stanisic and Simatovic, the prosecutor said, played a key role in ‘organizing, training, funding, equipping and control of the personnel in the Serbian state security units.’

Stanisic and Simatovic are charged with crimes committed by members of these units in Croatia and BH from May 1991 to December 1995. They are accused of persecution on political, racial and religious grounds, killing, deportation and forcible transfer of population. As the prosecutor put it, these crimes were ‘not just accidental to the joint criminal enterprise, but its integral part’.

The prosecution announced it would be calling evidence on crimes committed ‘according to a predictable pattern’ in Dalj and Erdut in Eastern Slavonia and on crimes committed in Zvornik, Kozluk, Bosanski Samac, Doboj, Sanski Most and Trnovo in BH.

Stanisic and Simatovic, the prosecutor contends, knew of the crimes and they reported them to Slobodan Milosevic. They trained the actual perpetrators in twenty six camps in Croatia and BH. They paid those forces, equipped them and issued orders to them.

After he delivered the opening statement, the prosecutor called its first witness, who testified under a pseudonym and with image and voice distortion as protective measures. A member of the federal government team, the witness was sent to Croatia in May 1991 on a peace mission. His evidence will continue next week.