UN Court’s Last Yugoslav Verdict Has Lessons for the Future

The aviator glasses were his signature, together with the red beret. Growing up in the 1990s in Serbia, for me the red beret represented a symbol - affiliation, both formal and informal, with Serbian state security special units, notorious fighters who took part in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The red beret was also part of pop culture - singers and TV hosts often wore it publicly; for them it was a symbol of power and patriotism. Red berets could be bought anywhere in my home country - from street shops to carnivals, festivals and town and village fairs.

Simatovic, known as Frenki, was among the first to wear one, back in the early 1990s when together with Jovica Stanisic he set up the 'Unit', the State Security combat team deployed to various battlefields in the former Yugoslavia. Like its boss, the Unit's members also wore red berets.

After the ICTY indicted Simatovic and Stanisic in 2003, alleging they were participants in a joint criminal enterprise whose aim was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs from large areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Simatovic left the red beret at home when he went to The Hague to stand trial. In the courtroom, bare-headed and wearing his black suit, he tried to argue he did not control the Unit and other Serb military formations, and was not responsible for the crimes committed by these fighters.

Funded by Serbia, fighters killed and tortured

Serbian militia chief Zeljko 'Arkan' Raznatovic in Sanski Most during the war in September 1995. Photo: EPA PHOTO/FILES.

For non-Serbs, these units meant fear and persecution. "Hundreds of thousands of victims were forced from their homes. Tens of thousands were tortured,...

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