Prosecutors have called on a United Nations war crimes tribunal to issue life sentences to former Serbian spy chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic.
Two former Serbian intelligence chiefs and Slobodan Milosevic’s aides are facing UN judicial verdicts after a new trial for years accused of leading death squads in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Jovica Stanisic, 70, a former head of the Serbian security service, and his deputy Franko Simatovic, 71, are accused of supporting paramilitary groups in Bosnia and Croatia.
They included an elite unit called “red hats” and the dreaded paramilitary team led by Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic, called “Arkan’s Tigers”, which together allegedly killed hundreds of people.
Wednesday’s verdicts in The Hague, which can be appealed, are the latest UN prosecution for crimes committed during the bloody separation of Yugoslavia.
Separate but related conflicts, which provoked and resulted in the disintegration of the country in 1992 after the fall of communism, left some 130,000 people dead and millions displaced.
Stanisic and Simatovic, who were on bail, will be in court after being handed over to the UN detention center in The Hague last week, a court spokeswoman told AFP news agency.
Both have pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity of persecution, murder, deportation and forced transfer and the war crime of murder.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.
The judges will announce their decision at 13:00 GMT. The verdict will be broadcast live with a delay of 30 minutes.
In 2013, Stanisic and Simatovic were acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes in a shock verdict at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
But in 2015, in a rare turnout after the protests and an appeal by prosecutors, the judges ordered a retrial on the basis that the initial trial saw legal errors.
The new trial took place at the United Nations International Waste Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. It started in 2017, with the final arguments coming up in April 2021.
Earlier this month, the appellate judges of the same court confirmed condemnations of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic for his role in atrocities during the Bosnian war, confirming his life sentence for genocide.
UN prosecutors say the couple was part of a joint criminal enterprise that included missing Serbian President Milosevic, who died in The Hague in 2006, and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is serving a life sentence. .
Stanisic and Simatovic “organized, supplied, financed, supported and led” Serbian paramilitary groups that killed Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs to force them out of large areas, seeking to establish a Serb-led state. .
The indictment includes at least 280 murders in two dozen specific attacks on cities and towns by red berets and tigers.
The head of the Arkan tigers was indicted by the Hague tribunal, but in 2000 he was shot dead in Belgrade.
Stanisic and Simatovic were transferred to the ICTY in 2003, after being arrested by Serbian police following the assassination of Serbian reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic.
An obscure figure during the wars, Stanisic was first seen in public in early 1995, when as a special envoy Milosevic negotiated with the Serb leadership in Bosnia to release several hundred United Nations troops.
Stanisic was ousted in October 1998 before the escalation of the 1999 war in Kosovo, apparently at odds with Milosevic’s repressive policy towards the province’s ethnic Albanian majority.