Prosecutors have asked a UN war crimes court to hand life sentences to former Serbian spy chiefs Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic.
Two former Serbian spy chiefs and aides of Slobodan Milosevic face United Nations court verdicts after a years-long retrial on charges of running death squads in the 1990s Balkans wars.
Jovica Stanisic, 70, the former head of Serbia’s state security service, and his deputy Franko Simatovic, 71, are accused of backing paramilitary groups in Bosnia and Croatia.
They included an elite unit dubbed the “Red Berets” and the feared paramilitary outfit run by Zeljko “Arkan” Raznatovic, called “Arkan’s Tigers”, which together allegedly killed hundreds of people.
Wednesday’s verdicts in The Hague, which can be appealed, are the final UN prosecution for crimes committed during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.
Separate but related conflicts, which led up to and resulted from the country’s disintegration in 1992 after the fall of communism, left some 130,000 people dead and millions displaced.
Stanisic and Simatovic, who were out on bail, will be in court after handing themselves in to the UN detention centre in The Hague last week, a court spokeswoman told the AFP news agency.
Both have pleaded not guilty to the crimes against humanity of persecution, murder, deportation and forcible transfer, and the war crime of murder.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.
Judges will announce their decision at 13:00 GMT. The verdict will be live-streamed with a 30-minute delay.
In 2013, Stanisic and Simatovic were acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes in a shock verdict at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
But in 2015, in a rare turnabout after protests and an appeal by prosecutors, judges ordered a retrial on the grounds that the initial trial saw legal errors.
The retrial took place at the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. It started in 2017, with final arguments taking place in April 2021.
Earlier this month, appeals judges at the same court confirmed former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s convictions for his role in atrocities throughout the Bosnian war, upholding his life sentence for genocide.
UN prosecutors say the pair were part of a joint criminal enterprise that included the late Serbian president Milosevic, who died in The Hague in 2006, and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is serving a life sentence.
Stanisic and Simatovic “organised, supplied, financed, supported and directed” the Serb paramilitary groups that murdered Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs to force them out of large areas, seeking to establish a Serb-run state, the indictment against them said.
The indictment includes at least 280 killings in some two dozen specific attacks on towns and villages by the Red Berets and the Tigers.
Tigers chief Arkan was indicted by the Hague court but shot dead in Belgrade in 2000.
Stanisic and Simatovic were transferred to the ICTY in 2003, after being arrested in a sweep by Serbian police following the assassination of Serbian reformist prime minister Zoran Djindjic.
Long a shadowy figure in the wars, Stanisic was seen in public for the first time in early 1995, when as Milosevic’s special envoy he negotiated with the leadership of the Serbs in Bosnia for the release of several hundred UN troops.
Stanisic was sacked in October 1998 ahead of the escalation of the 1999 war in Kosovo, reportedly because he disagreed with Milosevic’s repressive policy towards the ethnic Albanian majority in the province.