UN judges on Wednesday convicted two men of war crimes for their role in financing and equipping Serb militias during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, in the final case before the court dating from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
In a summary of the judgment provided by the court, judges convicted the former head of Serbia’s state security service, Jovica Stanisic, and his subordinate Franko “Frenki” Simatovic and handed them 12 year sentences.
“The trial chamber is satisfied that the accused provided practical assistance which had a substantial effect on the commission of the crimes of murder, forcible displacement and persecution committed in Bosanski Samac,” in Bosnia, it said.
Stanisic, 70, and Simatovic, 71, had pleaded not guilty and may appeal.
The men entered court custody in 2003 and were acquitted in an initial trial in 2013. But appeals judges ordered a retrial in 2015.
Prosecutors had argued the men were a direct link between former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his government in Belgrade, Serbia, and crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia as part of an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against non-Serbs that left thousands dead and drove 340,000 from their homes.
They had asked for life sentences.
“These two men where critical in making sure the war was fought the way it was fought,” said Iva Vukusic, a historian at Utrecht University specializing in former Yugoslav paramilitary units.
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told journalists last month that the case provided a “direct link to Belgrade and the Milosevic regime” from atrocities committed in Bosnia and Croatia.
Milosevic died in his cell in 2006 while on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.
“They are the men behind the scenes, they are the ones responsible” for atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia, Munira Subasic, who lost her husband and son in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, told Reuters outside the court building.
Bosnian Serb soldiers and paramilitaries killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys after they overran the UN-declared safe zone of Srebrenica.