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Stanisic and Simatovic Absent From Appeal Hearing

Top Serbian security officers were acquitted two years ago in controversial ruling.
By Daniella Peled
  • Michelle Jarvis, prossecutor at the Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic trial at he ICTY. (Photo: ICTY)
    Michelle Jarvis, prossecutor at the Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic trial at he ICTY. (Photo: ICTY)

Former Serbian security chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic exercised their right not to appear at a hearing in The Hague this week at which the prosecution appealed against the acquittal of both men on war crimes charges in May 2013.

Stanisic was head of Serbia’s State Security Service (DB) and Simatovic was his direct subordinate as commander of a special operations unit in the DB known as the Red Berets.

They were acquitted two years ago of participation in a “joint criminal enterprise” whose aim was the “forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina”. Judges ruled that while crimes had indeed been committed, the support which the defendants provided to units that carried them out had not been “specifically directed” towards the commission of crimes. They ordered the immediate release of both men, who had been in detention since 2003. (See Serbian Security Chiefs Acquitted.)

Stanisic and Simatovic remained in Serbia rather than travelling to The Hague this week.

The controversial standard of “specific direction” cited by the judges was most notably used to acquit former Yugoslav army chief Momcilo Perisic on appeal in March 2013. This doctrine has, however, been rejected in other cases at the Hague tribunal.

Prosecuting lawyers Michelle Jarvis and Mathias Marcussen told judges that they wanted the trial judgement to be reversed and the two men to either receive adequate sentences or undergo a retrial.

According to the defence, this appeal is “doubtful and controversial”. Wayne Jordash, representing Stanisic, and Vladimir Petrovic, for Simatovic, argued that the hearing could not be an attempt to repeat trial arguments in the hope that a different set of judges would deliver a different ruling.

The appeal judgement is expected in December this year.

Daniella Peled is an IWPR editor in London.