A UN judge has ended the longest-running war crimes prosecution dating back to the Balkan wars.
A UN judge extended the convictions of two former allies of late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to 15 years in prison in a final Hague court case dating back to the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Jovika Stanic and Franco Simatovic were sentenced to prison on Wednesday after the International Criminal Court Survival Organization (IRMCT) overturned acquittals of criminal involvement in several Bosnian municipalities and one Croatian municipality. It was raised from 12 years to 15 years. Appellate judges said they funded and trained Serbian militias during the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992.
Presiding Judge Graciela Gatti Santana said that Stanisic, 72, and Simatovic, 73, were “advancing a common criminal plan to forcibly and permanently remove the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia. We shared the intention to do so,” he said.
Neither man showed emotion when Santana rendered his sentence.
Mr. Stanich appeared in court for the hearing, while Mr. Simatovic attended via video link from a UN detention center.
The IRMCT’s decision in the retrial of Mr. Stanisic and Mr. Simatovic marks the end of the longest running war crimes prosecution dating back to the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s.
“This ruling marks a milestone in the history of the Organization. The Court of Appeal will issue its final appeal judgment,” Santana said.
The Balkan Wars marked the growing demand for autonomy within Yugoslavia by nationalist groups after the death of President Josip Broz Tito.
Croatia and Slovenia were the first countries to try to win their independence in a conflict with the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army.
Bosnia and Herzegovina was the next country to seek independence.
Stanisic, the former head of the Serbian National Security Agency, and Simatović, the agency’s senior intelligence officer, are the only Serbian officials to have been convicted by a UN court of involvement in Bosnian crimes.
Serbian military ‘terrorist operation’
Milosevic died in his cell in 2006 before being brought to trial on suspicion of involvement in the bloody war that erupted with the collapse of the former Yugoslavia.
The international court also convicted Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadžić and military commander Ratko Mladic over the Balkan war.
Stanisic and Simatovic were initially acquitted ten years ago by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia, but the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial.
In 2021, a judge convicted two men for helping train and deploy Serb troops during the April 1992 occupation of Bosanski Samak.
Judges at the time said Serb forces launched a “terrorist campaign” to drive out non-Serbs, including raping, looting and destroying religious sites in the town.
It also held Bosnian Muslims and Croats in detention centers and subjected them to forced labor, repeated beatings, torture, and sometimes killing.
The Balkan war killed about 130,000 people and displaced millions more.
The aftermath of the war continues in the region, with clashes between ethnic Serbs and NATO-backed peacekeepers in northern Kosovo.