Indicted secret police bosses might incriminate Milosevic
by Stacy Sullivan, The Hague
The Tribunal announced on 6 May 2003 that it had issued war-crimes indictments against Jovica Stanišić and Franko Š imatović, two of Slobodan Milošević's most notorious henchmen. Stanišić headed Serbia's state security secret police force, and Š imatović, better known as Frenki, was commander of the Red Berets, one of its special operations units. They were among the thousands arrested in Belgrade in connection with the 12 March assassination of Serbian prime minister Zoran Đinđić. Both men had long been the subject of war-crimes investigations and their names have cropped up frequently in prosecution evidence against Milošević. So when the foreign minister of Serbia-Montenegro Goran Svilanović made it clear after their arrest that both men would be extradited to the tribunal if an indictment were issued, it seemed only a matter of time before that happened.
The indictment, which charges Stanišić and Simatović with crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war, accuses them of participating in a ‘joint criminal enterprise’ whose aim was ‘the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs’ from Bosnia and Croatia. It alleges that the men ‘organized, trained and financed’ Serbian paramilitary units, such as the Red Berets and the Tigers, which committed some of the most heinous atrocities in the Bosnian and Croatian wars. Among the crimes for which they are allegedly responsible is the killing of 255 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from the hospital in Vukovar in Croatia and executed in November 1991. The indictment also accuses Stanišić and Simatovćc for the 1992 ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian towns of Bijeljina, Bosanski Š amac, Doboj, Mrkonjić Grad, Sanski Most and Zvornik. Depending on whether they choose to cooperate with the Tribunal, the arrival of Stanišić and Simatović at The Hague could prove to be a boon for prosecutors in the Milošević trial.
Stanišić rose to prominence in the late 1980s, along with Milošević, first becoming chief of Belgrade's security operations, then being promoted to head Serbia's entire secret service. He is often named as the link between the former FRY president and the dirty work that was done on the ground by paramilitary and special operations units. Among those units was the Red Berets, whose leader was Simatović.
Stanišić reportedly fell out with Milošević in 1997, after he tried to persuade the latter not to order a violent crackdown on the tens of thousands of demonstrators who had taken to the streets of Belgrade demanding that the president step down. Stanišić's recommendations allegedly infuriated the one person in Serbia whose power rivalled that of Milošević - his wife, Mira Marković, whose Yugoslav Left Party was urging Milošević to crush the demonstrations. Stanišić left the secret service in 1998, and Simatović followed suit - and when Milošević was ousted in October 2000 the Red Berets stood aside.
The prosecution has reason to hope that Stanišić and Simatović will turn on their former ally and reveal what they know. That they are in a position to do so is not in question. Whether or not they will remains to be seen.
The author is IWPR's project manager in The Hague, and this report appeared in Tribunal Update, No. 311, 8 May 2003. See www.iwpr.net