A witness at the Hague retrial of former Serbian State Security Service officials Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic said that Simatovic did not control a camp where rebel Serb fighters were trained in Croatia in 1991.
Aco Draca, the former chief of state security in the unrecognised rebel Serb-led Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia, told the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague on Thursday that he knew Franko Simatovic but the defendant was not in overall charge of the military training camp in Golubic in Croatia where Serb fighters were trained.
Jovica Stanisic, the wartime head of the Serbian State Security Service, SDB, and Simatovic, the former commander of the SDB’s Special Operations Unit, are charged with participating in a joint criminal enterprise led by then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to cleanse Croats and Bosniaks from swathes of Croatia and Bosnia to create an ethnically pure Serb state.
The indictment accuses them of organising the formation of special state security units and other forces to fight in Croatia and Bosnia between 1991 and 1995.
The indictment alleges that “in or about April 1991, Stanisic and Simatovic helped to establish a training centre in Golubic, near Knin, in [what was at] that time the [unrecognised] Serb Autonomous Region of Krajina in the Republic of Croatia”.
One of the trainers at Golubic training centre in the spring of 1991 was Dragan Vasiljkovic, known as Captain Dragan, who was convicted of war crimes by a Croatian court two years ago.
Witness Draca was a state security officer in Yugoslavia and after the war in Croatia began, he joined state security in the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina. In 1993, he became its deputy chief, and in 1994, became head of the organisation.
Draca said that the Krajina service did cooperate with the Serbian SDB, but that it also cooperated with the Bosnian Serb security service. He said that this was cooperation between allies that were also separate states.
Like the previous witness at the trial, Draca claimed that Simatovic was an SDB operative in charge of surveillance equipment.
“Mr Simatovic did not have influence on Captain Dragan. Simatovic was never responsible for people from the Golubic centre,” he insisted.
But the prosecutor argued that Draca actually could not know what Simatovic was actually doing in Croatia.
“If Mr Simatovic was involved with Captain Dragan and training fighters, this would be a matter of sensitivity [that] you do not need to know,” prosecutor Douglas Stringer said.
Draca responded however that Golubic was small and it would have been impossible to do something without people knowing about it.
Stanisic and Simatovic were originally acquitted of the charges in 2013 but the decision was overturned on appeal and a retrial ordered.
Both pleaded not guilty again when their retrial started in December 2015.
Stanisic has been on provisional release in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, since July 2017 on health grounds.