THE HAGUE | 11.10.2011.


The indictment alleges that even before his formal appointment as the head of the Serbian State Security Service in December 1991 Stanisic was already the de facto No. 1 man there. The defense is now trying to prove that Stanisic was in fact ‘sidelined’ at the time. According to the defense, in that period Stanisic didn’t even exercise the powers he had as the assistant chief for counter-intelligence

Former chief of the Belgrade center of the Serbian State Security Service (DB) Milorad Lekovic testified today via video link from Belgrade as Stanisic’s defense witness. Lekovic tried to play down the importance of his former colleague in the service, Jovica Stanisic, in 1991 when the war had already spread throughout Croatia. Lekovic had given a statement to the defense which was admitted into evidence. The plan was for Lekovic to merely clarify some parts of the statement.

However, instead of precise and short answers one would expect from a seasoned intelligence officer, Lekovic was too expansive and unfocused in his evidence. Lekovic’s responses had little or no connection at all with the question he was asked. The presiding judge repeatedly cautioned Lekovic to stick to the point. The defense counsel was visibly at the end of his tether at times.

The witness was appointed the chief of the Belgrade security service, or UDBA as the witness called it several times, in 1988. Jovica Stanisic was the assistant chief for counter-intelligence at the time. As the witness said, it was the time of constant turmoil and personal confrontations in the service. As a consequence, Stanisic fell from grace with his chief, Zoran Janackovic. As Lekovic recounted, the police minister ordered on 2 April 1991 that an internal commission be set up in the service; it was supposed to find out who had leaked classified information to the press. Lekovic contends that Janackovic wanted the commission to target Jovica Stanisic.

The results of the commission’s work were not made public at the hearing today. The witness did say something that supported the defense’s case: Lekovic claimed that Jovica Stanisic was ‘sidelined’ while the commission was at work, from April to October 1991. He didn’t even perform his regular day-to-day tasks. According to the witness, Stanisic’s was ‘cut off and blocked’ to such an extent in his job that he ‘didn’t even have to go to work’. This was Janackovic’s intention, the witness noted: Janackovic proposed that Stanisic be put on’ leave’ for several months.

Such claims directly contradict the indictment which alleges that Jovica Stanisic was the de facto head of the Service even before December 1991 when he was formally appointed to that post. The indictment against Stanisic and his right-hand man Franko Simatovic also alleges that by April 1991 they assisted in the setting up of a training center for special units in Golubic near Knin. The people who trained the Serb paramilitary and police units were recruited there. Those units, according to the indictment, were under the control of the accused and took part in a number of crimes against non-Serb civilians in Croatia and BH. In Croatia, the first crimes were committed in April 1991 and went on until the end of that year. This is the time, as the witness claimed, when Stanisic was ‘sidelines’ in the Service.

Prosecutor Marcus will put the witness’s claims to the test tomorrow in the cross-examination.