Saturday 14 December 2019

Serbia's EU dream closer with arrest of last fugitive

Vesna Peric Zimonjic in Belgrade

SERBIA arrested its one remaining war crimes suspect yesterday, drawing a line under the civil war that ravaged the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and improving Belgrade's chances of achieving its cherished ambition of joining the European Union.

Goran Hadzic had been on the run since a warrant for his arrest was issued seven years ago. He has already been questioned about his role in human rights atrocities in Croatia between 1991 and 1995, in particular the massacre of almost 300 Croat prisoners of war at the Ovcara farm near the town of Vukovar in November 1991.

Mr Hadzic (53) who was arrested in Serbia's mountainous north, is also accused of killing more than 50 Croats after ordering them to walk through mine fields to make them safe for Serbian paramilitaries. Other charges include the torture, deportation and forcible transfer of Croats and other non-Serbs from the territories under his control, mostly in eastern Croatia. The arrest of war crimes suspects has been a pre-condition to Serbia's entry to the EU and the Belgrade government has been criticised for its inertia in rounding up suspects. However, under Serbia's pro-Western president, Boris Tadic, the prime suspects have finally been rounded up.

Mr Hadzic headed the self-proclaimed, breakaway "Serb republic of Krajina", which carved out a third of Croatian territory when the country moved for independence from Belgrade. The enclave had the support of Slobodan Milosevic, who was then the Serbian President and who died of a heart attack during his war crimes trial.

The Serbian war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic confirmed the arrest of Mr Hadzic at a press conference, saying he was "unrecognisable, armed, but offered no resistance".


He was seized in the village of Krusedol, about 60km north-west of Belgrade, as he met men delivering money for him. Mr Vukcevic said Mr Hadzic had been struggling financially and had tried to sell a painting by Amedeo Modigliani worth millions of euro. "That's when we realised he had run out of funds," Mr Vukcevic said.

Mr Tadic announced the arrest live on national television, stating Serbia had "concluded its most difficult chapter in the co-operation with the (international war crimes) Hague Tribunal".

It is now expected Mr Hadzic, like Ratko Mladic earlier this year, will be extradited to The Hague, where he will face the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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