Two allies of the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic were convicted by a United Nations appeals court on Wednesday for their roles in crimes across Bosnia and in one town in Croatia as part of a joint criminal plan to drive out non-Serbs during the Balkan wars. Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic had their 12-year sentences increased to 15 by the appeals chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals because they were found guilty of participating in the criminal plot.
The presiding judge, Graciela Gatti Santana, stated that both men, who are now in their 70s, “shared the intent to further the common criminal purpose to forcibly and permanently remove the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina through the commission of the crimes charged in the indictment.” The verdict by the court of appeals effectively ends the longest-running war crimes prosecution, which dates back to the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.
Neither man expressed either sympathy or anger as Gatti Santana handed down his sentence. While Stanisic was present in court, Simatovic watched via video link from a United Nations prison facility. The appeals ruling, which resolved the last remaining case involving war crimes from the wars that erupted in the early 1990s as Yugoslavia crumbled, was hailed by Gatti Santana as a “milestone” for the court, which handles cases from the now-defunct U.N. war crimes courts for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
In 1992, Serb paramilitaries committed murder and other atrocities in the Bosnian village of Bosanski Samac. Two years ago, Stanisic and Simatovic were convicted of aiding and abetting these crimes but were exonerated of involvement for other crimes. The findings were overturned, and the penalties were increased, by the appeals chamber. The length of the case demonstrates the difficulty of proving war crimes in international courts, despite widespread demands that those responsible for atrocities committed during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine be held accountable.
The only Serbian officials convicted by a United Nations court for crimes committed in Bosnia are former State Security Service head Stanisic and senior intelligence agent Simatovic. After being arrested for his suspected role in inciting the deadly wars that occurred as Yugoslavia fell apart, Milosevic died in prison in 2006. Ten years ago, the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal first acquitted Stanisic and Simatovic, but an appeals chamber later ordered a retrial.
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