Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Stanisic and Simatovic

Defence says witness testimony from Milosevic trial vital for its case.
By Adrienne Kitchen

At a status hearing this week, the defence council for Jovica Stanisic and Franko “Frenki” Simatovic argued that full disclosure of all relevant witness testimony from the Milosevic trial is needed for them to conduct a proper defence of their clients.

The two are jointly charged each with five counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war from 1991 through 1995. The indictment refers to eight separate massacres of non-Serbs: Croats; Bosnian Muslims; Bosnian Croats and others.

They remained at large until March 2003 when they were arrested in Belgrade in connection with the assassination of the Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic and thereafter transferred to The Hague.

Neither appeared in court. They have been on provisional release since December 2004.

According to the indictment, Stanisic and Simatovic were members of a joint criminal enterprise the “objective of [which] was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs” from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina.

It alleges that Stanisic and Simatovic helped form special units of the Republic of Serbia State Security Service, DB, and that they “directed members and agents of the DB who participated in the perpetration of the crimes in this indictment”.

Stanisic was appointed head of the DB by the then Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic. He was in direct control of all Serbian police activities from 1991 through 1998.

Simatovic founded and was the first commander of a special operations unit formally known as the Red Berets. Also called “Frenki’s men”, the group is allegedly responsible for ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Others mentioned in the indictment as members of the joint criminal enterprise include Hague indictees Milan Martic, Vojislav Seselj and Milosevic.

A decision is expected soon on a prosecution motion to prosecute Stanisic and Simatovic with Martic and Seselj together in a joint trial.

At the status conference, Stanisic’s defence requested full disclosure of relevant witness testimony from the on-going Milosevic trial, and said that without complete access “we don’t know what exculpatory material might be missing”.

Simatovic’s defence also stated he wants transcripts from all relevant closed-session Milosevic testimony as soon as possible.

The prosecution said it has already provided all material from the Milosevic trial, including information that might clear either defendant in this case. However, a ruling issued by judges in the Milosevic case says that all information which could identify individual witnesses must be removed.

The prosecution added, “Our hands are tied.”

According to the Milosevic court ruling, the full witness testimony can only be available to both Stanisic’s and Simatovic’s defence teams 30 days before their trial begins. The defence says it will challenge that ruling in order to have transcripts of the closed-session witness testimony released in full.

The date of the next status hearing is likely be at the end of December or the middle of January.

Adrienne Kitchen is an IWPR intern in The Hague.