Serbian Security Chiefs Appeal Conviction for Aiding War Crimes

Lawyers for former Serbian State Security Service officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic appealed on Monday against the verdict in June which sentenced them both to 12 years in prison for aiding and abetting crimes war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.

The UN's Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague convicted them of aiding and abetting the crimes committed by a State Security Service special fighting unit in the Bosanski Samac area, but acquitted them of responsibility for other crimes committed by Serb units elsewhere in Bosnia and in Croatia during the wars there in the early 1990s.

This verdict was the first-ever conviction of top Serbian wartime officials for crimes during the wars that broke out during the break-up of Yugoslavia. It also confirmed more details that establish that the Serbian state had involvement in the conflicts in Bosnia and in Croatia, despite its denials.

In their notice of appeal, both Stanisic and Simatovic urged the court either to quash the verdict and declare them not guilty, or reduce their sentences.

Stanisic's defence claimed that the trial chamber was mistaken when it determined that organising training for State Security Unit members and local Serb forces at the Pajzos camp in Croatia, and their deployment during the Serb takeover of Bosanski Samac, "was capable of amounting to practical assistance which had an effect, substantial or otherwise, on the perpetration of the crimes of persecution, murder, and forcible displacement by Unit members and local Serb forces".

It also claimed that the trial chamber failed to identify a connection between the men's alleged assistance and the crimes committed, which included a massacre in Crkvina in May 1992.

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