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Serbian Secret Police Chief Didn't Run Units in Bosnia - Witness

Case involves unpicking exact lines of command for Serbian units deployed in Bosnian conflict.
By Velma Šarić
  • Srdjan Grekulovic, defence witness in the Jovica Stanisic trial. (Photo: ICTY)
    Srdjan Grekulovic, defence witness in the Jovica Stanisic trial. (Photo: ICTY)

A defence witness who testified this week in the trial of former Serbian intelligence official Jovica Stanisic told the Hague tribunal that the defendant did not have effective control over Serbian special police units deployed in Bosnia in 1995.

Stanisic served as head of the Serbian State Security Service, DB, from 1991 to 1998. He is on trial together with Franko Simatovic, who worked under him as commander of a special forces unit.

Stanisic and Simatovic are charged with participating in a joint criminal enterprise, with the object of forcibly and permanently removing non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia through persecution, murder and deportation of Croat, Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat populations.

Srdjan Grekulovic, who testified in Simatovic’s defence, currently works as a deputy police director in Belgrade.

His function at the time when Stanisic was director of the DB was not disclosed during this week’s proceedings. Grekulovic said only that he was nominated "an ad-hoc commander of the special unit of police" which was "formed specifically in late August 1995 to assist and support the police forces in Republika Srpska [RS]", the self-proclaimed Serb state in Bosnia and Hercegovina.

The witness specified that it was "agreed within the [Serbian interior ministry, MUP] that he’d take up the position of the newly formed unit's commander". He added that it was "the chief of the intelligence department in the MUP, Radovan Stojicic Badza”, who told him that he had been given command over the unit and that he "should get prepared" for it.

Grekulovic told the court that by virtue of his position, "Badza had regular contact with the DB".

He further added that his own deployment to Bosnia was "arranged with Stanisic and the police minister". He explained that "most probably Stanisic phoned the minister and asked him to provide some police forces [to RS], and the minister then asked Badza to make the appropriate arrangements."

Grekulovic also confirmed that the men who were deployed in Bosnia with him were "all members of the police forces, specifically of the special units of the police", not to be confused with DB special units commanded by Simatovic.

In fact, the witness said he “had never seen Simatovic in Republika Srpska".

According to the witness, the special police unit, which "numbered 400 men", was sent to "different areas in western Republika Srpska", and "integrated into the local police structures so that they could effectively support them in local crime-fighting".

Grekulovic said that they "stayed in Bosnia for 47 days" and that he considered their deployment "a success".

"It was an important sign of solidarity and brotherhood towards Serbs in Bosnia. We were simply deployed to help, to use our own skills in helping them establish normally-working structures in Republika Srpska, but also to show that [the RS Serbs] had not been deserted by Belgrade," he said.

The witness also told the court that while in RS, he had met members of the “Tigers”, a paramilitary unit led by Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan.

Arkan was indicted by the Hague tribunal in March 1999, but was assassinated in Belgrade in 2000. He was one of the most notorious paramilitary leaders of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia. The Tigers were formed in Belgrade in the early 1990s and were active throughout the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

The indictment against Stanisic and Simatovic alleges that the Tigers were under DB control, something the defence is trying to refute.

Grekulovic said that he "remembered that these men, the Tigers, were somehow involved in Republika Srpska". When Simatovic's defence lawyer, Mihajlo Bakrac, presented him with a document from the RS interior ministry stating that Arkan and his men "are to be integrated in the joint military and police structures in Republika Srpska", the witness stated that "this proves that they were under the [RS] responsibility, not Serbia's".

Confronted with evidence that men from Arkan's units were being paid by the DB, the witness said that it was possible that “they belonged to both at the same time". He added that "such an arrangement would not have been very unusual."

During the cross-examination by the prosecution, Grekulovic was asked to describe the nature of his deployment in Bosnia; he repeated what he had stated earlier.

According to prosecutor Adam Weber, former Bosnian Serb army chief General Ratko Mladic – who is currently awaiting trial for genocide at the Hague tribunal – noted in his journal that police forces sent by Stanisic were “to help in the defence of Novi Grad and Sanski Most". These two Serb-held towns in north-western Bosnia were threatened by oncoming Bosnian and Croatian forces in the summer of 1995.

The witness said that while he agreed that [police forces from Serbia] were expected to take part in the defence of these two towns, he "couldn't agree that it was Stanisic who had sent them".

The trial continues next week.

Velma Saric is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.