The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals hears oral arguments in the Stanišić and Simatović case

Appeals Chamber
The Hague
Jovica Stanišić and Franko Simatović

The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), composed of Judge Graciela Gatti Santana, presiding, Judge Lee G. Muthoga, Judge Aminatta Lois Runeni N’gum, Judge Yusuf Aksar, and Judge Claudia Hoefer, heard yesterday and today oral arguments in the appeals filed by Mr. Jovica Stanišić, Mr. Franko Simatović, and the Prosecution against the judgement pronounced on 30 June 2021, and filed in writing on 6 August 2021, by the Trial Chamber of the Mechanism.

The hearing of the appeals was held in-person, with the exception of Mr. Stanišić ‘s counsel who, due to unforeseen circumstances, was prevented from traveling to The Hague days before the hearing. The Bench of the Appeals Chamber exceptionally authorized Mr. Stanišić’s counsel’s request to represent his client remotely. The Mechanism provided a video-conference link for Mr. Stanišić’s counsel and the hearing of the appeals commenced and concluded without delay.

During the events relevant to this case, Mr. Stanišić served as the Deputy Chief and later Chief of the State Security Service of the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (State Security Service), and Mr. Simatović was one of the State Security Service’s senior intelligence officers. At trial, both were charged with individual criminal responsibility for the crimes of persecution, murder, deportation, and forcible transfer allegedly committed between April 1991 and December 1995 on the territories of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Croatia, these crimes allegedly occurred on the territory of the former Serb Autonomous Regions of Krajina (SAO Krajina), and of Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Srem (SAO SBWS).  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the alleged crimes were limited to the municipalities of Bijeljina, Zvornik, Bosanski Šamac, Doboj, and Sanski Most, and in an area near the village of Trnovo.

The Trial Chamber convicted Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović, finding each responsible for aiding and abetting the crimes of persecution, murder, deportation, and forcible transfer committed by Serb forces following the takeover of the Bosanski Šamac municipality in April 1992. The Trial Chamber sentenced Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović each to 12 years of imprisonment.

On appeal, Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović both challenge their convictions and sentences. They request that the Appeals Chamber reverse the Trial Chamber’s erroneous findings, quash their convictions, and acquit them. In the alternative, they seek reductions in their sentences, and Mr. Simatović alternatively requests that the Appeals Chamber order a retrial. The Prosecution’s appeal challenges the acquittal of Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović of joint criminal enterprise liability. It requests the Appeals Chamber to correct the Trial Chamber’s errors and convict Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović as members of a joint criminal enterprise, or alternatively, find them guilty for aiding and abetting crimes in SAO Krajina, SAO SBWS, Doboj, and Sanski Most, in addition to Bosanski Šamac. It also requests that their sentences be increased accordingly.

This case was originally tried before the ICTY, where both Mr. Stanišić and Mr. Simatović were acquitted by an ICTY Trial Chamber. The ICTY Appeals Chamber ordered a full retrial in December 2015. Consequently, the case fell within the jurisdiction of the Mechanism, which the UN Security Council had established to continue the ICTY’s jurisdiction, rights, obligations, and essential functions in light of the ICTY’s anticipated closure in December 2017. The retrial before the Mechanism concluded on 30 June 2021 followed by the issuance of the written trial judgement on 6 August 2021. The hearing of the appeals on 24 and 25 January 2023 marked the end of the pre-appeal phase of this case, which commenced in September 2021.

This case represents the last ICTY core crimes case and the delivery of the Judgement of the Mechanism’s Appeals Chamber is projected for June 2023.