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Prosecutors Apply to Join Bosnian Serbs' Trials

They say cases of two former officials are closely linked and joining them would save time.
By Simon Jennings
The Hague tribunal’s office of the prosecutor this week formally asked the permission of judges to try two former high-ranking Bosnian Serb officials simultaneously.

In seeking a joint trial for Mico Stanisic and Stojan Zupljanin, the prosecution proposed a single indictment detailing the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the ex-officials of the Bosnian Serb interior ministry.

From April 1992, Stanisic was Bosnia’s minister of the Serbian internal affairs ministry, later renamed the internal affairs ministry of Republika Srpska, RS. Zupljanin worked under him as head of the ministry’s security unit.

“The case against Zupljanin is essentially a subset of the one against [Stanisic] given their direct superior-subordinate relationship and membership in the same JCE [joint criminal enterprise],” reads the prosecution’s motion to trial judges.

Zupljanin is currently in detention in The Hague following his arrest on June 11 after eight years on the run.

The former head of the Security Services Centre in Banja Luka, as well as an adviser to the Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, is charged with extermination, murder, persecution, and the deportation of non-Serbs in northwestern Bosnia in between April and December 1992.

Stanisic’s senior political role gave him ultimate responsibility for public and state security during 1992. He is due to stand trial for the murder, torture and cruel treatment of non-Serb civilians, and his failure to prevent or punish crimes committed by his subordinates.

The prosecution contends that a joint trial of the two men would “serve the interests of justice by saving the tribunal significant time and resources, avoiding duplication of evidence, alleviating hardship on witnesses and ensuring consistent judgments”.

A single trial would also help establish the extent of the Serbian ministry’s responsibility for the bloodshed, says the prosecution.

Both men are also alleged to have participated in a joint criminal enterprise in 1992 the goal of which was the permanent removal of Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and other non-Serbs from the territory of an intended Serb state.

While Zupljanin made his first appearance before the tribunal on June 23, he failed to enter a plea. He is expected to do so before judges next week.

The tribunal has yet to appoint a permanent counsel for him.

Simon Jennings is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.