The man who took care of operational work on the ground was ‘Frenki’ ?Simatovic, who did intelligence work in Croatia and Bosnia.
According to the indictment, Simatovic “functioned under the authority of Jovica Stanisic”, while many witnesses at the trial described him as Stanisic’s “eyes, ears and right hand”.
Adam Weber, one of prosecutors in the case in The Hague from 2009 to 2013, said that Stanisic and Simatovic were “the sparks that lit the house on fire”.
“If you look at their roles during the course of the conflict, they had a very essential and critical part in causing and then continuing the ethnic cleansing campaign, I mean through their arming, through their financial support, through their deployment of the special units, they really fuel the ethnic tensions that envelops the rest of Croatia and then Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Weber explained.
Despite the fact that Simatovic denied that Serbian state security ever coordinated or controlled special units on the ground, a speech he made in 1997 became crucial evidence for the prosecution as it appeared to prove that a covert unit had been established by the Serbian authorities years earlier, at the start of the Yugoslav wars.
“The unit was formed in May 1991, when Yugoslavia was falling apart and from its foundation the unit functioned as a tool for maintaining the national security of the Serb people… in all their ethnic areas,” Simatovic said.
A number of other witnesses at the two men’s trial confirmed that they were on Serbian State Security’s payroll.
“Salaries in the Berets and Tigers were paid in cash, in special envelopes, while in the Berets people received twice as much as the Tigers,” Dejan Sliskovic, a former unit member, told the court in 2010.
Other ex-members claimed that “everyone knew that Frenki controlled the units”. Some described him as “bossy and arrogant”.
The trial also heard that the various commanders, such as Arkan or Legija, were “regularly coming for consultation at the headquarters of Stanisic and Frenki”.
Vukusic said it was well-known that Simatovic operated in the field.
“People actually just talked about him as ‘Frenki’, he was so well-known that there are documents that he only signs as Frenki. That means that people know you,” she said.
As the conflict started to spread to other areas of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, the Serbian leadership decided to deploy another man besides Frenki, and appointed Radovan ‘Badza’ Stojicic as the head of Territorial Defence forces.
The prosecution listed Stojicic as a part of the joint criminal enterprise together with Milosevic, Simatovic and Stanisic, but never indicted him. For the most brutal operations in parts of Croatia and eastern Bosnia, Stojicic engaged Arkan and his Serbian Volunteer Guard unit, popularly known as the Tigers.
According to the indictment of Simatovic and Stanisic, Arkan’s men were responsible for killing at least 40 detainees near the Dalj mountain in Croatia and 26 Croat civilians who were dumped in the River Danube, while in Bosnia, the Tigers allegedly killed at least 80 people in the town of Sanski Most and 20 non-Serb civilians in the town of Zvornik.
Arkan, who was indicted for war crimes in 1996, never faced trial because he was shot dead in Belgrade in 2000.