THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — United Nations judges on Tuesday ordered a retrial for two former allies of the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic who were acquitted in 2013 of setting up and arming notorious Serb paramilitary gangs that committed atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia during the 1990s Balkan wars.
Presiding Judge Fausto Pocar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia overturned the acquittals of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic and ordered both men detained pending their new trial.
Munira Subasic, the head of the organization "Mothers of Srebrenica" which gathers widows of the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, welcomed the decision.
"No crime in Bosnia could have been committed without their help," she said. "Everybody makes mistakes and mistakes can be corrected. The most important thing is that they will be tried again."
Stanisic was head of Serbia's state security service until Milosevic fired him in 1998. Simatovic was his deputy. Prosecutors said they were part of a criminal organization, also including Milosevic, which aimed to drive non-Serbs out of parts of Bosnia and Croatia.
Milosevic himself died in his U.N. cell in 2006 before judges in his long-running trial could reach verdicts on charges that he fomented violence throughout the Balkans in the 1990s.
Neither man showed any emotion as Pocar ordered a new trial for only the second time in the history of the tribunal. Pocar's order comes as the U.N.-funded court is under pressure to complete its remaining cases and close down. There was no immediate word on when the new trial would start and no immediate response from the Serbian government.
Trial judges had originally ruled that while Serb fighters did commit atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia, there was insufficient evidence linking Stanisic and Simatovic to the crimes. That finding was welcomed by authorities in Belgrade, who saw it as a vindication of their long-held stance that Serbia did not deliberately assist crimes by Serb forces in Bosnia and Croatia.
In a majority ruling, the five-judge appeals panel said Tuesday that trial judges did not adequately adjudicate on the existence of the criminal plan to drive out non-Serbs or Stanisic and Simatovic's roles in it before acquitting them. The appeals judges added that the pair was wrongly acquitted of aiding and abetting crimes because trial judges said they could only be guilty if their actions were "specifically directed" to assisting a crime.
Jurisprudence at the court has since stated that "specific direction" is not a necessary element of aiding and abetting a crime.
"On the basis of the identified errors, the Appeals Chamber, by majority, found that the case gave rise to appropriate circumstances for retrial," the court said in a statement.
Stanisic's lawyer, Wayne Jordash, called the decision "extremely disappointing" and a retrial, the "worst of all options" as it will likely take years to complete.
Associated Press writer Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo contributed.
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