The passengers on Monday morning flight to The Hague were Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović, key persons of Milošević’s Serbian secret police. They didn’t go for a picnic or on a business meeting, and definitely not to a pleasant gathering during pre-holiday period. They flew to the hearing of the Appeals Chamber of the International Tribunal for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. Both of them were convinced that they would return the next day. Both for external political circumstances, a simultaneous significant beginning of negotiations on Serbia’s full membership in the European Union, as well as some special services that they had allegedly performed during the Yugoslav wars. I refer especially to their contribution to the decision of Radomir Karadžić in June 1995, to release more than hundred of imprisoned UNPROFOR soldiers, and then to sign, on July evening one year later, the US negotiating proposal and resign from both positions, as the President of the Republika Srpska and President of his party, as well as decision to release French pilots detained by Ratko Mladić. They believed in a final acquittal.
However, the story took place in a different way. The Appeals Chamber ordered retrial for both of them, for crimes in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The indictment alleges persecutions, murder, deportation and forcible transfer of Croatian and Muslim population. The Trial Chamber already found them allegedly responsible for sending the special units of the former state security service, so-called Red Berets, to Croatia and Bosnia, however, they could not prove that they were sent with criminal intent. Therefore, their guilt of participation in an organized criminal act was not proved. They were acquitted.
On Tuesday, 15/12/2015, everything has changed and started from the beginning.
With new trial, the key question of the Yugoslav wars in the nineties, the question of decisions of Greater Serbia and Greater Croatia, will be opened again. Therefore, the question of secret agreement of two presidents, Dr. Franjo Tuđman and Slobodan Milošević, on the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ways of realization of this plan. As well as the second question, directly related to the roles of Stanišić and Simatović, of whether the Serbian armed units were involved in the fighting in Bosnia.
The Hague Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte tried to prove that Franko Simatović, usually called just Frenki, formed a military camp for training of paramilitary units intended for active participation in military operations in Bosnia, in the spring of 1992, following the orders of his boss, Stanišić, in Bajina Bašta, a small town on the Serbian side of the Drina River. The camp and the participants, who were later moved to the Tara mountain, were financed directly from the Serbian budget. Similar to the situation of officer corps that actively participated in the war in Bosnia and Krajina, which was paid on the basis of special decree published in one of the official papers. Of course, Milošević kept on expressing his assurance that there were no armed units from Serbia in Bosnia, and The Hague prosecutors now once again try to prove that, later assassinated, Radovan Stojičić Badža and Simatović directly commanded and synchronized the operation of paramilitary units and special units, the Red Berets.
Such gruesome event was the ethnic cleansing of Zvornik. On April 9, 1992, the citizens were given an ultimatum to surrender all Muslims. The city was besieged. General Dragoljub Ojdanić deployed his corps on the Serbian side of the Drina River, almost opposite the city. Paramilitary units, so-called Arkan’s Tigers, the then glorified (in the regime press) units of Captain Dragan, as well as some units of Vojislav Šešelj and the White Eagles of Mirko Jović were deployed on the Bosnian side. And last but not least, the special units of Milošević’s police.
The plan was later repeated. First, the paramilitary units entered the town and began with killing and plundering, followed by berets who continued with ethnic cleansing. Such was the case on April 10 in Zvornik. They invaded the town and started with brutal hunt for Muslims and their organized killing, burning of houses and pillage of everything that could be carried away.
On that day, José María Mendiluce, the High Representative of the UN Commissariat for Refugees, was returning to Sarajevo near Zvornik, more or less by accident. Later, he described how he saw trucks full of dead, the streets flooded by blood, that the massacre was final, and that he could just stand and watch a planned robbery and cleansing of the town.
The ICTY prosecutors refer to the Zvornik case as an evidence of a planned, organized and synchronized action of Milošević’s army, police and paramilitary units in the territory of another state.
Vojislav Šešelj’s statement was added to the gruesome case in L. Silber’s book, The Death of Yugoslavia. I quote. “The entire operation was planned in Belgrade. The Bosnian Serbs forces took part in it, as well as the best and the special units that came from the Serbian side, the so called Red Berets. The army engaged itself to a small degree – it gave artillery support where it was needed”. Šešelj ends with the remark that the operation was prepared carefully and well organized.
Intercepted communication from the first days of August 1995, at the beginning of offensive of the Croatian army on Knin, indicate the same relations. General Milan Mrkšić and Simatović had a conversation. The latter gives the instructions to the former, and points to the achieved principle of the role of the Milošević’s regime in military operations on the territory of other states.
Milošević was aware of the danger. This is why he argued all the time not only that “no armed Serbian units” were fighting on the territory of other states, but he also tried to change the image of his regime with politically not very visible actions at that moment. Such was the short-term appointment of successful American entrepreneur, Milan Panić, as the president of the Yugoslav government, in the summer of 1992. Panić suggested to him, in one of the first official dialogues, to resign and “unburden” the state. Milošević even agreed, but later added that nothing had been signed, therefore, that the conversation was pointless.
Panić knew for the horror of Zvornik, and therefore wanted to strengthen the role, power and armament of the federal police. Franko Simatović crashed all Panić’s plans literally overnight. His berets, following the instructions of the only recognized boss, armed with machine guns “Heckler and Koch”, attacked and occupied the headquarters of the federal police, arrested most of its members, and “cleaned” the archives and took complete control.
Jovica Stanišić, Frenki`s mentor and supervisor, was replaced in 1998 by Milošević. Almost immediately after the speech of the then head of the military General Staff, General Momčilo Perišić, in Gornji Milanovac. He warned of the consequences of a possible military confrontation with the Western alliance and the consequences of possible airline attacks on the country. Perišić communicated to the boss that it was necessary to adopt the decisions of the Security Council Resolution 1199, because everything was better than war. Milošević dismissed them both, for the suspicion that they were preparing coup.
Stanišić and Simatović are awaiting a retrial in The Hague. However, all those who were affected by the war are awaiting it too. Even those who are convinced that the unpleasant questions from that period have come to an end.