U.N. Court Orders Serb Officials' Provisional Release


The Yugoslav war crimes court Wednesday ordered the provisional release of two top Serbian officials from the regime of the late Slobodan Milosevic pending their retrial for crimes committed during the 1990s Balkans wars.

Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) said they were "satisfied that, if provisionally released" Jovica Stanisic and his deputy Franko Simatovic, both 65, "will appear for trial."

The Hague-based court last week, in a rare turnabout, quashed the acquittals of the two officials for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Serbian death squads in Bosnia and Croatia after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

More than 100,000 people died and millions of others were left homeless in the 1992-95 conflict, which saw some of the worst atrocities on European soil since World War II.

Appeals judges said judges in the trial of Stanisic and Simatovic "erred" on several points of law and in acquitting them.

The five-judge appeals bench also in an unusual decision decided not to impose new sentences, but ordered the men to be tried anew.

Both men are now to be taken from the U.N. court's detention unit in a seaside suburb of The Hague to a Dutch airport, where they are to be handed over to Serbian authorities and flown to Belgrade.

Once there they are not allowed to leave the Serbian capital, have to hand in travel documents and report daily to the local police, the judge ordered.

Stanisic and Simatovic were also ordered not to interfere with witnesses or speak to the press about their case.

The judge also ordered the detention unit's doctors to speak by phone to Stanisic -- who has been suffering health problems -- once every three weeks.

Prosecutors accuse the pair of organizing, financing and supplying Serb paramilitary groups between April 1991 and the end of 1995.

The units cut a swathe of terror and destruction across Croatia and Bosnia as they attacked towns and murdered Croats, Muslims and other non-Serbs to force them out of large areas in a bid to create a Serb-run state, prosecutors said.

U.N. prosecutors, who have called for life sentences, also allege that Stanisic and Simatovic were part of a joint criminal enterprise, which included Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.

Milosevic died in 2006 while in the ICTY's custody in The Hague, where Karadzic is also on trial, facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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