The appellate panel of the Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (MICT) in The Hague increased the prison sentences for former heads of the State Security Service of Serbia, Jovica Stanišić and Frenki Simatović, to 15 years for crimes committed by Serbian forces in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
The trial of Stanišić (72) and Simatović (73) is the only one left to the MICT as a legacy of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
In 2021, Stanišić and Simatović were extrajudicially declared responsible for aiding and abetting the criminal acts of murder as a violation of the laws and customs of war and crimes against humanity, as well as the criminal acts of deportation, forced transfer and persecution of the Muslim and Croat population as crimes against humanity committed by Serbian forces after the occupation of Bosanski Šamac in April 1992, and for that they each received 12 years in prison.
Both the defense and the prosecution appealed the verdict.
In 2021, the first-instance panel in its verdict confirmed that there was a joint criminal enterprise of the political and military leadership of Serbia whose goal was to forcibly and permanently remove the non-Serb population in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which Stanišić and Simatović knew, but did not find sufficient evidence that they shared criminal intent.
The trial panel then concluded that "the systematic pattern of crimes committed by Serbian forces against non-Serb civilians is the most convincing evidence that showed the existence of a joint criminal enterprise whose goal was to forcibly and permanently remove the majority of the non-Serb population from certain areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The trial against Stanišić and Simatović began 20 years ago when the Hague Prosecutor's Office accused two members of the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milošević of war crimes in the territory of the former Yugoslavia in the early 90s in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were arrested in March 2003 in Serbia and soon transferred to Hague detention.
Both were accused of war crimes and ethnic persecution in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in the first-instance trial before the ICTY in 2013, they were acquitted because the judges then concluded that neither their participation in a joint criminal enterprise was proven, nor that they planned and ordered the crimes they were charged with, as well as assisted in their execution.
At that first trial, the prosecution presented, according to the judges, insufficient evidence that there was close cooperation between Stanišić and the leader of the rebel Serbs, Milan Martić, who did not hide his intention to persecute Croats, and control over the SAO Krajina police, which expelled 80 to 100 thousand Croats in 1991 and 1992 and killed a portion of them. The prosecutors proved that Stanišić was the channel of communication between former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević and Martić.
At that time, the prosecution also unsuccessfully argued for the area of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem, where the forces of the police, territorial defense and paramilitary units committed a number of crimes, were also under the control of Stanišić and Simatović.
In 2015, the Appeals Chamber accepted the prosecution's appeal and overturned the first-instance verdict and ordered a retrial - held before the ICTY's successor - the Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Courts (MICT) and ended in 2021 with a 12-year prison sentence.